On Monday I traveled to Richmond to accept an award from APVA Preservation Virginia. It was the 2010 Community Preservation Award for Blacksburg Motor Company. This group cited our work on the Motor company as unique since it blended historic preservation with Green building Techniques. It was an honor to be chosen from entries from across the state and tied in nicely to my trip that day.

Before I went to the APVA reception I had the pleasure to tour John Marshall’s home in Richmond. John Marshall was an early Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who shaped the court as we know it today. He served over 30 years.

His home is located in downtown Richmond. In fact, when the home was built, you could see the Capital from his front window. Many of his furnishings are still in the house because his family lived there until 1921.

But, in 1921, the home was sold to the City of Richmond. Their plan was to demolish the house and build a new John Marshall High School on the spot. This action, the city felt, would honor the man. After all, in 1921, the house was not that old.

(Correction – The actual date that the house was sold to the City of Richmond was 1911 and it was officially opened to the public as a house museum in 1913. My thanks to the person who sent this)

Many voices rose in opposition to this plan. The house was saved and we can view it today to get a better idea of how this man lived and what his time was like.

This made me think about Blacksburg Motor and some of our historic preservation efforts here in Blacksburg. When compared to Williamsburg, Richmond, Alexandria, our buildings are relatively new. Why save them?

That was the thought in 1921 Richmond. Calmer heads prevailed and looked not just at the present, but towards the future.

The following statement is not meant as a comment on historic districts or our current discussions dealing with demolitions and HDARB. It is simply a reflection on what I saw and thought about on Monday.

Not every old building is worth saving. But, many are. For a building to reach the ripe old age of one hundred or two hundred years, it has to survive the age of seventy. When we as a community work to protect and save these structures, we honor and pay tribute to those who helped build the Blacksburg we know today.

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