Historic Preservation in this country is, in many ways, undergoing a bit of a face lift. If at one time the field was seen as a pursuit of the moneyed and genteel, preservation these days is focusing on community, on culture, and on grassroots development. As our urban centers face unprecedented growth, gentrification, and threats from climate change, preservationists are re-examining the role of heritage in our cities. How can historic fabric be used as one tool towards building sustainable, livable, and inclusive communities?
This is the subject of a new book by Stephanie Meeks, President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Called The Past and Future City, the book uses new research and case studies to show how valuable historic architecture and cultural heritage can be in the future of our communities. While preservation of the past may have been primarily concerned with the architectural significance of a building or district, Meeks’ approach is holistic – she examines preservation’s role in sense of place, affordability, diversity, livability, and sustainability. (In 2016, GVSHP did some examining of our own in a blog post regarding preservation’s role in gentrification and affordability.)
Not surprisingly, she opens the book with a discussion of Greenwich Village’s own “Queen Jane.” The Past and Future City credits Jane Jacobs’ work in the Village as creating our road map for the last half-century of preservation. Jacobs’ work gave us a language to discuss how and why historic fabric is vital for our cities. But Jacobs was living in different times. Since her pivotal work, Meeks posits, the world has changed enough to require new benchmarks and evidence to show how preservation can, and must, be useful moving forward. The Past and Future City aims to provide that updated road map.
GVSHP is pleased to be welcoming Stephanie Meeks to Jacobs’ home turf on Thursday, March 2nd, for a discussion of these very topics. Meeks will speak in the beautiful sanctuary of St. Anthony of Padua, in the heart of our newly designated Sullivan-Thompson Historic District. She’ll explore Jane Jacobs’ work in the neighborhood and it’s influence on preservation, as well as the newest preservation philosophies and how those can be used to great benefit in communities just like ours. You’ll be able to buy a copy of The Past and Future City there, and Meeks will be signing books after her talk.
Don’t miss this chance to hear from one of America’s leading preservationists in your own backyard! Reservations are free, and spots are still available. Register online today (or call 212-475-9585 x35)! And we’ll see you Thursday evening.