Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Waxing Nostalgic

I wonder what Oshkosh buildings "Historic Preservationists" will be fighting to keep around 50 or 75 years from now.  When someone suggests finally tearing down the former K-Mart/Sears building on Koeller Street after it's been sitting empty for five decades will there be an outcry to save it?  Will someone claim it serves as a "perfect example of the turn-of-the-century Big Box Retail style of building design"?  Will a member of the City Council tell tearful stories about buying a cherry Icee with his grandparents at the store as a child and suggest using state historic preservation grants funded by taxpayer dollars to keep it standing?

There are few structural reminders of Oshkosh's "Sawdust City" reputation from the 1800's--with all of the old sawmill buildings torn down to make way for senior living apartments and proposed riverfront condos.  Should we then be making some efforts to keep the ugly Buckstaff buildings standing so that we have a "monument to the people that built Oshkosh"?  It's one thing to see a picture of an old mill in a book--but you can't "experience what it was like" unless countless thousands and millions of dollars are spent to keep outdated and rotting structures around.

My wife and I have made plenty of great memories in our house--and I hope that when the time comes another young couple can buy it and create lasting memories there as well.  But I would have no hard feelings if someday, someone decides to tear it down and start with something fresh.  There is no need for the next or the next or the next owners to have to live without the modern functions and features that will inevitably be invented in the next few generations just because someone with an elected title or a self-appointed expertise in "history" says they shouldn't have it.

My grandfather spent much of his life building houses in the Green Bay area.  He always took great pride in pointing out the old homes that he had worked on when we would drive around town.  And even though he had to drill all of those holes by hand, and pound every nail by hand and turn every screw by hand, I doubt that he would believe that his handiwork should be made to stand forever.  I think he would probably want another carpenter to have a chance to put his skills to work making something new that he can show to his kids and grandkids--until the time comes for the cycle to start anew again.

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