BuffaloPundit has been writing an excellent series of posts on the misnomer movement down in Bass Pro land. Frankly, I’m getting sick of the Tim Tielmans that are tarnishing the respectable “preservationist” moniker that many of us enjoy. Every time someone embarks on a personal battle to protest the latest development and they tack on a historical angle to their argument, the local media seems quick to brand it the “preservationist” viewpoint. I’m concerned that the valid and productive work that true preservationists are doing, and the actual accomplishments that are being made are going to be eclipsed by media-whoring pseudo-preservationists.
The only way to prevent this from happening is to assign a new term to these people, one that more aptly describes their goals. I’m going to call them “revertionists.” A revertionist is a person that wants to revert an area to an arbitrary point in it’s history, regardless of feasibility, inconvenient alternative historical points, current state, or future plans. In the case of a situation like bemoaning the loss of green space that was never there in the first place, we call this revisionist revertionism. In no case whatsoever should this be mistaken for “preservation” where the goal is to keep a significant building or area around for future use and enjoyment. Preservation is most effective when coupled with either “restoration” – the returning of that item to it’s original state, use, or condition, or “adaptive reuse” – applying a new purpose for the object in question that preserves some, but not all, of the historical aspect in it’s new use.
Preservation may certainly be seen at times as anti-progress by some, but the value added by preservation is a juxtaposition of old and new, incorporating an area’s history and it’s future together. In a city like Buffalo that has been around longer than many of it’s newer, more populous counterparts, it’s a natural advantage that can’t be recreated once lost. Sure, we can reconstruct missing pieces of the Darwin Martin complex, or even build a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece that never left the drawing board, but they’ll never have the authenticity of an original H. H. Richardson or Fellheimer and Wagner.
Revertionism, on the other hand, may serve the interests of a minority of areas around the county, such as Colonial Williamsburg or even the Genesee Country Village. It’s not going serve Buffalo’s interests to bring back our historical red light district. Most families would rather take little Billy down to see Bigmouth Billy Bass, than to take little Suzy to see Sally the Syphilitic Stripper.
Preservation is a worthwhile endeavor in Buffalo, as it leverages our uniqueness while helping to shape Buffalo’s future. Revertionism does nothing but keep us pointing in the wrong direction. They’re two different concepts which will certainly produce two very different results.