During the summer of 2018 I had the privilege to work at the City of Fort Collins’ Historic Preservation Division. My advisor Dr. Sarah Payne introduced me to Maren Bzdek who served as my supervisor during my internship and quickly became a valuable friend and mentor. From June to August, my weekdays brimmed with city meetings, trips to the archive, and assisting with local preservation-related projects. I completed drafts of local landmark designations and national register nominations, and learned how historic preservation works at a local level.
Coming into this internship I knew what history and preservation meant to me, but I always felt defensive and awkward trying to justify what I wanted to do to those outside of my field. I had a hard time expressing why preservation should matter to everyone and couldn’t find the words to explain that historic preservation was more than just old buildings. Two projects I worked on this summer gave me fuel to explain the importance of historic preservation.
The first was an oral history with a former Fort Collins business owner to preserve information about relatively recent changes to the business’s complex near Old Town. At the conclusion of the interview, through sniffles she thanked me for caring enough to record her story.
The second project involved preparing a Local Landmark Designation for a home on Mountain Avenue. I worked closely with the homeowner to prepare the document and in early August presented my findings to the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC). At the LPC meeting she gave a moving statement which outlined her transition from being a homeowner to a caretaker of a historic home. At that meeting the LPC recommended her property be designated as a local landmark. The next day I arrived at work to find a bouquet of flowers at my desk with a thank you note.
Past the creaky floorboards, dusty windows, and antiquated craftsmanship of historic buildings lies the true importance of historic preservation: people, their stories, and their personal connections to a place.
Historic preservation can sometimes feel like an isolated field that the general public does not understand or appreciate. However, moments like these make it all worth it. When I felt I was ‘just doing my job’ these projects preserved people’s stories – that is something that matters.