Giving Preservation a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States

By Max Page; Randall Mason | Go to book overview

3

ROOTS IN BOSTON, BRANCHES IN PLANNING AND PARKS1

Michael Holleran

BOSTONIANS, LIKE OTHER URBAN Americans in the mid-nineteenth century, embraced a culture of change in the built environment. Change was progress, change was good; change was in any case inevitable. This culture was not friendly to the survival of old buildings. Antiquarians appreciated them but took no actions to save them. The embryonic preservation efforts before the Civil War were outside of cities.

During the last third of the nineteenth century, Boston residents grew uncomfortable with environmental change and began to defend features of the city that they valued, not only buildings but also landscapes. Boston was in the forefront of American reactions against environmental change. Preservation became an urban movement in the 1870s with the success at saving Boston's Old South Meetinghouse. Architects became preservationists in the 1890s with the campaign to save the Bulfinch State House. Efforts to maintain the state house's Beacon Hill setting at the turn of the century laid foundations for land-use regulation in the United States, and the same locale saw some of the country's first neighborhood restoration. Starting in 1910, William Sumner Appleton's Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities set patterns of professional preservation practice for much of the twentieth century.

Bostonians first learned the difficulties of preservation in the city in an unsuccessful effort to save John Hancock's house, which stood next

-81-

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