Fifty years after the landmark National Historic Preservation Act, many would say that the field of historic preservation is due for a renovation. In Philadelphia, preservationists have declared a "demolition crisis" and pressed for municipal policy reform. Many of these preservationists themselves have faced challenges from city residents pushing them to diversify their ranks, the strategies they use, and the buildings that they seek to preserve.
How can a new look at the history of preservation help to guide this moment of transformation? Dr. Whitney Martinko offers some thoughts from her new book, Historic Real Estate: Market Morality and the Politics of Preservation in the Early United States (Penn Press, 2020), which is the first book-length study of historic preservation in America before the preservation of George Washington's Mount Vernon in 1860.