April 28th, 2022
I've always been a big fan of history. Not how it's taught in most schools of course because that is So Boring! A litany of memorized names/dates/places is excrutiatingly dull. But people are not dull, people are endlessly fascinating and history is about people.
While I will read, literally, anything with words, when I have a choice I always reach for some bit of historic fiction, basically fiction based on fact. Also love biographies, stories of time -travel, memoirs and just plain factual books about things and people of long ago. I love old buildings, old houses, old places that still carry the echoes of time.
One of the things we adore about where we live is that it is, relatively speaking, an historic town. While it's not even 100 years old (yet, it's coming up very soon) Venice has embraced and celebrated it's history and has done a fine job of preserving as much of it as possible. Still, what we are seeing quite often now are the older homes being torn down and brand new homes built in their place. It seems as if every week another old house disappears and Poof! In a very short time a brand spanking new house appears. It's like magic.
I do not begrudge the new owners the right to build the house of their dreams. Good for them. But at the same time, we are watching the vintage charm of the island slowly vanish, one bite at a time. And its very sad. BUT our city is trying. The powers that be in Venice are always working to find a way to be respectful of both the past and the future.
Recently Tim and I were in Sarasota and because we had no other plans at that moment, we parked the car, got out and walked around the older downtown part. It was absolutely delightful. Wonderful, older, quirky, interesting buildings for blocks.
Then just past some very odd destruction/construction, we stopped to admire one particular building and one of the shop owners came out to talk to us. According to her, the absolutely lovely building that her shop was in has been sold and will soon be torn down. Shocked, we asked why it couldn't just be fixed up. Well it turns out that since it's an older building, it's far out of current building code. And therefore, no insurance company will cover it. Rather than invest the money into bringing it up to code the new owner will simply tear it down and put up something new. I'm sure it is primarily a financial decision. It is most likely simply cheaper to replace than restore.
And that's what it would be a loving restoration rather than a renovation.
We did see one building where they were trying - and points for trying - to find a compromise. They tore down MOST of the building but kept the facade and were building a brand new modern building behind it. Somewhere along the line I suppose they will tie the two together.
Most of downtown Sarasota is now Giant Buildings that look very modern, very sleek, quite similar and, forgive me please this is just my opinion, soulless and boring.
This is a photo that I found online of Bayfront Sarasota. It's impressive for sure. But more and more of the city is looking like this:
And less and less of the city looks like this: By the way the building below is the home is John and Mabel Ringling (yes that Ringling).
I understand and completely agree that we cannot and should not save every old building. But there has to be a middle ground. The architecture of a city sets the tone. Once every charming (that word again), endearing, historic, quaint, older building is gone, the city completely changed and it's history is forgotten. And worse, once the memories of it are gone, it will be as if those people, and those events never existed. It will just be a footnote in some dusty, dull, schoolroom class listlessly memorized by children for a test. And once the test is taken, it will be forgotten.
That makes me very sad.
Since I do not live in Sarasota there is little that I can say or do about historic preservation, but I wish that somebody would while there is still time. And meanwhile, I love that I live in a city that loves and cares about it's past and at the same time, is looking to the future. And even better they are trying very hard to find a way to somehow meld the two seamlessly.
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Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.