You Must Remember This
By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | May/June 2009
I'm constantly astounded by the power of memory. Show me a photo of the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, and I remember the touch of my grandfather's hand guiding me across Madison Square Park to stare up at what he called "New York's Oldest Skyscraper." One whiff of chlorine, and I flash back to the grand, tiled pool in the mountains of Virginia where my aunt and mother took us to swim each year. Memories transport us, remind us of how far we've come—even instill hopes for a brighter future.
It turns out I'm not the only one here who's moved by memories. Sudip Bose, the magazine's senior editor, opens his lyrical story about historic airports with a vivid memory from childhood. Reading his feature reminded me of the days when men and women wore hats to travel, and my father wouldn't have considered entering an airport terminal without a tie and jacket. Doesn't that seem like a long time ago?
Dwight Young felt the surge of memory—and possibly a surge of relief—when he reached the end of the precipitous stairway that leads to the top of the U.S. Capitol dome. Catching his breath there at sunrise, Dwight surveyed the entire federal city arrayed beneath his feet, and remembered the preservation successes and failures that shaped its streets and neighborhoods. His column about the experience appears on p. 88. After you've read it, make sure to pore over his photos online—they're amazing.
Memory definitely played a role in this issue's "gentle surprise," Assistant Editor Krista Walton's eye-opening before-and-after tale about a Florida courthouse. Many Palm Beach County residents had apparently forgotten about the ornate building buried behind the walls of a 1970s wraparound addition. But Krista spoke with one county official who not only remembered the extraordinary courthouse, she helped rediscover and restore what locals now consider a town treasure.
Memories, and all of the historic places you can read about in this issue, are vital because they enrich our present. They bind us to one another. Take the Flatiron Building. It's a glorious testament to history, a reminder that innovation is timeless, a soaring statement about sustainability and reuse. And it's also a lovely place to remember my grandfather.
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