Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reflecting on where it all began...

I grew up in Goldsboro, NC and since I was young I have always admired old houses. Of course some downtown houses and neighborhoods were in great disrepair. I would imagine what they would look like restored or freshened up with a little paint. I would ask myself "who lived there?, what did they do? who was the architect? what was he thinking when he designed the house? if I could restore it, how will I use it today? wouldn't a restoration give this area a better feeling?" I figured it would make more sense to restore historic buildings downtown in lieu of the newer and in my opinion less interesting buildings going up. I knew then that rehabilitating historic houses would make the city more beautiful, add character and could be tools for improving people's quality of life. I also some how knew that another house musuem was not the best use of the properties.  Little did I know I was already interested in urban planning disciplines of preservation, community development, sustainability and adaptive reuse.

Looking back, why was I so interested in old houses back then anyway? I think it had a lot to do with art whithin the buildings. I could appreciate its creativity...I adored it. Art buildings adds much character and a good feeling, yet provides some practical use to the community. I grew up in the boring, brick box public housing projects in Goldsboro. I wonder if that somehow had an effect on my affinity for historic buildings. It always seemed that historic buildings had an underlying message or story and I love a good story. It's all about story telling. Buildings always seemed to have some great story to tell about somebody's life, ambitions, family, cultural heritage and the social culture of the times.

During undergrad at UNCG, I realized that there were career opportunities in preservation. However I put that aside because I already had a degree in Economics and I was determined to use it!  After years of working in the insurance industry I finally decided that I did not want to die without at least trying to pursue my dreams.  Insurance will do that to you!  By then I had forgotten what my dreams were!! Someone said the most intelligent conversation you can have is one with yourself.  So I started asking myself questions like "Does my life matter to anyone other than my family?", "What legacy do I want to leave?", and most importantly the question to determine passion "What would I do that I love so much that if I could I would do it for free?"  After thinking and remembering childhood dreams and current values I figured it out!  I want to rehabilitate historic buildings and revitalize downtowns for the rest of my life!  I wanted to build community and make cities a vital, interesting and safe place to live, work and play.

So I went to grad school at UVA studying Urban and Environmental Planning with a concentration in Historic Preservation. Recently I was chosen to identify and document African American historic sites in Durham and prepare these sites to potentially be National Historic Districts. This is all really exciting and daring work...but I'm up for it!

I invite you to follow me on this journey, submit your thoughts on what is significantly historic in Durham for African Americans, let's engage in conversation, tell me where sites are...whatever let's just do this together as a community.