Earlier this week, I was walking around downtown Jackson, past the Old Capitol (1839), past the Lamar Life Building (1925), the Governor’s Mansion (1840), the U.S. Courthouse (1933), over to Jackson City Hall (1846), the Hinds County Courthouse (1930), and Thalia Mara Hall (1968), saw the Tower Building (1929) and the King Edward Hotel (1923) in the distance. It was a lovely early Spring day, the sun was shining, the trees were showing signs of vivid green. And all I could think was “I’m a prisoner!!! And it’s history that’s holding me down!” Then I read this op-ed piece by those young hipsters from the Marietta (OH) Register, and I knew I had found my kindred spirits, devotees of Modernism all. I’ll post an excerpt here, but really you must read the whole thing:
Walking the streets of the city we’re constantly reminded of the history of Marietta and Washington County and – forgive us – sometimes it bothers us. Not the sheer fact of its existence. Each place has its own history and sense of place and each place is special and different and that is good. No, what bothers us is the omnipresence of it. The sheer sense that history is what makes the place. It’s as if the history and location are more important than the people and the things happening now.
. . .
There are times when we look around at the sheer number of historic, or simply old, buildings in the city of Marietta and we become concerned that there should be some sort of historic renewal. One, hundred year old home or business building or government center is nice. Ten shows a connection to the past. A hundred or more of them shows a lack of investment in renewal and development. The sheer number of them devalues them beyond all measure. Historic buildings should be the leavening, the spice and highlights of a city. They can’t be the prevalent architecture and expect anyone to have a perception of the city as forward looking and progressive.
. . .
Those of us who are younger and more vital (let’s face it) are more interested in the newest and latest. By not providing that – whether intentionally or not – the city finds itself reinforcing already existing trends. Those in the next generation who should be the driving force for growth and success for the city are forced away with our presentation of the city as old and not advancing forward into the new century, now a decade old, with joy and hope.
On the one hand, I think that the right number of historic (or just old, not sure of the difference) buildings in Jackson would be 42. But on the other hand, I wonder if the perfect number isn’t 37. Howsomever, on the third hand, when I’m feeling particularly young and vital, I think it must be much lower, like, maybe 22. What do ya’ll think?
I worry about places like New York City and London and Chicago that have so doggone many old buildings. They must be just chock full of old, old people. Fogeytowns, Outdoor Old Folks’ Homes, Geriatric Clubs. If only they had access to the wisdom and understanding of the opinion writer for the Register, they might be able to save themselves from this Prison Called History, or as we sometimes call it, The Rock.