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Historic Preservation and the Imagined West

Historic Preservation and the Imagined West

In many of the American cities, historic preservation evolved differently, as have the destinies of the historical neighborhood in these cities. Denver, Seattle and Albuquerque are three such examples where the interests of different groups and the integration of the historical neighborhoods in the life of the city affected their overall development.

In Denver, the historical neighborhood is considered to be the area containing the Larimer Square and Lower Downtown. The respective area marked its transformation from the old warehouse district into a “mixed-use neighborhood” (Morley, 2006). The initial objective for saving and preserving the historical neighborhood in Denver was that of “revitalizing the central business district” (Morley, 2006). With such an objective in mind, there was a mixture of groups that fought to put that in practice and that included the city council and NGOs, as well as part of the business community.

However, the final objective was also that of recognizing and preserving the civic identity that was associated with the Larimer Square, location of the initial birth of the city. The idea of identity was also reflected in the fact that the area around Larimer Square and the Lower Downtown was the only one in the city that could differentiate it from other places in the United States and make it unique. From that perspective, the city needed to preserve its identity. One of the interesting aspects is that the identity could not be that of warehouses and manufacturing units, as the initial area had historically proposed. As such, the historical neighborhood received an “urban remake.”

In the case of Seattle, the historic flavor seems to revolve around two main areas of the cities: Pike Place and the original Pioneer Square.

The Pioneer Square embodies the original spirit of Seattle and its present appearance should be discussed from a historical perspective, noting its evolution throughout the decades from the initial settlement of people here in the mid 1850s. Initially labeled as the center of the city life and the place around which all activities revolved, the Pioneer Squares fate was tied to the economics of the place. As such, the once prosperous location during the 19th century lost its glitter during the initial decades of the 20th century, including after the Boeing Corporation was founded, turning the fortunes of the city.

It was not until the 1950s that the inhabitants of Seattle began to rediscover their past and their cultural heritage, as they identified it with the Pioneer Square, later renamed Pioneer Place. It was the business men and individuals involved in the economic life that promoted the project to preserve and reinvent the square and the reason for that was also partially economic: beyond identifying with the original settlers, several business associations supported the idea of a historic and cultural downtown in Seattle that would have, in their vision, encouraged investments in this area because of an increased tourist interest.

At the same time, several investors believed that the buildings in this historical and cultural sector of the town could be bought at lower prices, restored and perhaps later exploited at higher prices. On similar objectives of boosting the value of the place as an economic interest, the City Council adopted several ordinances that expanded the area subjected to be declared a cultural heritage and brought in new investments into the Pioneer Place. Overall, one can point to a combination of “city legislation, federal.

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