The Center for Historic Preservation partially funded Chris Young’s (’11) trip to the Saving Places Conference in Denver, Colorado. The following are his thoughts from the conference:
At the beginning of February, I was granted the opportunity to speak at the 2011 Saving Places Conference in Denver, Colorado. I received my invitation over winter break and within hours, I accepted and finalized my plans for the trip. My email invitation included the words Colorado and historic preservation within the same sentence. It was an easy decision and I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t resist. Despite brief notification, Colorado Preservation Inc and the Center for Historic Preservation at UMW agreed to support my trip. So, before I knew it, I was en route to Denver and headed to present at one of the largest preservation conferences in the country.
The 2011 Saving Places Conference was hosted by Colorado Preservation Inc, a private nonprofit, statewide historic preservation organization. Similar to the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference, the CPI conference spanned several days and featured educational preservation sessions that included a slew of topics relating to the conference’s theme. The focus for this conference was Exploring the Benefits of Preservation.
Amy Cole, Senior Program Officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Denver and alumnus to Mary Washington invited me to speak with her during the session entitled “It Should be Higher Learning! Saving Historic College Campuses.” During the hour-long session, Ms. Cole and I talked about one case study in particular: the University of Mary Washington campus.
As many of you may already know, the Master Plan draft for UMW’s campus recently garnered criticisms from alumni, students and many professionals in the field of historic preservation. This negative reaction was based on the plan’s proposed building projects. Ms. Cole and I spoke about the preservation concerns at UMW and presented slides, which showed some of the current alterations to campus. Many in the audience remarked about similar projects at other colleges and universities and spoke about the loss of some of those schools’ defining features.
However, in light of the efforts the student-run group, “Save Our School” and the outpouring of alumni support, the administration at UMW has decided to create a Preservation Planning Steering Committee with the goal of adopting a “University Preservation Plan.” As a student, and a member of the SOS group, it was uplifting for me to talk at the conference about the new, open dialogue the administration has forged with the historic preservation department.
Many of the educational sessions I attended at the conference featured speakers who highlighted preservation projects in the neighborhood or city where they live or work. Most of the projects spanned many years and required a deep personal investment. I could sense the projects were taxing, tiresome, and difficult, but I could also tell by the pervasive enthusiasm of all the speakers, the process was rewarding and stimulating. Most jobs, by definition, are laborious and time consuming, but I got the sense preservation jobs are different. The presentations predominantly started with pictures of dilapidated and neglected buildings whose heyday had long since passed. At the end, the slides showed pictures of theatres, schools, commercial blocks, and homes, which were rehabilitated and retrofitted for the 21st century. Despite the seemingly cumbersome process, the hard work yields marked and tangible improvements to the structures, which will benefit the community and preserve its architectural identity. I subsequently believe the satisfaction in working with preservation projects is fulfilling and enduring.
As an undergraduate, I find myself lucky to be involved with preservation projects on campus and already harbor a strong connection to the work and buildings. The conference was a great opportunity to learn about diverse preservation projects and also share about my experiences at UMW. I left the conference with a Denver T-shirt, countless architectural pamphlets, and a heightened appreciation for historic preservation. I couldn’t ask for more.
Chris Young ’11