The University of Wisconsin Press
Contributors to A Passion to Preserve
A Passion to Preserve
Gay Men as Keepers of Culture
"My boyfriend David and I like to visit historic houses together, and it seems to me that a lot of these places were preserved by so-called bachelors. . . . The involvement of gay men in preservation has a lot to do, I think, with our greater aesthetic sense. . . . There's that line from The Boys in the Band, 'It takes a fairy to make something pretty.' I have mixed feelings about that kind of cliché, but I do believe that many gay men have a greater appreciation for beauty and painstaking craftsmanship." Allen Young, Orange, Massachusetts.
Photo by Robert Giard
"Even though it's been heavily Eurocentric in this country, preservation is really a universal field. It was another gay preservationist in Hawaii who helped me to understand and be confident in my own direction: a queer, working-class, Japanese American Buddhist from Hawaii, I am as much a preservationist as anybody else. . . . I'm sort of a romantic, so I love working with people who have passionate, rooted connections with historic buildings. If it doesn't affect you in your heart, there's no real connection.
Gerry Takano, San Francisco, California.
Photo courtesy of Gerry Takano
"Charleston is a charming old city that just attracts gay men. There's a very large gay community here, and the populace seems to tolerate us. All my gay friends here are very proud of their homes and take good care of them and love to entertain in them." Robert Barker, Charleston, South Carolina.
Photo by Gene Heizer
"I grew up with stability and continuity and a strong sense of place. A big part of my decision to stay in North Carolina rather than go to work with the National Trust [for Historic Preservation] in Washington, D.C., was a North Carolina thing: I feel a real connection to this state. And preservation is fundamentally local. The closer you are to being local, the more you're really doing preservation." Myrick Howard, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Photo courtesy of Myrick Howard
"In about 1965 my mother and I made our first visit to Old Sturbridge Village, an outdoor history museum in central Massachusetts. On that glorious spring day time seemed to stand as still as the motionless columns of smoke above the chimneys. The unpaved roads, the livestock, vehicles, and clothing all created a sense of other-worldliness. An early teen and incipient nerd, I was beguiled by the atmosphere of the place."
Mark Sammons, Kittery, Maine.
Photo by David Scott Allen
"There was a strong sense of community here in Willacoochee and a sense of history. . . . Long ago I was aware that this town was special and that my role in it was to be something of a caretaker. . . . I see in the future a revival of these wonderful small towns. I envision an exodus from the sprawl of today's traffic-choked cities to places like Willacoochee, where walking or biking to the post office, to the grocery store, and to visit others is safe and revitalizing. Cranford Sutton, Willacoochee, Georgia.
Photo courtesy of Cranford Sutton
"I've always had this fascination and obsession with old buildings. New Orleans to me was the epitome of the place to live in Louisiana, particularly the French Quarter. . . . Of course, I loved New Orleans because of the freedom and the gay scene and all, but it was the architecture that really drew me here. . . . Gays are not given enough credit for saving America's inner cities and historic neighborhoods.
Lloyd Sensat, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo courtesy of Lloyd Sensat
"When I bought this house [in 1965] . . . I lucked out that the place was in such bad shape; most people didn't want to take it on. . . . The larger neighborhood was predominantly black, but the immediate neighborhood, particularly this block, was almost totally gay. . . . I don't think there was one who was a native San Franciscan. . . . I've contended for years that if a bunch of auslanders like myself hadn't moved into San Francisco, none of this would be left. The basic native San Franciscans didn't care. It was all just old buildings to them." Richard Reutlinger, San Francisco, California.
Photo by Sandra Joy Fisk
"When I saw the city of Savannah, I really fell in love. It was absolutely seductive. Within a matter of months I was down here painting and found a place that would sell my work on consignment. I lived in several lovely apartments in the historic district and became acquainted with Savannahian architecture. . . . I've always been interested in older people and their ideas, in 'oldish' things and restoring them."
Jack Richards, Alpharetta, Georgia.
Photo courtesy of Jack Richards
Rick McKinniss and Gary Broulliard
Rick McKinniss and Gary Broulliard's rehabilitation of wasted houses in Lafayette, Indiana, has been as much a community-cultivating enterprise as a historical-aesthetic venture. "Our houses aren't big fancy Victorians," Broulliard says. "Most of them were built as working-class duplexes." Since 1977 the couple have been leaders in their neighborhood improvement coalition and have acquired and restored seven houses, all within a block of their own residence.
Left, Rick McKinniss and Gary Broulliard, Lafayette, Indiana. Photo courtesy of McKinniss and Broulliard
"Preserving one's environment is, in a way, self-preservation. Preserving a sense of place and our history and trying to hold onto some of the values that we had. In my last year of Catholic grammar school, I thought I wanted to be a teaching missionary. I guess I'm doing my missionary work with my tours." Joseph Svehlak, urban historian and tour guide, Brooklyn, New York.
Photo courtesy of Joseph Svehlak
"I declared my first city landmark when I was about twenty. . . . By the time I finished undergraduate I had declared a dozen landmarks. . . . At twenty-eight I was appointed architectural historian for the state historical resources commission. . . . Much more than I ever could on a local planning commission, I began to understand the power of policy to affect the built environment, cultural values, how our culture views itself, and what will be left in a hundred years to reflect our lives....I never tire of preservation. I never consider what I do, work. Jeffrey Samudio, Eagle Rock, California.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Samudio
"[Michael and I] were young and energetic and in love. One day I wrote the date on a piece of wallboard, then wrote: 'We are two homosexual men working on this restoration. When this building is torn down, we hope you find our signatures. Michael J. Saternus and William J. Wartmann." William Wartmann, Edgerton, Wisconsin.
Photo of Michael Saternus,
courtesy of William Wartmann
As Michael Saternus blossomed at midlife, the rehabilitation of Cooksville's historic buildings began in earnest. "Cooksville's been lucky," Saternus said. "It's had a history of sensitive people, intelligent, artistic people who cared about its past and the aesthetics of the place." Through the 1970s and 1980s, Saternus secured his place in that impassioned and quirky lineage. Michael Saternus, Cooksville, Wisconsin.
Photo by Tom Bowditch, courtesy of Larry Reed
James Van Trump
"The past is part of the life of the land, and we are interested only in preservation for life's sake. The human heart desires the past which is, in the end, the anchor of man's dreams and his remembering." James Van Trump, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Stan Franzos
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Updated November 23, 2010© 2010, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System