Why History and Preservation Matter.
Council Bluffs was much more significant in a regional, state and national sense at one time than it is today. That heritage is important to remember and celebrate. It is also something that can’t be taken away, like a business that moves to another city. It should be a source of pride for all Council Bluffs residents.
Historic buildings make that history seem real. You can drive past, and it helps you remember that powerful and compelling history every time you see those buildings. Even the most eloquent words aren’t in front of us all the time the way the buildings are.
Historic preservation creates a sense of place and community; a comforting anchor point that helps us feel connected in a rapidly changing world where suburban sprawl and roadside development make more and more places look all just about the same. It makes our town special, something we can take pride in. Progress is important, but if one isn’t careful, sometimes things get lost along the way that aren’t easy to get back, like community pride.
To study a building is to open a window to daily life at that time. When historic properties are destroyed, those connections between generations are broken. Preservation is particularly important in Council Bluffs. Due to one of the most aggressive urban renewal programs in the nation, many of the buildings that gave the town character have been lost.
Preservation is also practical. Renovation increases a building’s value and the city’s tax base. Businesses are increasingly attracted to areas that have personality and character. That creates a snowball effect that leads to more and more improvements. Communities with a strong sense of cultural character attract talent, enhance development, and increase tourism revenues. And that’s just good business. Besides, tearing functional buildings down is wasteful of energy and harmful to the environment. And older buildings tend to be made with higher-quality materials. A century-old building might well be a better long-term bet than it’s brand new counterpart— they were built to last.
Buildings keep us warm and out of the rain, but go beyond that in that they say something about the world as it was when they were built. Buildings represent social ideals and political statements. They are a symbol of the ideas and values of the community and a belief in its future. Historic structures provide us with a unique form of learning that says a lot more at a glance than can words. We can feel comforted by revisiting something that reminds us of a time when we used to feel more connected to other people. We’re just passing through history… these buildings ARE history.
Your family history tells how you personally got here, the city’s history fills in the details and defines you as a person. Without this history, you’re subject to a kind of amnesia and don’t know who you really are. A building is a conversation across time. Who hasn’t returned after many years to a house, a school or some building where some meaningful event in your life occurred and found that the buildings themselves unleashed a sense of the past too strong to ignore? Historic places and buildings remind us of the people and events that have shaped Council Bluffs. When historic properties are destroyed, connections between generations are broken. If the memory of what we were as a city is lost, we can also lose the sense of what we are now and what we hope to become. We need historic places and structures as points of reference, not just to tell us about the past, but to help put the present and future in perspective.
Buildings in a way are a form of art. If they are all too much the same, the street can be oppressively dull and devoid of visual stimulation.
Things didn’t just happen, they evolved. There were reasons. Things change over time. Preserving parts of the past is important to understand that change. Historic buildings allow one to see life from a different perspective and it makes them feel alive. A place becomes a community when wrapped in human history. History nurtures personal and collective identify in a diverse world and shapes personal values that guide them through life. History provides today’s leaders with role models as they navigate through the complexities of modern life. Historic buildings connect us to that history. Preserving our history isn’t just for us, it’s for our children and grandchildren.
Preservation and pride in our history go hand in hand in promoting Council Bluffs.
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