The tag “Historic” is applied to many things ... from Roman ruins to baseball cards, from Gothic cathedrals to eight-track tapes. But mere age does not bestow historic significance. Most buildings standing in towns and cities across America are strictly utilitarian, built primarily with end-use in mind. After all, that’s what buildings are for: to be occupied. They may be beautiful, they may be ugly, but frankly, most people wouldn’t care if they were torn down to make room for other buildings ... new buildings, also either beautiful or ugly.
So what makes a building historic? It’s a difficult question to answer. A better question to ask might be: What makes a building worth preserving?
Some buildings are just plain good to look at. They add character to our towns and cities. They enrich our lives, they make our communities more interesting. Think of Seattle’s Space Needle, the Transamerica pyramid in San Francisco, Chicago’s Field Museum, or the Chrysler Building in New York City. Other buildings we preserve and protect because they’re significant to us as Americans. Think of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Alamo in San Antonio, Mt. Vernon and Monticello in Virginia.
Other buildings deserve to be preserved because they represent a turning point, a moment in time when our view of the world was changed forever. Taliesin is such a building. Not only was it home to one of America’s foremost architects, but it embodies the creative ideals and innovations he gave to the world. Today, his influence is woven into the fabric of our lives. It affects not only the buildings we inhabit, but also the design of commonplace things, and how we approach environmental stewardship.
There are few things anyone can point to and say “Ah ha! I see Wright’s influence there!” His influence on our lives is subtle, and much of it stems from the genius of his work at Taliesin. That makes Taliesin important. And important things are worth preserving.