Why Preservation?

Answer: Culture, Community, Sense of Place

Photo credit: Andrew Wing

As we set out to decide on the winners for our first round of grant applications, we were especially interested in an adaptive reuse project for Rabbit’s Motel.

For years, Rabbit’s has been passed daily by thousands who take no notice and don’t understand its cultural importance.  With its modest stature and simple architecture, Rabbit’s might be seen by some as a less traditional choice for preservation.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  

Preservation isn’t only about ornate Victorian details or stately stone mansions – it is about culture, community and sense of place.

Rabbit’s Tourist Court was a crown jewel of Negro “Tourist Courts” for African American travelers in the south, and was an $85,000 business at its opening. This is equivalent to $1,500,000 today. Its decorative dining room boasted an indoor fountain; it’s kitchen was ultra modern and stocked, and its motel cabins elegant and handsome. The white stone driveway was lit with red, blue and yellow lights, and had curb service from its restaurant.

Rabbit’s was run by five generations as a motel and soul-food kitchen from the 1940’s up to the turn of the 21st century. Guests and patrons included wayward travelers, entertainers, Negro League baseball teams, and many musicians coming through Asheville on the “Chitlin’ Circuit”.

We are honoring this legacy by creating a cultural landmark with building murals, and a new soul food cafe’ with the matching 45 records jukebox playlist. Also, a dance/movement studio space will be added, and additional monthly rental spaces. We are creating a musicians’ resource and a vibrant community hub as rich as is the history of Asheville, and as proud as the history of Southside Asheville. – SoundSpace @ Rabbit’s

Answer: Our Economy 

Every year visitors come in droves for our beautiful mountain views and our historic architecture.  According to Explore Asheville, visitors spend $2 billion annually at local businesses in Buncombe County.  From an old warehouse turned art gallery to a steel foundry turned hotel to a roller rink turned restaurant – visitors crave the authenticity of a place with history.  They’re drawn to our Victorian style Montford B & B’s, our downtown deco gems and of course the Biltmore House.

Possibly even more importantly, the guests drawn to town by our historic architecture contribute more to the economy than other guests.  Preservation economist Donovan Rypkema said, “Wherever heritage tourism has been evaluated, this basic tendency is observed: heritage visitors stay longer, spend more per day, and, therefore, have a significantly greater per trip economic impact.”

What some of our Business Members have to say about supporting Preservation:

Thomas Wolfe wrote in You Can’t Go Home Again “Few buildings are vast enough to hold the sound of time…” We need to preserve buildings that allow us to go back in time and go home again. Tom Muir, Historic Site Manager, Thomas Wolfe Memorial

Ellington Realty Group supports preservation because we want to help ensure that growth in our unique, beautiful area complements and honors the important history that is here. Our president Douglas Ellington’s great-uncle, architect Douglas Ellington, was an integral part of the architectural landscape in Asheville, and we are proud to work with community members and be a part of projects that help to shape the future here in an intentional and sustainable way. – Ellington Realty Group 

Preservation is more than a non-profit we support with our time, preservation is a bridge to the past and our common future – from the built environment to the regional art, culture and music that makes this place so unique. Preservation is the celebration of this amazing heritage. We are proud to be a part of this effort. – Will and Amy Hornaday, Hornaday Design

I choose preservation because it is the most sustainable trade in the built environment and I appreciate good craftsmanship. A historic architect’s vision will never be duplicated with production replacement windows and they will definitely not last over 100 years as the originals have. I choose preservation because I value the irreplaceable high quality materials used. Historic windows were built to last. Replacement windows are built to be replaced over and over, to further line the pockets of big industry. – Michael Logan, Logan Restoration

Answer: The Environment 

by Josi Ward

As the warnings of climate scientists become increasingly urgent, preservationists are ready to remind the public that historic buildings are “greener” than many may initially suppose. This is not only because historic buildings were often designed to take advantage of natural daylight, ventilation, and passive solar before invention of electric lighting and powered heating and cooling. Historic buildings also have something that no new buildings do: embodied energy. The concept of embodied energy—that is, all of the material and human energy consumed by the initial building process—is critical to understanding how historic architecture can help communities reduce their carbon consumption immediately. When the embodied energy of existing buildings is taken into account, demolition and reconstruction is almost never the most environmentally beneficial option.

To quantify the environmental impacts of historic preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Green Lab conducted a groundbreaking study in 2016 and its findings were clear. The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse found that building reuse almost always consumes less energy when compared to demolition and construction of new buildings, even energy efficient ones. Adaptive reuse not only reduces resource consumption, it also keeps enormous amounts of construction waste out of our landfills, and often preserves undeveloped land by encouraging the rehabilitation of already-developed land.

In order for the environmental advantages of preservation to become more widely known, we all need to let go of disproved notions of old buildings as inefficient. And we need to think creatively about how our local communities and government programs can encourage property owners to seriously consider the short- and long-term benefits of reuse and renovation before resorting to demolition and construction of “energy efficient” replacements.

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