Passion to Preserve
Gay Men as Keepers of
Contents | Preface | Individuals Profiled | Reviews | Events | Author
"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
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.
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.
"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 courtesy of Allan J.
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