The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation Is Reviving America’s Communities

Stephanie Meeks, with Kevin C. Murphy. Island (CDC, dist.), $30 (344p) ISBN 978-1-61091-709-4

Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and speechwriter Murphy make an impassioned and well-argued case for the economic, environmental, and social value of preservation and active reuse of the nation’s historic buildings. Drawing on data collected by the trust’s own Preservation Green Lab as well as a half-century of urban studies scholarship, Meeks and Murphy seek to counteract the stereotype that preservationists resist change and contribute to gentrification. Across seven chapters, the authors use concrete examples of preservation working to strengthen local communities, encourage economic revitalization, support environmental sustainability, and provide affordable residential and business real estate. They advocate persuasively for preservation that seeks to document all of America’s histories, as well as for policies that work to counteract social and economic inequalities. Though smalltown and rural America do appear, the authors disproportionately focus on urban centers such as Boston, New Orleans, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. At times the work reads as a celebration of the National Trust’s positive influence on the United States. These weaknesses aside, the book is an articulate call to action that should be of interest to scholars, community organizers, and policy makers in municipalities across the country. [em](Oct.) [/em]