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In Washington, citizens disturbed by the rapid proliferation of faceless buildings — and their often-deleterious effect on city life — established a group called Don’t Tear It Down. That was in the 1970s, in fact, just as the Third Church of Christ, Scientist was settling onto its corner.
The appeal that Don’t Tear It Down used in its early days was explicitly about prevention. Its handbills portrayed D.C.’s redevelopment in terms of a visual choice, contrasting comfy, old Victorian edifices with the warehouse-like buildings that were replacing them. “This?” it asked over an image of an ornate old facade, “or This?” The latter alternative was illustrated by a building that looked like a giant tissue box. You might say that Washington’s preservationists were once the very philistines that they are now warning us against.
Of course, many of the buildings that earlier preservationists embraced were deeply disliked when they were new. Nineteenth-century Washingtonians, for example, were dismayed to learn that the just-built Old Executive Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue was fireproof. It was inevitable that the kind of architecture decried by preservationists of the 1970s would eventually have its own passionate defenders, and that preservationists would have to take their arguments into account.
Nevertheless, the idea of preservation has made quite a journey in hardly more than a generation. It’s not that it has risen to power from the street; that happened long ago. What’s striking is that preservation can now urge its constituency to contemplate the street from a Brutalist perspective.p> Charles Paul Freund is a Washington writer. br> /p>
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?