Can Historic Places Make us Feel Better?
Many involved in historic preservation believe old buildings need us, that we stand as protectors for history and guard monuments to our past so those stories can be told for generations to come.
But what if we need old buildings?
It turns out historic places are good for us. They improve our health, getting us out of the isolation of our cars and inspiring interactions within our community. Old buildings cause awe, charge our imaginations and can create empathy for those who experienced life differently than us.
So, maybe it’s not surprising that Naples, the city with the highest well-being in the United States, is working so hard to "preserve its unique history". Another historic Florida city, Sarasota, also ranked in the top 10 communities with the "highest well-being in the country" . The Gallup survey those rankings are based on includes how people feel about their community as one of the five components to overall well-being.
Across the Pond, a 2016 report from Historic England shows 93% of respondents feel local heritage has an impact on their personal quality of life. Additionally, those who participate in their community's heritage, such as by visiting a historic site, rank their happiness as 8.1 on a scale from 1 to 10, versus a rating of 7.8 by those who do not participate in heritage.
In the book The Past and Future City author Stephanie Meeks, the CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, writes, “Certain places give us the chance to feel a connection to others. They also connect us to the broad community of human experience, a community that exists across time. And they help us understand that the lives we lead are not insignificant – that what we do will have an impact on the future.”
At its heart, historic preservation does more than just save an old building, it fosters community, strengthens neighborhoods and even improves well-being. A big part of our nation’s downtown revival is driven by people’s desire to live and work in buildings with unique character, not in cookie-cutter boxes, connected to a larger neighborhood.
You can also partner with the National Trust to give voice to the historic places that matter to you by saying This Place Matters.
Follow us on social media next month to explore the extraordinary places that makes Florida unique, and stay tuned for the announcement of the 2017 Florida’s 11 to Save, the most endangered historic places in the state, which will be announced May 18, during the Florida Preservation Conference in St. Petersburg.
Melissa Wyllie is the Executive Director of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, the non-profit dedicated to protecting Florida's extraordinary history and heritage. @MSWyllie