While the German Village Society is undoubtedly about the people, German Village itself is really more about the buildings. The architecture of German Village tells a story and the buildings speak the greatest volumes about our neighborhood.

While the German Village Society is undoubtedly about the people, German Village itself is really more about the buildings. The architecture of German Village tells a story and the buildings speak the greatest volumes about our neighborhood.

There is no question that people need the houses. And, quite frankly, the houses need people. Just look at any vacant structure and you see how quickly it deteriorates without someone taking care of it.

But it is the unique story-and-a-half cottages and "Dutch Doubles" that make our neighborhood so unique and the Italianates and Queen Annes that lend some luster to our streets. Sure the people on the streets help -- they make German Village so vibrant -- but the buildings have stood right where they are for far longer than you or I will ever claim to be a resident of 43206.

That is why we consider ourselves "caretakers." Sure it's your house -- for now. In 100 years, someone else will live at your address and it will be their turn to serve as a caretaker.

The society refers to its membership as "caretakers of a legacy" -- the legacy of our neighborhood and the German Americans who developed it, the legacy of the society's founders, the legacy of the society itself. But it's also your legacy at stake. Someday, somewhere, someone will research the history of their house and find your name on the deed. You'll want them to know you took care of the house.

And you do, every day. By maintaining it as any proud property owner would, by reviewing the German Village Guidelines when you want to change something on the exterior, by adding your own touches to a home that has housed many families before yours. You are adding one more chapter to the story of your house.

Do yourself and future residents a favor: Take photographs of the house. Document it in 2009, looking its best with holiday lights and snow in front, with the sun shining and maybe both before and after you plant a new tree. Keep copies of architectural plans and sketches. Feel free to bring copies of everything to the Meeting Haus for your house file.

Often, people stop by the Meeting Haus wanting to see old photos of their home. Sometimes they're lucky, but more often than not they are at first disappointed to only find photos from a renovation in the 1980s. But then they look closer. "The addition is different!" and "Look how small the tree was!" they say. Sure, those glimpses to another day don't tell dramatic histories, but they reveal information about the house and tell something about the previous owners.

I wish I could count how many black-and-white photos I've dated by reading years on car license plates that appear in the photo. All the little details you capture in a photograph help document your property at this very moment.

Take photos of you and your loved ones, your alley club, your pets, your happy hour crew in front of your homes. It will be fun to have a picture of your friends and family, but if those pictures are kept somewhere for the future, someone will know that your 1890 front porch looked very 1890 in 2009.

Details like that tell the bigger story of our neighborhood and the German Village Society. Our buildings were not preserved and rehabilitated on a whim; each project has been very deliberate. Since German Village is a protected historic district, the vast (and I really do mean vast) majority of that work was done with historic integrity in mind.

Every resident of German Village has been a caretaker of a legacy. Thankfully, each resident's house -- whenever it was theirs -- may be visited by people who remember growing up there, visiting grandparents there or simply walking by it on the way to Schiller Park.

That's the legacy of German Village and a very, very important legacy of Columbus as a whole.

Jody Graichen is director of Historical Preservation Programs for the German Village Society.