Please, don’t tear me down.Don't Tear Me Down1

I’ve been here for 150 years.  Six families have called me home.

Hundreds of immigrant craftsmen created me with their own hands, without the use of power tools.  Stone that was quarried locally is my foundation.

My gas lights have been replaced with electricity. The coal furnace that heated me for years was converted to oil, then natural gas. I’m thinking about going to solar.

My bones are still strong and my character is irreplaceable. All my owners have made exceptional efforts to preserve these.

Don't Tear Me Down2So why am I about to end up in a landfill?

They don’t build things like they used to, and once they’re gone, they’re gone for good!  Developers are too quick to discard part of our heritage and replace it with town houses or McMansions.

This is true not just for historical homes but smaller homes as well. Quality housing stock in family communities is systematically being eliminated. Young families are being priced out of neighborhoods – in many cases the same neighborhoods they grew up in – by cookie-cutter, quick-flip developers without a second thought given to the character and history that exists there.

So what alternative am I suggesting?

Renovating, adding onto, and in some cases historically restoring existing homes should be considered as a first option by homeowners as well as developers.

Don't Tear Me Down3This won’t necessarily involve any financial trade-offs and, in fact, will generally cost less up-front, interject more personality into the work, and provide a more satisfying finished product sooner.  In other words, this shouldn’t be a simple math question: it needs to be an essay question that requires thought and the balancing of multiple factors.

We live in a ‘disposable society’ that fosters replacement over repair or renewal – which maybe makes sense with broken toasters and TVs, but…our homes and neighborhoods?  With so much talk about going green and the importance of sustainability, we sometimes overlook the obvious.

If we don’t destroy and discard our existing housing, there is no need to cut down trees to replace it, right?Don't Tear Me Down4

Or to continuously expand our landfills to accommodate debris that isn’t really debris, right?

Simply stated, my alternative is to slow down & consider the consequences of what we’re doing.  Respecting the integrity and character of an existing home isn’t always easy, but believe me, it is always rewarding.

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3 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. Mike

    wrote on March 24, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Great article John!

    As someone who has updated our 1900-ish house several times, you have been able to make some amazing renovations while honoring the character and the style of the old ways.

    Thanks for speaking up on this subject. It is a shame to see some of these classic homes get torn down!

  2. Ron

    wrote on March 27, 2016 at 8:46 am

    As a remodeler passionate about historic homes & older homes w/character, I definitely see too much of this. There are some culturally- or architecturally-insignificant homes around where the best choice might be a tear-down (think late 50’s & early 60’s). But beautiful older homes are being torn-down & replaced with larger ones that suffer from design confusion — too many gables, too many roof styles all mashed together. It really is sad.

    Thank you for an excellent article — I dearly hope the sentiments gain traction.

  3. Ann Sinclair

    wrote on June 19, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    I live in an 1812 house with a 2010 complimentary addition. I love it. I am the head of the local Historical Commission and we have to review demolition requests on houses 100 years old or older. Unfortunately all we can do is give them a one year delay. People who move to this town want big showy houses. There goes the sense of community we used to have.

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