Thursday, June 25, 2009

Property Rights and Historic Preservation

The Third Church of Christ, Scientist, one of the finer examples of Brutalist architecture, is inching its way to demolition. The debate over its fate is between the owners, who would like to sell it, and historic preservationists, who want to compel the Christian Scientists to maintain it.

Brutalism has few fans and far more devoted enemies. It is, for many, the architectural equivalent of an erotic novel about Helen Thomas: not something that you want your eyes to fall upon. But as a matter of public policy, I agree with Jonah Goldberg that those who wish to preserve historic items always have the option of buying them:

The church doesn't want to destroy the building, the church wants to better serve its flock by selling the building. If the government or a group of folks like yourself want to save the building, I am sure the owners will gladly sell it. What the historic preservationists want is to save the building, but make the church bear the financial burden. That seems unfair to me generally, and especially problematic given that it's a church and the state isn't supposed to boss around churches.

Saying "you should save that" is always easy, when the costs are carried by someone else.


bob said...

John, I posted today on a similar story only in my story it's a judge telling someone else how to mind their business. If it isn't your money you really don't have much say in the matter

Bro. Dave said...

Amen. I see this all the time in west Tennessee and western Kentucky. Even old tobacco barns are left standing until they rot and fall down. In So. California, where I have also lived and where land is at a premium, if it is not currently in use, it will be torn down and something useful will be built in its place. Not good for historic preservationists, but we can't live completely in our past!

Jeff the Baptist said...

Agreed. We had a situation where a farm down the road from me was a historic site. The family that had owned it and worked it for generations was trying to sell it to real estate developers because they were going under and real estate development was big money. Conservationists and preservationists stepped in and put a stop to that, causing the owners untold grief.

The land wound as up a large public park by the county. The family seems to have gotten a pretty fair price for it, but that didn't look to be the case for a quite a while. The prospect of them getting screwed out of a ton of money by a bunch of busybodies made my trigger finger itch.

Keith Taylor said...

I once lived in the Decatur, AL historic area. I had an old house and the wooden front porch needed replaced since the decking was rotten and I was afraid my step son was going to fall thru.

I went down to the courthouse to get a building permit to tear off the old, rotten wood decking and replace the planks with new, painted the same color.

The lady told me that she couldn't sell me a permit unless I had a set of plans approved by something called the Decatur Historical Society.

I looked at her and said, "I just paid my property taxes last month and I don't recall them helping me with that, and I don't need their approval to replace my porch".

She said she did.

I finally told her, "I'm going to replace the porch on my house with with a permit or without a permit, the only difference is whether or not you take my $15 and give me the permit to place in the window".

She disappeared and in few minutes, came back with the card and took my check for $15.

jockeystreet said...

Keith, that's awesome. And funny.

John said...

Good work standing up to the state, Keith!