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  • Writer's pictureFlorida Trust

Preservation Horror Stories

Saving some space to share stories about the scarier side of historic preservation over a cup of hot coffee has become a bit of a tradition at our annual Preservation on Main Street Conference. This year, we kicked things off with a Preservation Horror Stories Coffee Klatch on Wednesday morning, July 27. Our kind hosts, Main Street Deland, let us share our most frightful tales in a conversation guided by hosts Melissa Wyllie and Laura Duvekot. Below are some of the spookiest stories that were submitted online before the conference or shared that morning, proving yet again that preservation is not for the faint of heart...

Awful Alterations

  • A multiple property listing has taken so long to process that 25% of the included properties have lost historic integrity.

  • Garage doors on historic downtown commercial buildings replacing traditional storefront windows. This trend is taking over my Main Street!

  • Flippers destroying homes without permits.

  • Awnings falling off of historic commercial buildings downtown are becoming hazardous to pedestrians!

  • Replacement windows everywhere!!

Public Frights

  • Homeowners in a historic district who were unhappy with the results of a recent COA made tombstones that included the phrase “RIP Historic Preservation” and the names of city staff members as part of their halloween decorations.

  • When voting to keep a historic designation, people signed up to vote (to drop it) but didn’t show up for educational opportunities to learn more.

  • Homeowners calling the police on historians doing cultural resource surveys.

  • Neighbors rallied against the preservation and reuse of a building in their neighborhood because they didn’t want additional traffic.

  • An owner spite-painted his building pumpkin orange to get back at his neighbor for reporting him on a Codes violation.

Sad Stories

  • The extent of misinformation - people think they won't be able to update or even paint their homes if they are in a historic district.People think being designated means they can’t do anything with their property, which discourages applications.

  • The disconnect between property owners and local preservation professionals. We have no intention of being the bad guys and it hurts to be treated like we are!

  • Development pressure everywhere

  • I got a call on a Saturday that a house being rehabbed had collapsed and nothing was salvageable. How suspicious, right? Later, the owners were livid when the Historic Preservation Board told them their project was being considered a re-creation rather than a rehabilitation and was losing its historic structure tax exemption.

Bizarre Commentary (What's the meanest thing anyone has said to you?)

  • “You’re just a bureaucratic do-nothing.”

  • “My neighbors and I all make fun of the way you talk during presentations.”

  • “You look too young to work here. Does your father know you’re here?” (I was 35.)

  • “She can’t tell if the roof is rotten, she’s a lady.”

Preservation and the Paranormal

  • Our historic house museum has a mannequin with a hat that rearranges itself.

  • Paranormal investigators told us that there are 8 ghosts in a historic local theater, including one in the mezzanine where I was sitting!

Do you have a Preservation Horror Story? Be sure to submit it during our next round-up! Stay safe, preservationists.

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