History, architecture worth preserving

Dan Parker is the editor of the South Jetty. Contact him at dan@portasouthjetty.com.

Dan Parker is the editor of the South Jetty. Contact him at dan@portasouthjetty.com.

Years ago, I interviewed an archaeologist while I was writing news stories about an historic shipwreck.

That archaeologist said something that struck me. He said that standing in the midst of an historic site and touching objects that were intimate parts of another person’s life so many, many years ago was like “shaking hands with a dead man.”

That could sound a little creepy to some people, but I think it’s pretty cool.

That’s part of the reason I support historic preservation efforts in Port Aransas. They help keep us connected with our roots.

Port Aransas city government is looking at what it can do to help the cause of historic preservation in town.

The city council earlier this year created an Old Town Preservation Advisory Board.

On Oct. 20, the council decided not to take action on a final report of proposed regulation recommendations presented by the board.

The council told board members to come back later with a report that would include a request to continue meeting after seeking direction from the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association. At its Nov. 15 meeting, the council tabled discussion of matters related to the Old Town Preservation Advisory Board until the council’s December meeting.

I don’t know what the council will do next with regard to the subject of preservation in Old Town. But I can tell you what has happened in the past: Preservation interests in Port Aransas have clashed with property rights voices.

I hope the city can find some way to meaningfully boost preservation in Port Aransas without infringing upon people’s property rights too much.

I also hope that, going forward, private property owners will find it within themselves to preserve their historic homes regardless of how city government handles the subject.

Preserving old buildings adds character to a city. And, beyond the subject of character, there’s value in simply keeping history in place rather than obliterating it.

Replacing an arguably historic house with a brand-new structure might provide the property owner with a bigger home with more modern conveniences. But I’ll argue that the new place won’t be as cool, and it will do nothing to communicate this town’s history to future generations.

Unleashing the bulldozers will further dilute whatever historical value Port Aransas has left in Old Town. We are a community that has been blasted by hurricanes and redevelopment over and over, taking away many of our oldest buildings.

My wife and I own and live in an Old Town house that was built in the 1950s, and we love the place. After Hurricane Harvey severely damaged it in 2017, I suppose we could have torn it down and replaced it with big, modern structure. But we chose to restore the old house, and that’s what we did.

I realize that there are instances when a hurricane or fire so severely damages a house that it must be demolished due to safety concerns. Or maybe the property owner has enough money to build something new but doesn’t have enough money to take on a more expensive restoration project.

But, absent circumstances like those, I advocate for preservation whenever possible.

So, brace up those old walls and polish up those original hardwood floors. C’mon, admit it: Wouldn’t it be cool to shake a dead man’s hand?

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