Here is a fact you may not be aware of: the state of Ohio has the third-highest number of sites, buildings and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the entire country.
It is significant. Ohio recognizes the value of its cultural assets and strives to protect them.
Here is something else you may not be aware of: it appears (though I still have a bit more research to do) that the German Village Historic District might be the third-oldest recognized district in the entire country.
Charleston, South Carolina was protected by ordinance in 1931; and Savannah, Georgia, was protected in 1955.
New Orleans was protected by ordinance in 1975. Established by ordinance in 1960, we predate by a full six years the National Historic Preservation Act itself, which was the catalyst for the National Register of Historic Places.
German Village is one of the country's pre-eminent historic districts. German Village matters. Historic preservation in Ohio matters.
What is it that holds us, as residents and neighbors, in some semblance of equilibrium?
For a preservationist, the answer is obvious: We are bound by brick and by mortar.
We share a space we call a village, a space proven over nearly a century and a half to be conducive to and embracing of diversity, embracing of life in community and embracing of the art of building relationships.
And we have proven adaptable. Many believe the world of the preservationist resides in the tangible, fixated on styles, materials and landscapes of the past.
In truth, the world of the preservationist does not wholly dwell in the cobwebs and ghosts of the past. It lies squarely and decisively in the future.
Being a historic preservationist means that we must also be futurists, studying the manner in which a community, as evidenced in its buildings and green spaces, adapts over time. This ability and evidence of adaptation becomes a powerful resource, capable of informing the future of a community.
There are examples throughout the world where buildings and landscapes should, and must be preserved as artifacts in situ, in their place of origin.
The story they have survived to tell can only be told in truth by actively freezing them in time. Think about the birthplace of President Washington, for instance.
Washington didn't sleep here -- that's not our claim to fame. A historic district such as German Village is not to be frozen in time.
The core teaching of a residential historic district such as German Village is one of adaptation over time.
Our sole charge is to remain ever vigilant in protecting those attributes that allow the German Village Historic District to teach its story truthfully.
In order to ensure this truthful telling, we, as preservationists, must identify and protect the elements that make up that story. Concurrently, we must allow the concept of adaptation to continue, for that too is a defining element of German Village going back through time.
It is the ever-present tension inherent in this dance of creating the future while preserving the past that makes our lives so dynamic in a place such as this.
To illustrate my point, consider this: My first assignment from the German Village Society Board of Directors was to create a preservation plan for German Village.
At the forefront of my mind as I work through is that this assignment poses a conundrum: How, exactly, does one develop "a plan" for a district already on the cusp of its sixth decade?
I approach this assignment as the creation of a vision for the future, the unknown; a vision rooted in the past, what is known. I have titled it German Village: The Next 50 Years.
The board asked me to create a plan based on a couple of simple wishes: the German Village Society should lead preservation in Columbus; and the plan should help stakeholders understand the positions we will hold when preservation questions arise.
It will identify, based on available historical data, clear trends in demographics, social constructs, land use, transportation routes and methods, green space use both private and public, emerging technologies that might present both opportunities and challenges and improved preservation methodologies with respect to the care and maintenance of our built environment. It will identify those historical trends, within these categories, which we will then project forward, hopefully revealing to us future scenarios we can prepare for and embrace, or prevent.
The ultimate goal of German Village: the Next 50 Years is to provide a space where we find common ground and a rational way forward between the need to preserve our districts ability to "tell its story" through its physical presence accurately and the need to remain adaptable to the needs, desires, and rights of our residents and small business owners.
German Village Society Preservation Advocate Nancy Kotting submitted the Village Notebook column.