Giving Back: Preservation Detroit

by Maxwell Tielman

2014 marks Design*Sponge’s tenth year in our little corner of the internet (can you believe it??) and to celebrate, we’ve decided to give back—to our readers with ten months of fabulous giveaways and, starting today, to the community through donations to causes that we care deeply about. The month of January is oftentimes considered a time of starting anew—shedding the weight of the past and rebuilding our lives with fresh new perspective. Still, we firmly believe that, while new can sometimes be great, there is a lot to be said for celebrating and even maintaining the old. From the beautiful old houses that we feature in our Sneak Peeks to our DIYs and Before & Afters, reveling in and reusing the old has been part of the Design*Sponge ethos since the beginning. It is because of this that we have decided to focus this month’s donation on a cause that is integral to this idea—historic preservation.

In 1964, New York City’s Penn Station, a stunning 1910 structure that rivaled the world’s best train stations in terms of beauty and grandeur, was demolished to make way for Madison Square Garden. The shock of losing this architectural gem was a punch in the gut to the local (and even national) community and is considered by many to signal the beginning of the modern preservationist movement. This cultural tragedy proved that without the fighting support of the community and activist groups, even seemingly immortal treasures like Penn Station could be taken in the blink of an eye. Today, preservationist organizations exist in communities across the country and continue to fight the valiant fight to make sure such tragedies don’t occur—whether they be the destruction of major landmarks or small homes and neighborhoods that have become integral parts of the urban fabric. Through an emphasis on renovation and adaptive reuse, these groups strive to maintain the beauty of their communities’ histories for generations to come.

When choosing a preservationist organization to highlight, it was important to us to focus on the local level. After all, this is where the real battle for our country’s treasures is fought. After a search through some of our country’s most valiant and prolific local preservationist organizations, we decided to bestow our own donation onto Preservation Detroit, an organization that has been actively fighting to save and preserve landmarks in one of America’s most historic and endangered cities since 1975.

Preservation Detroit is Detroit’s oldest, largest, and most accomplished historic preservation organization. As the first Detroit recipient of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Honor Award, we have been working to preserve and revitalize Detroit’s rich architectural and cultural heritage since 1975. Through education and advocacy, research and awareness, Preservation Detroit seeks to preserve the architectural elements that foster more livable urban environments that emphasize neighborhoods and benefit the people who live in them. A part of this mission includes the redevelopment of Detroit through the restoration and re-use of the irreplaceable buildings and historic neighborhoods that serve as anchors for stability of residential areas and catalysts for economic investment.

Although we decided to support Preservation Detroit and their exciting efforts to revitalize their beloved city, we urge you to check out your own local preservationist organizations. You can find lists of local and regional preservationist organizations at Preservation Directory and OldHouses.com. If your town doesn’t have its own preservation group, don’t hesitate to start one! It is small groups of passionate citizens that have made some of the biggest difference in our country’s preservation victories!

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  • THANK YOU, D*S! As a preservationist in Philadelphia (another city with a wonderful preservation organization, http://preservationalliance.org/) and long-time D*S reader, it makes me so happy to see that you are acknowledging preservation as a integral component of the design, architecture, and craft your readers love to see. Keep up the great work.

  • THANK YOU!! I am from the Detroit area, and I can tell you first hand that this organization does an amazing amount of work throughout the city. There are so many beautiful areas of Detroit that are often neglected, and I know that your support will definitely be welcome and well-used. You guys are the best :) xo

  • THANK YOU! As a Detroit-lover and a resident nearby (I attended Wayne State University in the city) I am deeply honored that you would choose to support the grand and crucial efforts Preservation Detroit is putting forth to help us remember our heritage as we move forward into a new incarnation of the City.

  • What a wonderful way to celebrate Design*Sponge’s 10th anniversary! Thanks for showing our city the love it deserves by supporting such an amazing organization!

  • Thank you D*S!!! What a wonderful way to celebrate your 10th anniversary – by giving back! You give so much through your content and passion for design, on a daily basis – this is just icing on the cake. Thanks for all of your Detroit Love throughout the years! This is such a deserving organization and community to receive your support!!

  • Hooray for preservationists!!!! You guys are the best for doing this. So many city planners tend to overlook preservation as a critical component to smart growth and sustainability. I think (I hope!) the mood is changing as people start to understand that once these buildings are gone, they’re never coming back.

    By the way, I also have a long resources page for preservation lovers: http://www.circaoldhouses.com

  • Thank you Design*Sponge! We are honored to be the recipient of this generous gift and greatly appreciate your support of our organization as well as the efforts of historic preservationists everywhere.
    With sincere gratitude,
    Dawn Bilobran
    Preservation Detroit Board of Directors

  • Awesome, as a Michigan resident that went to grad school in Detroit and will always love the City, I am so pleased with your choice. Thank You! :)

  • Thank you DS! I miss my home town that has always been a center for fine design and crafts. The history that Detroit and the surrounding areas offers never ceases to amaze me.

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