Friday, December 13, 2013

Preservation Alliance's Endangered Properties

Curbed Philly put together a nice map of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia's endangered properties list. With seventeen sites threatened, all undeniably significant or downright amazing, it means that Philadelphians either host too much history to care, or that the Historical Commission of Philadelphia doesn't care.

It's probably a little of both. Few American cities host as much built history as Philadelphia. Smaller cities preserve their history in lieu of growing while New York and Chicago have demolished much of their history due to market demands. Saturated with so much history, Philadelphians can take it for granted.

However, that makes the city's Historical Commission that much more important. Instead of existing solely to pass out demolition permits, the Commission's job in a city as historic as Philadelphia is to protect the city's history. That doesn't mean simply saving what developers are willing to save, but lobbying the city for funds, creating programs to assist with restoration, and being the voice of preservation.

The Alliance's list, which doesn't just include landmarks like Lynnewood Hall and the Divine Lorraine, but also unconventional sites like the SS United States and others that many consider insignificant like the Roundhouse.

Despite the Historical Commission's ineptitude, practices that run entirely counter to the commission's purpose, it's nice that Philadelphia is home to many nonprofit organizations willing to do the commission's job. Unfortunately without the city's support these organizations are only able to address dire situations setting themselves up for failure. Perhaps the Historical Commission should be abolished and the Preservation Alliance of Philadelphia contracted in its place.

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