It helps the environment. Historic preservation can prevent sprawl. Since historic buildings already exist, and since most are in built-up areas, each one that is rehabilitated and used eliminates the need for a new building in an area that is not yet built up. Here are some good reasons to preserve and protect:
- It preserves the historic, architectural, and aesthetic character and heritage of a community or area, and helps to provide a sense of place and continuity. As suburban sprawl and roadside development make more and more places look the same, it becomes important for communities to keep their identities intact. Even one or two striking historic buildings can help to define a community and hint at its past. If whole neighborhoods or rural areas can be preserved, the effect is that much greater. The sense of history can contribute to community pride, and to a better understanding of the community’s present.
- It is an efficient use of resources. Historic preservation conserves resources, reduces waste, and saves money by repairing and reusing existing buildings instead of tearing them down and building new ones.
- It preserves old methods of workmanship. Because many modern buildings are built on the assumption that they will only be needed for a relatively short time before they are replaced, workmanship and building methods of all but the most significant buildings are not as careful or durable as methods used in the past, when buildings were expected to last indefinitely. By working on historic buildings, new generations of craftsmen learn the techniques to improve modern buildings as well.
- It can change the nature of a neighborhood or area. An area restored to its original appearance could serve as a magnet for tourists, and provide jobs for local residents. Local residents could also be employed in rehabilitation or restoration as artisans or workers, if they have the skills, or as trainees. In the latter case, by the end of the project, many may have developed enough competency as carpenters, masons, or the like to start new careers.
- It can provide an opportunity for the imaginative or creative use of a building that has stood empty because it outlived its previous use, and at the same time solve a community problem. An empty historic industrial building turned into an affordable or mixed-income residential development both rescues the building and provides much-needed housing for the area. An old hotel rehabilitated as a public school might address both overcrowded classrooms and the question of what to do with a large, unused building.
- It can be a good investment. Historic buildings can be relatively cheap for businesses to rehabilitate because of the possibility of tax incentives, grants, and other support for that activity. In addition, they may attract business in and of themselves, simply because people are often fascinated by them. Just as many tourists like to stay in old houses that have been restored as bed-and-breakfasts, others might be excited to stay in a hotel that was once an old mill (or in a restored once-famous hotel, for that matter), or to eat in a restaurant that was a railroad station or a church 100 years ago. An interesting office or commercial building, by the same token, especially one that clearly started out as something else (a railroad roundhouse or a high school), might attract clients to an architect or designer, or customers to a complex of stores and restaurants.