Why Do We Care?



People around the world over watched in horror and disbelief as the beloved monument Our Lady of Paris crumbled under intense fire. I too was riveted as I watched, hoping that this Cathedral of Notre Dame would survive. And it did. So swift and strong was the outpouring of concern and support, that it made me question again: Why do we care so much about old buildings? As for Notre Dame, it’s a holy place. And it spans centuries. And, yes, it evokes how young and gay our hearts were the last time we saw Paris.

As one who has taken on the stewardship of a historic building here in Westchester, I know well and appreciate this urge to preserve. Then again, I chide myself, “After all it’s just a place…four walls and a roof.” Is it possible that such places are so imbued with our former presence that they hold the promise of Immortality? If not immortality for each of us, perhaps for the memory of the things we have touched. I often wonder silently “What were we thinking when ArtsWestchester bought the abandoned bank?”  There was a brave cadre of board members who huddled in a cold, dank banking room assuring each other it was a “manageable risk.” However, I believe what we all knew deep down was that we were embarking on an uncertain journey to breathe new life into an old soldier of a building. The People’s National Bank & Trust c.1928 had stood guard over the community’s treasures, both real and aspirational, with dignity and grandeur, promising safe keeping in return for our love and loyalty.