Save Our Heritage Organisation
Reflections Quarterly Newsletter
2005 Volume 36, Issue 3
Remember the Alamo
By Beth Montes
Summer has come with all its warm weather and time for visiting family and friends. My family and I have just returned from a lovely family reunion in San Antonio, Texas. While our primary focus was family, I took every opportunity to visit as many historic sites as possible - and there were lots of them! There are several missions very close to each other just beyond downtown. They were all built 30-50 years before our California missions and are in beautiful condition. Besides its world- famous Riverwalk, downtown San Antonio is full of multi-story buildings, which were constructed in the mid-1800's, and many old homes from about that same period. And, of course, the Alamo is wonderful to see. Just down river a bit is a lovely historic neighborhood called the King William District which is so perfect it could be used as a movie backdrop.
That's great, Beth, but what does your trip to San Antonio have to do with preservation in San Diego? Well, I was struck by how much history remains in such close proximity to downtown. Also equally noteworthy was how important preservation is to locals. Time after time I read information plaques stating that this building was preserved in 1946 and that one in 1933 and so on. Whole buildings, even complexes, were protected and reused. And I mean the WHOLE building, not just a façade. We stayed in a hotel where the new buildings were constructed around historic homes. Those homes were then incorporated into the hotel grounds as outbuildings to house exercise equipment and other items. Near the hotel's parking lot, an old school site built by German immigrants was saved and functioned as meeting rooms. There was also the expected smattering of old homes serving as offices and bed & breakfast inns. I did not see ONE active construction site anywhere in the downtown area where it looked like an older structure had met its demise on the altar of "progress" or "densification." What I did see were many instances of historic buildings being reworked to serve as restaurants, stores, or offices. The overall sense I got was that there was no question older structures would remain and newer needs would be met by working with and around important structures and sites.
So, my questions are these: why do other municipalities seem to understand the importance of preserving their older sites and structures while ours are regularly threatened? Why canāt those who wish to develop sites in San Diego be made to realize that new uses can successfully be designed to maintain extant structures while meeting current needs? How are we ever going to boast 150, 200, or 250 year old buildings if we knock them down after 50, 75, or 100 years?
We live in a community of very creative architects, designers, and developers. They will rise to the occasion if we demand that they put this creativity to work on projects involving historic structures.
I think our community can someday become more like San Antonio if we remember the Alamo.
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