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Get Rich by Saving Old Buildings (Or, why is Historic Preservation so smart)....

Updated on January 5, 2016
The Carson Mansion, Eurela, California
The Carson Mansion, Eurela, California

Saving History & Making Money

Tearing down existing infrastructures, not to mention irreplaceable architecture is not only short-sighted, it's the opposite of "going green." You destroy all the energy that went into constructing the building in the first place, and then you recreate all that energy to build a new building. Beyond that, renovation creates two to five times as many jobs than new construction.

"One might be tempted to compare the recent green wave with the rise of modernism more than a half-century ago. Planners and architects back then didn't just want buildings to look different; they also wanted to change the direction society was headed. The old ways of thinking were outmoded. Yesterday's buildings solved yesterday's problems; new buildings were needed to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. Of course, many people will recall what happened to America's historic fabric the last time we undertook a nationwide revamping of the built landscape. The result was urban renewal, and it left many of our best urban areas in tatters and many of our historic buildings in piles of rubble."

[Wayne Curtis, from Preservation Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008]

Have you ever lived in a historic home?

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Jennifer A. Emmer, Feng Shui Master, Interior Designer, Historic Preservationist
Jennifer A. Emmer, Feng Shui Master, Interior Designer, Historic Preservationist

My credentials?

I am always thrilled to meet comrades in the fight to preserve our past. I have studied and practiced Interior Design and Feng Shui for 18 years. I think my love affair with architecture started at Harvard with my "History of Boston" class. I used to love walking around Boston and regaling my friends with the deep dark history of buildings that we ordinarily walked past.

I was also engaged to a guy pursuing his Masters in Architecture at MIT, and I used to do his elevation drawings.

As for me, I went to Massachusetts College of Art and Harvard, so I saw a pretty broad spectrum of opinions and design styles. I've (interior) designed hundreds of homes to date, and have done specific restoration projects on quite a few. Right now, I'm living in an 1895 Queen Anne Victorian in the Bay Area of California, and my office is a 1901 Victorian. I'm in the process of Feng Shui'ing and designing both of them. I've also been a professional photographer, and a graphic artist at various points.

Coming from Boston, I really have no use for anything built much past 1890..... I realize that "true" architecture snobs would probably prefer the cutoff point to be around 1830. I am not that extreme. Furthermore, I LOVE Victorians. Having lived in several spectacular Victorians, I am definitely acquainted with the pleasurable difference between living in a well designed gem, and "a box". I have also lived in Florence Italy, where something built in 1850 is NEW!

I feel quite passionate about preservation, and architecture in general. Toward that end, I offer the following blog to share all the reasons why preservation is so much smarter than tearing down our past.

San Jose City Hall, before demolition, 1955

San Jose City Hall, before demolition, 1955
San Jose City Hall, before demolition, 1955

Denver's Lost Theater District

The Strand, 1921
The Strand, 1921

From @CPVLIVE at http://forum.skyscraperpage.com

With the rebirth of Denver's new Theater District there has been a lot of recent dialog about the district - both pro and con. Often referenced is Curtis Street which was once known as Denver's 'Theater Row'.

I managed to pull together some old photos and commentary that will further describe this piece of Denver history as many folks, even many Denver residents, are completely unfamiliar with it. Apollo Hall was Denver's very first theater and it opened its doors on Curtis Street in 1859 and clearly started a trend. Following the 1881 opening of the Tabor Grand, numerous other theaters sprang up along Curtis Street.

The dazzlingly illuminated theatres inspired Mayor Robert Speer's promotional publication Denver Municipal Facts to tout Curtis Street between Fifteenth and Nineteenth streets as "Denver's Great White Way."

The Empress Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

The Empress Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.
The Empress Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

The Isis Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

The Isis Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.
The Isis Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

The Princess, 1922. Gone.

The Princess, 1922. Gone.
The Princess, 1922. Gone.

Tabor Grand, 1920. Gone.

Tabor Grand, 1920. Gone.
Tabor Grand, 1920. Gone.

The Orpheum. Gone.

The Orpheum. Gone.
The Orpheum. Gone.

Center Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

Center Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.
Center Theater, Denver, CO. Gone.

Denver Theater District. Gone.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
America Theater, Denver, COAmerica Theater, 2America Theater, 3Broadway 1927Center Theater, 1910Denver, 1913Denver, 1919Denver, 1921Denver's Great White Way, 1927Empress, 1910
America Theater, Denver, CO
America Theater, Denver, CO
America Theater, 2
America Theater, 2
America Theater, 3
America Theater, 3
Broadway 1927
Broadway 1927
Center Theater, 1910
Center Theater, 1910
Denver, 1913
Denver, 1913
Denver, 1919
Denver, 1919
Denver, 1921
Denver, 1921
Denver's Great White Way, 1927
Denver's Great White Way, 1927
Empress, 1910
Empress, 1910

And now, for a little good news?

The Amazing Winchester Mystery House

The Amazing Winchester Mystery House
The Amazing Winchester Mystery House
Winchester Mystery House
Winchester Mystery House

Case Study in Preservation Gone RIGHT!

The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, California

In 1884, a wealthy widow named Sarah L. Winchester began a construction project of such magnitude that it was to occupy the lives of carpenters and craftsmen until her death thirty-eight years later. The Victorian mansion, designed and built by the Winchester Rifle heiress, is filled with so many unexplained oddities, that it has come to be known as the Winchester Mystery House.

Sarah Winchester built a home that is an architectural marvel. Unlike most homes of its era, this 160-room Victorian mansion had modern heating and sewer systems, gas lights that operated by pressing a button, three working elevators, and 47 fireplaces. From rambling roofs and exquisite hand inlaid parquet floors to the gold and silver chandeliers and Tiffany art glass windows, you will be impressed by the staggering amount of creativity, energy, and expense poured into each and every detail.

This economically viable masterpiece is now San Jose's most famous building. Talk about adaptive reuse! With a little creativity, many important historic buildings could be saved this way.

A fantastic sink at the WInchester Mystery House
A fantastic sink at the WInchester Mystery House

Amazing Facts!

Number of rooms: 160

Cost: (circa 1884) $5,500,000

Date of Construction: 1884 - September 5, 1922 (38 continuous years!)

Number of stories: Prior to 1906 Earthquake - 7; presently 4

Number of acres: Originally 161.919; presently 4

Number of basements: 2

Heating: Steam, forced air, fireplaces

Number of windows: Frames 1,257; panes approx. 10,000

Number of doors: Doorways 467, doors approx. 950 not including cabinet doors.

Winchester front yard and statue
Winchester front yard and statue

Number of fireplaces: 47 (gas, wood, or coal burning)

Number of chimneys: Presently 17 with evidence of 2 others

Number of cars at her death: 2 (a 1917 Pierce Arrow Limousine & a 1916 4 cyl. Buick truck)

Number of bedrooms: Approx. 40

Number of kitchens: 5 or 6

Number of staircases: 40, total of stair steps - 367

Number of skylights: Approx. 52

Number of gallons of paint required to paint entire home: Over 20,000

Number of ballrooms: 2 (one nearly complete, and one under construction)

Blueprints available: No, Mrs. Winchester never had a master set of blueprints, but did sketch out individual rooms on paper and even tablecloths

More of my Recommended books from Amazon

The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Modern Library Series)
The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Modern Library Series)

Thirty years after its publication, The Death and Life of Great American Cities was described by The New York Times as "perhaps the most influential single work in the history of town planning....

....the descriptions of street life as a kind of ballet and the bitingly satiric account of traditional planning theory can still be read for pleasure even by those who long ago absorbed and appropriated the book's arguments."

Jane Jacobs, an editor and writer on architecture in New York City in the early sixties, argued that urban diversity and vitality were being destroyed by powerful architects and city planners. Rigorous, sane, and delightfully epigrammatic, Jacobs's small masterpiece is a blueprint for the humanistic management of cities. It is sensible, knowledgeable, readable, indispensable.

 
Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice
Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice

I was especially pleased to find the variety of real-life examples Tyler presents reflecting the way preservation is practiced and not just idealistic theory. The inclusion of basic economic, social, and architectural impacts in historic preservation are welcome contributions, and the various charts and lists are extremely useful.

 
Lost Boston
Lost Boston

A visual feast of historical deliciousness. If you're not sure why we need to preserve our past, just thumb through this book. It completely inspires me, every single time I look at it. TONS of black and white photos.

 
The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of Nearly 400 Years of New York City's History
The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of Nearly 400 Years of New York City's History

I bought this while waiting at an airport in New York. Boy, what a find! [From --Stephanie Gold]: The atlas takes on the geologic history of New York, major eras (Indian, Dutch, and British), as well as the consolidation of Greater New York, neighborhood histories of Coney Island and Greenwich Village, and exploits of 1945 through 1996. But there's room for the small stuff, too, such as the political and cultural role of New York's taverns in the late 1700s.

 
American Shelter: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Home
American Shelter: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Home

Wonderful line drawings of 100 styles of American housing. Exploded diagrams and floor plans, with text describing how each style evolved, and where it tends to be found. For homeowners, builders, architects, real estate agents, students, travelers and historians, American Shelter is an essential reference, but also a treat.

 

Yikes! Urban Planning gone wrong!

Yikes! Urban Planning gone wrong!
Yikes! Urban Planning gone wrong!

The Dey House goes the way of the Buffalo....

The Dey House goes the way of the Buffalo....
The Dey House goes the way of the Buffalo....

Chinatown, Los Angeles ~ A shining example of financially viable preservation

Chinatown, Los Angeles ~ A shining example of financially viable preservation
Chinatown, Los Angeles ~ A shining example of financially viable preservation

My Book Review on Amazon

The Old Way of Seeing: How Architecture Lost Its Magic - And How to Get It Back
The Old Way of Seeing: How Architecture Lost Its Magic - And How to Get It Back

This book should be a starting point, and frankly, required reading for anyone interested in Architecture, Design, or Preservation. It is so bloody good that I secretly wish I had written it myself. After reading this book, I scour the countryside looking for examples of "good design". I feel I have "new eyes" now.

 
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built

A close second to "The Old Way of Seeing".... Buildings evolve over time, and with each addition or subtraction we must take into account the entire structure. This book helps you look at a building that has "evolved" and be able to discern the history and time period behind each change. But beyond all that, it's a great read!

 
Recycled Spaces: Converting Buildings into Homes
Recycled Spaces: Converting Buildings into Homes

"Recycling" can preserve historic buildings in so many creative ways, and this book shows you how. It is divided by type of building (ie train stations, churches) and examples are given of each. Each home comes with a floorplan and brief history of what it was and its evolution. This is also an excellent design source.

 
A Field Guide to American Houses
A Field Guide to American Houses

Extremely handy for identifying building styles while out and about. Indispensible.

 
Dance Pavilion on the Pier, Venice, CA
Dance Pavilion on the Pier, Venice, CA

Still More of my Book Recommendations

America's Painted Ladies: The Ultimate Celebration of Our Victorians
America's Painted Ladies: The Ultimate Celebration of Our Victorians

All the "Painted Ladies" books are breathtaking. Start with this one, and see if you don't get hooked.

 
Preserving the World's Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis
Preserving the World's Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis

[From Library Journal] Having learned that the most useful information on architectural preservation often comes from other places, former New York City Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Tung decided to visit some of the world's most significant buildings inChina, Italy, Greece, Japan, and elsewhere. Here he aims to compile what he learned into one volume, recording his on-site investigations into the architectural preservation issues facing 18 major cities of the world.

 
Creating a New Old House: Yesterday's Character for Today's Home
Creating a New Old House: Yesterday's Character for Today's Home

(From the Editorial Review): Anyone who yearns for an older home - but is daunted by the prospect of owning one - will love this book. Through hundreds of inspiring photographs and engaging text, the author describes what gives traditional homes their enduring appeal. Versaci identifies Eight Pillars of Traditional Design that create a solid foundation for combining authentic, traditional design with livability to create homes that feel old yet live new.

 
Historical Footnotes Santa Clara Valley
Historical Footnotes Santa Clara Valley

I am honored to know the author, Jack Douglas, so I can recommend this one with an extra bit of zest. I find this a fascinating read, for anyone, not just Silicon Valley residents. Virtually everyone will be amazed at how different the San Francisco Bay Area of California has become in the last 100 years. The land of "Sunshine, Fruit, and Flowers" has given way to the omnipresent silicon chip. Sadly, a heck of a lot of stunning architecture has been sacrificed in the process, although, it's only fair to say, a good amount of it was due to shoddy fire prevention services. Gorgeous black and white photos and fascinating stories make this book an enjoyable and inspirationial read.

 

If you've enjoyed what you've read, please take a moment and go back to the top of the page and give us some Love and Share on your favorite website. Thanks for stopping by!

Welcome History Buffs, Architects, and Building-Huggers of all shapes and sizes!

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      squidboo 9 years ago

      I love your lens! I never knew all the *economic* reasons to save old buildings. I'm going to grab your list and share it! Nice job.

      -Damian

    • profile image

      jagiyadav 9 years ago

      good lens..excellent information on saving the historic building and its importance..the reasons stated by you for preserving the historic building also sounds good..thanks for sharing such a beautiful lens and here is the similar kind of information on Trailer buildings , an interesting site about RV buildings, Portable Buildings cabins and Trailer buildings..pls visit us..

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      nice lens! i found out some good information regarding on preservation of old buildings.I also want to share to you information about electrician house.Please drop by. Thanks!

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 9 years ago

      I love old houses, and agree they should be preserved! Nice informational lens.

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      Motocross_Life 8 years ago

      Your lens should be mandatory reading in architecture class.....

    • profile image

      editionh 8 years ago

      Great lens,I agree the economic reasons for preservation of historic buildings are neglected to often.

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      Ali_Baba 5 years ago

      I cannot believe that Denver's amazing theater district fell to the wrecking ball. That is a crime. Thanks for doing this lens. ~ Alison

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      PamPeterson 5 years ago

      Great lens! As a historic home owner I fully support the preservation of these beautiful buildings.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      As a decorator who specializes in historic home interiors, a board member of my local landmark and historic societies, and the owner of an 1880 Victorian, I really appreciate the work you've done on this lens. We need to preserve our history and these buildings. Blessings. Your lens has been added to "Wing-ing it on Squidoo," our tribute page to some of the best lenses we've found since donning our wings.

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