Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990 Page: 21
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East Main Street, Ashland, Oregon, 1952. Photo courtesy of the Southern Oregon Historical Society.
East Main Street, Ashland, Oregon, fifteen years after the designation of a historic district. Photo by author, 1988.
The mere act of designating an area-or any property-tends
to remove it from the "real world," as Pierce Lewis has pointed out.3
Allowing change, as we must lest we turn much of our nation's
downtowns into stagnant, lifeless areas, yet still providing for continuity
of an area's historic integrity, is a difficult if not impossible
endeavor. It is one thing to create an unchanging environment in
a museum; it is quite another to try to do so in a theoretically
vibrant and active retail area. Controlling numerous individual
property owners, with varying levels of commitment to traditional
preservation attitudes regarding historic authenticity, may be a
difficult task. Within the context of historic preservation, modern
sign control presents problems that are symptomatic of the difficulties
in using private property-in this case, functioning retail
and commercial storefronts-to achieve a philosophical goal of
preservation. Managing a successful and commercially competi
tive portion of a urban area, even though a large part of that success
may be directly tied to preservation efforts, by nature creates conflicts
between typical business concerns and the goal of maintaining
an environment that successfully retains a connection with its
Even well thought out preservation ordinances, while recognizing
the problems of an enforced thematic or period approach,
generally provide that signs be controlled so as not to distract from
the resource, (i.e. the building). As one authority advises, "The
primary standard for a sign in a historic district is that it relate to,
rather than obscure and disrupt, the design elements of the building
to which it is attached."4 Inherently these types of sign regulations
create two ethical problems that, given the nature of historic
preservation as it is practiced in America, are often ignored or not
fully considered. When an area is recognized as historic and so
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1990 21
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990, periodical, Summer 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45427/m1/21/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.