The Proper Way to Preserve Historic Buildings

In my last post, I wrote about the Beer Can House, a quirky home in Rice Military that has become a Houston landmark. In that post, I noted that if John Milkovisch attempted such a project today, preservationists and neighborhood activists would likely pressure City Hall to stop him. But that’s not the real lesson from the Beer Can House.

When Milkovisch passed away, his property was purchased by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. That group wanted to preserve the Beer Can House from demolition, but rather than follow the typical pattern of trying to get a law passed, they put their money where their mouth is. This is the proper way to preserve historic buildings. And it is the proper way to celebrate and preserve Houston’s heritage.

More than any other large city, Houston has respected property rights–the freedom to create, use, trade, and dispose of material values. This respect is Houston’s true heritage.

In purchasing the Beer Can House, the Orange Show Center acted on the premise of property rights. They did not want to see the landmark be demolished like so many other homes in Rice Military. So they bought it, and now they can do with it as they choose.

This approach stands in stark contrast to the preservationists. Preservationists seek to impose their values upon other property owners, forcing those with property in historic districts to obtain permission from the Houston Archeological and Historic Commission before they can do any work to the exterior of their property. For more than two decades, preservationists have pressured City Hall to pass a series of increasingly stringent controls on historical properties.

I will admit that I am not a fan of the Orange Show Center and the “art” that they promote. But I enthusiastically support and applaud the fact that they are are preserving an historic building the proper way.

Comments are closed.