How Preservation Houston Advocates for History

A house is just a physical structure, but it becomes a home when you have memories and stories to share about the space. We absolutely fell in love with the history and character in this 1925 Tudor-style home and knew it was special from the moment we saw it. 

When we were first starting the renovations and our home was still in its original state, a woman came by to see it. It turns out that she moved in when she was 5 years old and grew up in the home. What a small world! I had the opportunity to meet with her and she shared stories and photos of the home from when she was younger. It was so interesting to hear about her history in the home and I loved that she took the time to come by.

before image of the dining room – Imagine this space in its heyday of 1920s.

 

What’s even more special is realizing that my girls will also be moving into the home at the age of 5, the same age the woman was when she lived there. They will be growing up and making their own memories in this home. And they will be continuing the history of this beautiful Boulevard Oaks neighborhood.

It was a reminder of how special historic neighborhoods like our is. They hold such history and it’s important for us to preserve the stories in their walls. So throughout the renovation process, we have been working with Preservation Houston to maintain the traditional exterior of the home.

Pre-sale image of the Living room and Library

Preserving Historic Houston

Preservation Houston is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that was founded in 1978 as the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance. It’s the only citywide organization advocating for historic preservation and better public policy and protection of the city’s irreplaceable historic resources. The purpose of the organization is to address the concerns, issues, and maintenance of historic homes, buildings, and neighborhoods in Houston. The organization has helped revitalize historic buildings in downtown Houston, restore homes in The Heights and Old Sixth Ward district, as well as in the Boulevard Oaks neighborhood.

I spoke with David Bush, the Executive Director at Preservation Houston to get more information about this important organization and what they do to help preserve the historic landmarks and homes throughout Houston.

LU: Can you tell us a little background behind Preservation Houston?

DB: Preservation Houston is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018. The organization was incorporated in 1978 as the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance (GHPA) to advocate for historic preservation in Houston. Within a year of its founding, GHPA began its two signature programs – the Good Brick Awards for excellence in historic preservation and the Architecture Walks program, which offers monthly guided tours of local historic districts and landmarks. Both programs support the organization’s mission by increasing awareness and appreciation of Houston’s architectural and cultural historic resources.

When GHPA was founded, Houston did not have a historic preservation ordinance and there were no local historic districts or designated landmarks. GHPA partnered with neighborhood organizations to support the effort to pass Houston’s first municipal preservation ordinance and also supported later efforts to strengthen the ordinance.

In 2012, GHPA was rebranded as Preservation Houston. The organization’s logo incorporates a traditional key to reflect the organization’s efforts to preserve historic architecture. The leaf element represents preservation’s role in conserving resources by encouraging reuse rather than demolition. Preservation Houston continues to offer community-based assistance with local landmark and historic district designations and provides information on local, state and federal preservation incentives.

Preservation is, in many ways, about freedom of choice. There are a lot of people who want to live in historic homes in traditional neighborhoods and the best way to give them that opportunity is to create historic districts. You can always build new, especially in Houston, but you can’t build historic. Historic districts occupy less than 3% of the city’s land area, so there aren’t many restrictions on where new houses can be built.

When Preservation Houston was founded in 1978, one of its primary goals was to get the city to pass a historic preservation ordinance because there was no way to designate a historic district or any way to protect local landmarks. Houston’s first preservation ordinance was finally enacted in 1995. To give you some perspective, Houston is frequently compared to Los Angeles in the way it developed. Los Angeles has had a historic preservation ordinance since 1962.

Getting the ordinance was a huge step for the city, but the original ordinance did not have protections to prevent historic buildings from being demolished. The original ordinance provided a way to designate historic landmarks and historic districts but allowed for the demolition of landmarks and buildings in historic districts. Preservation Houston supported Mayor White’s and Mayor Parker’s successful efforts to strengthen the ordinance to create protected historic districts and protected landmarks.

Today, one of the primary services of Preservation Houston is to provide the owners of historic houses assistance with historic landmark nominations. At the homeowner’s request, Preservation Houston will research and write the landmark nomination at no cost to the homeowner.

LU: How did Preservation Houston become affiliated with the Boulevard Show House?

DB:  Laura called about her new home in the historic BLVD Oaks Neighborhood and generously offered to have the show house benefit Preservation Houston. From there, we have been working with her on this project.

LU: What is the best way to donate or become a member of Preservation Houston?

DB: Join online preservationhouston.org/join. We also have a very active group of next-generation preservationists called Pier & Beam that offers monthly programs for its members preservationhouston.org/pierbeam.

They are doing such wonderful work to keep Houston’s history alive and part of the Houston culture today. Even though we’re renovating, we want to keep our home and historic neighborhood a special part of Houston. We love the work that Preservation Houston is doing and will be donating 100% of the proceeds from your visit to the Boulevard Show House to the organization. We felt that is was only right for us to give back to the organization that allows us to keep such important historical landmarks and areas alive, thriving and beautiful in Houston. We can’t wait for you to come tour the Show House this spring!

For more information about Preservation Houston, be sure to visit their website and find out how to join and how to donate. And for a sneak peek into what they do daily, follow them on Instagram.

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