Historic preservation isn’t boring. It just seems that way because the work often falls to government agencies or nonprofit organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has hosted its Historic Preservation Month each May since 1973.
For its part, the city of Fresno instituted its own Historic Preservation Week in 2013 as a way to garner more media attention for the cause by hosting a series of history-theme events.
“It worked!,” says Fresno’s Historic Preservation Project Manager Karana Hattersley-Drayton.
This year, there are eight events for the week, which runs May 1-7. They are far from boring.
There is a walking tour/scavenger hunt through the Wilson Island Historic District, a Fresno-theme pub quiz, an art/history event, a concert at the Crest Theatre and more.
“Historic Preservation Week serves to bring focused attention to Fresno’s history and heritage. This year there is an additional emphasis on Fresno’s musical heritage, as well as its architecture,” Hattersley-Drayton says.
Q: Tell us more about the kind of events planned this year. What ties them together?
A: The tie is that all events must address Fresno’s architectural and cultural heritage and/or be staged at a historic home or site, as with the Crest Theatre, the Meux Home, Warnors Theatre, etc.
Q: Is there one you are most excited about?
A: Oh, that’s hard. They are all great. I am most personally involved with the Pub Quiz at Peeve’s, as well as the walking tour of the Wilson Island Historic District, which is really a “scavenger hunt.” Peeve’s will hopefully pull in a different crowd than, say the Meux Home tea, or even the backstage tour of Warnors. It is really important to broaden the constituency for history and preservation.
Q: Why is preservation important?
A: Architectural preservation ties the community to its past. Designated historic properties are protected from the whims and excessive changes of the moment. The architecture of pre-war Fresno has a great deal of integrity and, when protected, these buildings and neighborhoods retain their value.
Additionally, preservation of older historic buildings is important for cultural heritage tourism. Folks go to Carmel or San Francisco or to Paris, in part, to see the architecture, which has a character different from their hometown or “anyplace USA.”
Cultural preservation is equally important. We are all richer for our city’s ethnic diversity.
Q: What does historic preservation look like in practice?
A: My faves are the restoration of the Mission Revival Helm Home, the Old Administration Building at Fresno City College, the 1922 Flora Montague Bungalow Court and the rehabilitation of the Terminal Building at Chandlers (WPA financed in the 1930s).
Q: Is preservation an either/or proposition? Is there a way to balance preservation and progress?
A: For me, preservation is not about saving everything (unless you want to live in a historic park like Williamsburg or Virginia City). However, it is about making informed choices that include public input. Cities are dynamic places and change, thoughtful change, is inevitable and vital. Additionally, let’s also think “green.”
To use one of my favorite quotes from a Seattle developer: “The most basic act of sustainability is to recycle a good old building that’s already in place.”
Historic Preservation Week
- May Day Celebration, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, May 1, Riverview Ranch, 11605 Old Friant Road, Fresno. 559-248-8480.
- Pub Quiz (Fresno’s history and musical heritage), 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, Peeve’s Public House, 1243 Fulton Mall. 559- 573-5735.
- Warnors Theatre Backstage Tour (and ArtHop), 5-8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 5, 1400 Fulton St. 559-264-2848
- “Women’s Art and Music and History,” 5-9 p.m. Thursday, May 5, Arte Americas Plaza, 1630 Van Ness Ave. $10. 559-266-2623.
- Music and Brews, concert at the Crest Theatre, 6-10 p.m., Friday, May 6, 1170 Broadway Plaza, $10-$20. 559-268-0044.
- Walking Tour/Scavenger Hunt in the Wilson Island Historic District, 9-11 a.m. Saturday, May 7, 666 E. Home Ave. 559-621-8520
- “Mother’s Day Victorian Garden Tea,” The Meux Home, 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 7, 1007 R St. $35. 559-233-8007.
- “Art Meets Jazz Meets History,” Youth Jazz Ensemble directed by Jim Page, 5-10 p.m. Saturday, May 7, Arte Americas, 1630 Van Ness Ave. $10. 559-266-2623.