Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Of old houses and hope for our future

I attended a meeting this evening at the Burbank City Hall Annex building, which was lightly attended in response to a mailer that had been sent to city residents within the past week.

Burbank adopted a Preservation Ordinance back in 1996, and its Plan was adopted three years later. We are approaching our city's centennial, and as a means of bolstering civic pride, the city is encouraging homeowners like me to explore the possibility of registering our residences for historic landmark status.

One of the homes featured in the power point presentation was the "Rock House" on Olive Avenue. It was built circa 1922, same year as mine. I've hit the ground running on this project, thinking that my little stucco abode might also be honored with a historic designation.

I love anything vintage, be it a wood frame house, a musty book, or an old baking soda tin. One of my favorite TV shows on HGTV has been, "If Walls Could Talk." For me, it's not really the recognition of the house being around a long time and surviving the wrecking ball. The emotional appeal is that these houses, like many people and ideas, have endured the succession of immediate crises and concerns of the decades. Who would have foreseen that the Rock House--and mine--would have come before a stock market crash, a depression, a world war, numerous presidents, and most of my family? I like to think of the workers who had their role in the construction of these houses, who they were personally, and what their own lives were like. Each historic structure that still stands is almost like a temporal reminder of those workers, and also the people who occupied them over the years. You can almost stop and hear the echoes of long-gone people in the creaking of the floor boards...

I have this acute sense of each point in our space-time construct having an eternal life of its own. Even after the people are gone, and also the physical structures, an indelible print is left on that point, changing it forever. Vintage properties are gifts from one point in time to another, almost like a bottle floating in the ocean with a note inside.

I really hope Burbank is successful in getting some homes designated as historic and preserved for the future. For one thing, having people taking pride and responsibility for the city's history is one way to foster a sense of ownership in the future. The kids of succeeding generations should know what a linen closet is, and a utility room, and see a bathroom that has those quaint, tiny octagonal floor tiles. These features shouldn't just be some overpriced restoration mock-ups. Anyone who doesn't get this experience, in my opinion, is the poorer for it.

When people see the "real things" from the past, those who lived before are also real once again.

A History of Burbank: A special place in history
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