Friday, August 01, 2008

Riches to Rags

I recently started an internship at Knox Heritage, a group that helps preserve our city's historical gems in order to maintain a certain amount of charm to our city. Though I'd like to be rummaging through old abandoned buildings around town, talking to developers about crown molding, my tasks are mostly confined to the office. They have me knee deep in articles that need to be filed away. I usually would be complaining about this, but I'm finding it all extremely fascinating. There is so much Knox Heritage has done to keep Knoxville unique and beautiful. Even before they knew they were Knox Heritage, they were saving the Bijou Theatre on Gay Street.

My delight in working here is tinged with a little heart-ache as well. I've been skimming hundreds of articles since I've been here and I'm noticing an unsettling pattern here in Knoxville. People/ businesses/ developers/ what have you, would rather see miles of pavement than beautiful buildings. I know I live in the parking lot/garage capitol of the world, and I realize their necessity, but I am saddened, particularly as I read about the Smith-Coughlin House that was demolished to make way for a parking lot for Cerokee Country Club. I know this was almost four years ago and I'm just now cluing into it today, but this has been the case for several places in Knoxville.
I am also somewhat conflicted about the importance of preserving older buildings. Millions of dollars go toward development and urban renewal each year, money that could be focused elsewhere, ie, Knoxville's overwhelming problem with homelessness. Should we be saving our energy for more important matters? Can we be concerned with both?