The Cost of Historic Preservation


Historic building projects get a bad reputation for costing more to repair than constructing a new building. (Why else would you need government grants and public funding to make these projects happen?) While the bill to restore those historic wood windows may be higher than new vinyl windows, the cost of losing a piece of the building’s history is greater still. Financial assistance for historic projects recognizes that you can’t put a price tag on the intangible resources inherent in historic buildings.

Think of a building’s history as a natural resource. Historic buildings record a story of the people who designed, built, used, and altered them over the years. The cracks and quirks define the building’s character and make it as unique as a human face. Historic buildings create a sense of place because they are the faces of our streets, neighborhoods, and cities.

The story and character of a historic building can be leveraged for economic development, heritage tourism, and downtown revitalization. Preserving a historic downtown or a neighborhood residence keeps memories alive and enriches the places we choose to live or visit. When I visit a revitalized downtown I see an identity as strong as any branding campaign. People continue to add to this story by continuing to inhabit historic buildings.

Many of the stores and restaurants I visit on a weekly basis are a repeat of another business in the next suburb over. Historic buildings are a relief from the sameness of franchises and corporations. Historic districts are a catalyst for economic development as they positively impact jobs, property values, heritage tourism and downtown revitalization. The upkeep and repairs may cost more than new construction, but a greater cost is paid when these buildings fall into disrepair or are demolished. History, once lost, cannot be rebuilt as it once was.

During the month of May, the National Trust for Historic Preservation celebrates the value of preserving our historic resources. Join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.