AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN ARCHITECTURE by National Trust for Historic Preservation


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A big fancy brief for historic preservation that--except for the 575 photos of interesting, mostly uncelebrated structures--might turn off some of the movement's staunchest adherents. Determined ""to show America its hidden inheritance""--in secondary as well as major buildings--the book deplores ""the American definition of progress"" (though that ""typical nineteenth-century working-class neighborhood"" in Milwaukee is also a fruit of progress) and decries the prevailing ""ignorance"" that ascribes importance only to architect-designed buildings or those of ancient vintage. These lamentations lead to an architecture-appreciation course, too detailed for quick absorption (need one distinguish between the similar Stick, Queen Anne and Eastlake styles?), which concludes with progressive-school ""exercises"" (No. 1, ""Touch a building""). There follows a loose, wide-ranging history of all kinds of building--an inchoate muchness--before one reaches the point: preservation (p. 196). We are told fatuously that ""Well-tended lawns, bright new coats of paint, and flowered borders between houses indicate. . . cordial relationships and a sense of pride in that neighborhood"" (never conformity or smugness). With similar social blindness, we are not told that some stable, worth-preserving neighborhoods have successfully fought preservation ordinances--i.e, that preservationism, like environmentalism, has emerged as a class issue. The varied aspects of preservation--documentation, methods, financing, recycling--are treated through generalized description; no single case is pursued in detail, no sample surveys or blueprints are provided. The book is long on ""sensitizing,"" short on utility--but local preservation organizations will seek it out regardless.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1976
Publisher: Pantheon