The Sweetness of a Slow Motion Victory


Take action to save the city you loveOur superpower is persistence. It would be exciting to say that days at Historic Richmond are filled with thrilling, last-minute rescues. We’d like to brag about our heroic speeches that leave developers in tears and compel them to rip demolition orders to bits. But the truth is much less action-packed than that. Our victories take their own sweet time.

People want to hear big preservation success stories like the National Theater and the Monumental Church. They like to see the dramatic before-and-after photos of important early houses on the verge of collapse that were spared and survive today to tell our city’s story. That makes sense. After all, everybody loves a happy ending. Not everybody understands the hard work that goes into making one happen. Unlike a 50-minute TV makeover, most of our projects take years to complete.

Honestly, much of what Historic Richmond does day-to-day can be downright boring. Our regular adventures rarely rise above the level of paperwork, phone calls, and emails. Once in a while things get exciting and we’ll attend a community meeting, visit a building site or meet with local officials. Architectural advocacy is no place for aspiring action heroes. But there’s no better way to make a difference that will live on long after we’re gone.

Some days our role seems insignificant, even to us. But all of that changes the second we see a house or building brought back from the brink. Then it all makes perfect sense. Because all of our front line, “unglamorous” advocacy work, is what makes Historic Richmond the most important voice for Richmond’s architectural heritage. Our combined efforts and small initiatives add up to help keep Richmond authentic, unique and beautiful for the next generation.

We’re always working and ready to work harder whenever (and wherever) we’re needed.  We were there to speak up and stand up for the Marburg house — one of the last 19th century farmhouses in the Byrd Park area. Historic Richmond helped convince developers that demolition was not the answer. Now, the house will remain a home for one Richmond family and help set the stylistic standard for all of the brand new houses to be built around it.

We are also the voice of Richmond’s blighted buildings. None of them can speak for themselves and most can barely stand up on their own. But we know that, among the more than 3,000 tax-delinquent, aesthetically challenged buildings in Richmond, there are important places worthy of a second chance. Yes, close to 1,000 of them are basically abandoned, meaning that the city has no record of who owns them. Neighbors want the eyesores gone and the rest of the Richmond wrote them off long ago as lost causes. But we see them as opportunities.

At Historic Richmond, we are advocates for a mysterious concept called “sense of place.” It has everything to do with making sure that Richmond remains like no other city on Earth. Our biggest goal? That the city we pass down to the next generation should be unique, world-class and as “absolutely authentic” as possible.

Our idea of failure is a city stripped of its personality and character, a city that “could be any other city.” That’s why we work so hard to keep irreplaceable and historically important places part of the urban fabric. And that’s also why we celebrate creative new development that builds on Richmond’s rich past, while keeping the city alive and always moving forward.

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