Posts Tagged ‘Useful’


June 3, 2019

After my post this last Monday and a subsequent Home Owner’s Association meeting, I have been thinking a lot about what constitutes a landmark. I have come to the opinion that, like many things, it is a completely subjective nomenclature. I have been thinking about this because declaring something as a landmark can be a way to protect buildings from being knocked down. Still, I do not think that it should be a panacea to protect all buildings. If everything is a landmark then nothing ever gets torn down. Tearing buildings down is the prelude to building new things and that is how cities and towns evolve and grow. If buildings that are not being used are left up instead of building a new property that will be used, then the city or town begins to rot.

This is also important because decisions in development can impact the environment in ways that people sometimes cannot foresee. Here in Maryland there was proposed legislation for something called the “Rain Tax”. The proposed tax would impact developers who decided to build new projects. It would tax them based on the area of the concrete and blacktop that they covered the Earth with. Paving prevents water from seeping into the Earth and too much loose water can be very destructive. Some politicians scoffed at the new tax and belittled it and the new Governor effectively shut it down for good. The next rainy season, the town of Ellicott City was destroyed because it was downhill from new development. A year later and it was destroyed again by an even worse flood.

So what makes a landmark? For me, it is anywhere where something significant happened or a place where some famous person did something impressive. Independence Hall is a landmark because so many important events to the founding of the United States happened there. In Baltimore, the cemetery where Edgar Allen Poe is revered as a landmark because of the author’s importance and the long history of mysterious events that followed his death. Oriole Park at Camden Yards has become one of the defining landmarks of Baltimore City. Fort McHenry was where the flag hung that inspired the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner. So many historic events that may have been more important locally but are felt nationally and sometimes globally.

And yet we also have a history of tearing down landmarks. The biggest one I can think of is Memorial Stadium, the original home of the Orioles that was torn down in my lifetime. I remember people being sad but the project went ahead. People talked about the civilization of rats that were unearthed when the stadium was torn down still. There had been a stadium there since 1922 and it was torn down in 2001. In the end, this was done for the betterment of the city. The site is now home to senior housing and recreational sports fields mostly used for children. That is way more useful than an old stadium especially since two new ones were built in the south part of the city in a much more accessible spot.

I do sympathize with people who want to save old buildings but I think we have to think it through and ask some tough questions. Is the existing structure being used? If it is not being used then why are we preserving it? That property could be revitalized so it can be used for a new purpose. Is the historical significance enough to prevent the property from being useful? This is difficult because the answers to some of these questions are different depending on who you ask. Also, people fear change but often appreciate positive change once it has been completed. I just hope people will not be close-minded and will do their best for the good of modern society.

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