Preserving the Past
Did You Know…
Preservation vs. Progress — it seems to be at the forefront of discussion in Phoenix these days. Should we save Phoenix’s Clinton-Campbell house (circa 1897)? How about the Melrose Liquors drive-thru (circa 1957)? What makes a building “historic” vs. just old and run down? What makes it worth saving?
The debate continues, and will continue, probably as long as there are people around who care about preserving history, and also people who care about wider roads and safer traffic patterns, and new schools and better job opportunities. Not every preservation attempt is pragmatic or even possible, but the National Trust for Historic Preservation gives a list of practical reasons for preservation here.
We at the Heritage Square Foundation can say, definitively, that our jobs (paid staff and volunteers) would not exist without the City of Phoenix and our community’s choice for historic preservation over 37 years ago. The Rosson House — that lovely and unique Phoenix landmark and icon that shows up in the background of so many festival selfies, wedding and quinceañera pictures, family photo shoots, and, yes, even in the occasional TV show (think House Hunters) — wouldn’t be here today for so many of you to enjoy, even in passing. Neither would the other historic buildings at the Square. You wouldn’t be able to enjoy a freshly roasted cup of coffee from a local coffee bar while sitting on a bench, surrounded by historic landmarks. You wouldn’t be able to come to the heart of downtown Phoenix and grab dinner from a James Beard award winning chef in a century old building (yeah, we have two of those amazing award winning restaurants here at the Square).
What would be there instead? A parking lot? A hotel? A high rise? A multi-use space that would generate significantly more revenue than do a handful of old buildings in a City park? Which of these is more important?
For better or worse, the Rosson House and other historic buildings at Heritage Square were restored by our community in the 1970s and 1980s, with the idea to preserve them for generations to come. However, the restoration didn’t end in 1980 when the Museum opened its doors to the public (later, for the smaller buildings). Preservation and restoration is on ongoing task, and one that is sometimes made more difficult by the unrelenting Arizona sun, and by the fact that about half a million people visit the Square annually — for festivals and events, museum tours and exhibits, field trips and workshops, eating good food at the restaurants and having a great time at weddings. But the work is well worth it.
2017 has been a big year for restoration of the Rosson House, with exterior woodwork repair completed in April and May, repair to the interior of the fireplace and chimney in the dining room currently taking place, and repainting of the entire exterior of the house occurring later this summer. This is work that has to be done, literally to keep it in good repair instead of falling apart at the seams, which is what would happen without those efforts to preserve and maintain this beautiful Phoenix landmark.
If you care about preserving Phoenix history, you can help us in our efforts to continue saving Heritage Square every day. Please sponsor a tile or brick from the Rosson House dining room fireplace, and invest in keeping this place in existence for another hundred years and more. For the field trips, the photo shoots, the festivals, and the food. But mostly for Phoenix — for our community, and for the wonderful, rich, complex and diverse stories and histories found here.