America's Preservation Ethos
A Tribute to Enduring Ideals
Historic preservation has flowered and endured in the United States because the very concept incorporates some of this nation's most profoundly defining ideals. The concept of preservation is built on a finely wrought and sustained balance between respect for private rights on the one hand and a concern for the larger community on the other. It reflects long-held beliefs concerning appropriate roles for each level of government and government incentives for the private sector, which bears most of the burden of preserving the nation's heritage. Preservation in America is about nurturing the grass roots and assisting communities with the preservation of physical structures, objects, and settings that tell the story of our collective experience.
Preservation in America is an evolving phenomenon. Led by elite individuals and groups at its inception in the nineteenth century, it broadened its base with the advent of government programs in the twentieth century. The saving of early shrines to individuals and events of the Revolutionary War period represented a beginning that over time evolved into a national effort to preserve community history and identity. To understand the process by which preservation has come to its current state, it is necessary to look back on several major milestones in the preservation movement and on the influences that shaped them.
The Historic House Museum
The strongest initial impetus for preservation in America was the new country's conscious effort to memorialize the heroes of the Revolutionary War. One of the first buildings to be preserved as a shrine to the Revolution was Philadelphia's Old State House, later called Independence Hall. The deteriorated build