Should Cities Preserve Old Buildings?

Updated: Nov 18, 2016

These buildings should be kept if they are historically significant, aesthetically appealing and make up a considerable portion of a city’s skyline, and kept if these structures can be repurposed to house working organizations, businesses and government offices.

Old Buildings

The Importance of Keeping Old City Buildings Around 

Most cities try to move forward with the times, but keeping true to its past is another challenge altogether. There is also the debate, whenever a city wants to build new, exciting buildings that transform its skyline or business community, of what existing buildings should be torn down or kept.

Some advocate for tearing down dilapidating historic buildings, while others call for the destruction of only ugly, non-important structures. But when it comes down to it, a city should preserve old buildings if these old buildings serve a very important purpose; these buildings should be kept if they are historically significant, aesthetically appealing and make up a considerable portion of a city’s skyline, and kept if these structures can be repurposed to house working organizations, businesses, and government offices.

Historical Buildings Help People Remember the Past

To begin with, cities should preserve old buildings of historical significance because seeing these buildings help modern-day people remember the past – as to not repeat it, or to be mindful of how a city or nation came to be, its heroes or armies that make sacrifices to create or keep a territory. For example, St. John’s Church still exists today in the Church Hill neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia. It is where Patrick Henry, speaking to the House of Burgesses, gave his famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech – which would convince the leaders of British America to wage war against the oppressive British crown. The rest is history, of course: the colony became its own republic, its own nation. But this 270-plus-year-old church could have been torn down ages ago – but it was rather preserved to remind people today how the American nation was established, and what efforts our founding fathers went through, the risks they took, to birth a nation. Cities all around the globe should do the same in preserving old buildings that are culturally or historically important.


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Cities should also preserve old buildings if these structures are beautiful, aesthetically important and attractive to tourists; also buildings that make up a considerable portion of a city’s skyline should be preserved. As our society gets into the future, technology will be king – which means art and beauty will fall to the wayside. So it’s crucial to preserve old buildings that contain an undeniable amount of timeless beauty. People do not flock to a city to see the offices of new business; tourists come to cities to see beautifully sublime buildings – ones that may be old, of course. Also, if a structure – like Austin’s state capital building – has become an iconic part of a city’s identity or skyline, it should be preserved. New York City it not itself without the Empire State Building, just like Paris is not Paris without the Eiffel Tower. Buildings are more than just existing structures; they are the image of a city – and some, if beautiful and culturally important, should be preserved.

Making Old Buildings Serve Modern Purposes

Lastly, if old buildings in cities – if law-abiding and often renovated to maximize safety and usability – can be repurposed, then a housing city should make incredible efforts to preserve them. Many buildings in cities can be used as government buildings, business, and organizational offices. And if the buildings serve a modern-day purpose, and if they meet strict safety codes, they should be preserved for as long as possible. This is especially relevant to the older cities of the world, and even some of the more modern ones, too. If a building doesn’t need to be torn down, even if it could make room for a multi-billion-dollar business, a city should give extensive consideration in preserving it. It could not only save money for a municipality; preserving old buildings and turning them into new offices could also be enticing to a business looking to start over. 

To conclude, some cities around the globe are growing at an astounding rate, with an influx of newcomers and tourists alike. This is especially true with some American cities – like Austin, Texas, one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, who knows, maybe even the world – that want to make room for new businesses and large populations of people. It makes sense to tear down old buildings so new ones can be created. But when this happens in a particular area, a committee of good-minded people should be assembled to decide whether an existing – perhaps “old” –building should go or not, and they should go by the aforementioned points when doing so.

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