Beyond Preservation

Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities

Andrew Hurley
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Preservation
    Book Description:

    Across the United States, historic preservation has become a catalyst for urban regeneration. Entrepreneurs, urban pioneers, and veteran city dwellers have refurbished thousands of dilapidated properties and put them to productive use as shops, restaurants, nightclubs, museums, and private residences. As a result, inner-cities, once disparaged as zones of poverty, crime, and decay have been re-branded as historic districts. Although these preservation initiatives, often supported by government tax incentives and rigid architectural controls, deserve credit for bringing people back to the city, raising property values, and generating tourist revenue, they have been less successful in creating stable and harmonious communities.

    Beyond Preservationproposes a framework for stabilizing and strengthening inner-city neighborhoods through the public interpretation of historic landscapes. Its central argument is that inner-city communities can best turn preserved landscapes into assets by subjecting them to public interpretation at the grass-roots. Based on an examination of successful projects in St. Louis, Missouri and other U.S. cities, Andrew Hurley demonstrates how rigorous historical analysis can help communities articulate a local identity and plan intelligently on the basis of existing cultural and social assets.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0230-1
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. 1 Preservation in the Inner City
    (pp. 1-31)

    American cities hit rock bottom in the early 1970s. Affluent white families had fled en masse to the suburbs, leaving behind racial minorities and the poor. Manufacturers had abandoned the city as well, depriving urban populations of what had long been the major source of decent-paying jobs and tax revenue. Strapped for cash, municipal governments slashed basic services and still came perilously close to bankruptcy. Crime rates soared while property values plummeted. It was the era of urban crisis, and the future of the city looked bleak. Nowhere was the demise of urban America more visible than in the older...

  5. 2 Taking It to the Streets: Public History in the City
    (pp. 32-54)

    The philosophy and practice of public historical commemoration has changed dramatically in the last forty years. The rise of social history as a field of study in the 1970s, along with theoretical advances in the disciplines of cultural geography and urban sociology, gave scholars powerful conceptual tools for making the past meaningful to diverse populations and empowering previously marginalized groups. Academically trained public historians and archaeologists have taken the lead in sharing these insights with popular audiences and developing collaborative projects. Some of the most exciting ventures have boasted a strong preservation component and have relied on the built environment...

  6. 3 An Experiment in North St. Louis
    (pp. 55-94)

    More than any other section of St. Louis, the north side manifests inner-city decay. In the districts hugging the curve of the Mississippi River beyond the central business district, one can travel for miles amid a depressing spectacle of abandoned factories, crumbling houses, and weed-strewn lots. But within that landscape of dereliction, one also finds pockets of rejuvenation where refurbished building facades, flowering gardens, and busy construction crews disrupt the prevailing bleakness. Despite the bedraggled appearance of St. Louis’s north side, few sections of the city hold greater potential for preservation-based revitalization. Not only does the area contain many salvageable...

  7. 4 History that Matters: Integrating Research and Neighborhood Planning
    (pp. 95-119)

    Inner-city neighborhoods eager to reinvent themselves as historic districts readily grasp the advantages of public landscape interpretation. The promise of public archaeology and history can be especially compelling in communities (like Old North St. Louis) that require strong preservation initiatives to stave off physical annihilation. Old North St. Louis preservationists instinctively identified history as an indispensable ally in their campaign to cultivate widespread respect and interest in the neighborhood’s residual housing stock. Public history and archaeology emerged as ideal mechanisms for engaging local residents in that process. Even neighborhoods far from the brink of material extinction comprehend the benefits of...

  8. 5 Making a Place for Nature: Preserving Urban Environments
    (pp. 120-145)

    Historic preservation in cities has focused almost exclusively on the restoration and interpretation of built structures. Even as preservation has emerged as a community-revitalization strategy and, in the best scenarios, incorporated vernacular elements of the urban landscape and diverse interpretive perspectives, this bias has remained. On the face of it, the scant attention devoted to natural landscape elements by historic preservationists is unsurprising. Nature is rarely considered a major force in the development of cities. Instead, it represents that which was eviscerated as the historical process unfolded. Yet many of the challenges facing inner-city communities pertain directly to the way...

  9. 6 Scholars in the Asphalt Jungle: The Dilemmas of Sharing Authority in Urban University-Community Partnerships
    (pp. 146-177)

    The public-history movement of the 1970s was premised on the conviction that academic scholarship could enrich civic life and instigate progressive social change. Since that time, numerous university-community partnerships have put this hypothesis to the test. Some of the most successful have followed a truly collaborative model in which scholars “share authority” with their public partners by defining research agendas, interpreting data, and publicizing findings collectively. Arguably, communities seeking to investigate local history with greater depth and sophistication have benefited from the resulting infusion of critical perspectives and university resources. Likewise, meaningful public participation and frank dialogue have produced versions...

  10. 7 Conclusion: An Agenda for Urban Preservation
    (pp. 178-202)

    The preceding chapters of this book have insisted on a role for public history as well as public archaeology in preserving inner-city landscapes and cultivating a shared sense of purpose and belonging. When urban districts capitalize on their historical assets to attract residents and fresh investment, they acquire the capacity to stabilize social relations, articulate community values, and plan more intelligently for the future. Achieving these ends, however, requires that communities activate an explicit dialogue between past and present. Ironically and sadly, serious public engagement with historical content has rarely accompanied the metamorphosis of innercity slums into historic districts. Too...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 203-226)
  12. Index
    (pp. 227-231)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 232-232)