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Mike Watson: Of old buildings, eye-sores, and history...

We are drawn to our past, let us live alongside it, in peace with it. - Mike Watson
"We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us." - Winston Churchill

By Mike Watson, Adair County Historian
Commentary with a CM heartfelt 'Amen and Amen'

Progress is important for a community and a people to grow and evolve into a bigger and better civil entity.

Let me be first, or second, in line to advocate a beautiful Columbia and Adair County. An eye-sore to one is not necessarily one to another. A dangerous structure is just that, dangerous. However, in some cases, run-down is not dangerous; nor, for that matter, is new and improved necessarily safe. Renovation, beautification and, thus, resurrection, is more often the remedy, though it may not be done as inexpensively as bulldozing and dynamiting.

New is not always better and altered or defaced is not generally prudent. In Adair County there were once many, many beautiful homes and businesses that were removed only to be replaced by new, modern, often inferior structures. This was and is a wave that spreads across America from time to time. After the Civil War, there was a movement to replace smaller, sometimes log, buildings with more substantial, roomy dwellings. A few were merely built around, but most were torn down and new homes took their place. The Victorian style homes of the post-Civil War era were usually stately and well built. Some still exist in Adair County, but many were abandoned and fell into ruin. Some of these can still be seen today on a tour of the county. In the post-World War II era new brick, ranch-style homes were the craze and often were built in front of, or near, old two-story homes which were often in good physical shape, but considered out-of-style. Today we can see the drab "new" house and the old wreck nearby, and wonder why anyone would leave the old one for the other.

Our town could use some sprucing up, there is no doubt. However, it is underway. Some months ago, I had the opportunity to have a guided tour of the new work then being carried out on the Public Square in Columbia. Mike Harris showed me through much of the "Firestone" building, on the Burkesville Street corner, that he and his lovely wife, Laura, are having renovated to accommodate a state-of-the-art recording studio. An enterprise that will certainly bring much business and recognition to Columbia and Adair County. Mike and Laura are enthusiastic about this work as should we all. Not just because of the new life that will be infused onto the Square, but also because the building, constructed in the early 1900s, will come to life once more. The design has maintained historic features that make Columbia what it is and should be.

The Adair Heritage Association is alive and well. The AHA has been, and continues to be, vitally interested in the preservation of the history and well-being of Columbia and Adair County, her buildings as well as her culture. The Historic Adair County Courthouse has been the main interest of the AHA in recent past, but is not the only site of interest in the town and county. Our enthusiasm for this project has not waned, nor shall it. The Courthouse is not the only interest of the organization--all our history is important. The AHA continues to work toward renovations at the Courthouse; this week a volunteer group is inside the building painting and refurbishing. Plumbing issues are being addressed at this time as well.

We are Americans, we strive for new and better, often to the detriment of all else. When we travel, whether elsewhere in Kentucky, to other states, or Europe, we tend to gravitate toward two things--entertainment, such as the beach, shopping, theme parks; or to historic areas, such as museums, battle sites, old home and business districts, castles and cathedrals. In Europe an old home or church--they are not all castles and cathedrals--are four or five centuries years old, or older. And there are many of them. We are a younger nation, an old home along our Atlantic coast is at best two centuries old. In Kentucky we have a limited number of 200 year-old structures. We need to preserved what we have when we can.

We are drawn to our past, let us live alongside it, in peace with it. - Mike Watson "We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us." - Winston Churchill

This story was posted on 2013-07-24 07:46:26
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