Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Vernacular Romanesque Revival Arched window with dental molding over door on old bank
Found in Kirksville, Madison County, Kentucky
Unoccupied building with original exterior. 
Old architecture is beautiful in aging. John Ruskin (1819-1900), English art critic and social thinker gave his thoughts to this idea. He thought age was the most important aspect of historic preservation. He had a deep respect for old buildings in general:

"For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, not in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity."

The photo above is an example of Romanesque Revival (1870-1900) architecture only on a vernacular scale. Ruskin's influence helped popularize this style. 

The above and below photos, of the old small Kirksville  bank building, at one time served the locals but now stands empty. The building borrowed some Romanesque features to dress up a rather plain facade. It stands untouched by restoration.

Restoration is insensitive renovation of historic buildings. Preservation seeks to conserve and protect them. To paraphrase Ruskin's words that advocates preservation, where one can feel . . . in the walls . . . the passing waves of humanity. Only when you preserve not restore will you have beauty in aging. 

Old Kirksville bank with some Romanesque windows and doors that reflect strength. 
Boarded windows and a locked door reflect its emptiness..


  1. Lovely and lonely! We have a similar building that was a bank and then a collection of studios and is now a credit union.

  2. Vicki -- Fortunately small towns hold onto their old buildings longer than urban areas. Maybe that is why it is so refreshing to ride through small towns as opposed to busy urban places. Thanks -- barbara

  3. I love old buildings. Their architecture is so much more imaginative than the buildings of today.

  4. Janet -- That is why I agree with John Ruskin -- to preserve rather than restore old buildings. Thanks for the nice comment -- barbara

  5. What a handsome old building! And what a shame that little community banks like this are so much a thing of the past, replaced by the big, powerful mega-banks and their vile bullying and other evil-doing.

    Would preservation include scraping and painting that peeling woodwork? I'm guessing not, but am not clear on some of the differences between restoring and preserving in a case like this...

  6. Laloofah -- Santa dog -- hilarious. There are "shifts" going on with this bank as you point out. A mega-bank has built an inappropriate looking bank across the street -- small but "modern" looking. They did not even try to compliment the small town buildings.

    Preservation includes conserving -- an example -- scraping and painting the same color of white on the bank door would be appropriate -- this would help preserve the wood. Removing the arch to make way for a larger door would be restoration. Restoration includes a lot of tearing out the old to (supposely) improve the function of the building -- walls moved, bricks torn out, windows enlarged, needless tearing out of old wallpaper, using inappropriate paint colors etc. So conserving along with preserving is an attempt to save what exists -- examples --maintaining like colors, windows, etc.,that are decaying. I hope this little description helps. I think your question was an excellent one. -- Thanks -- barbara

  7. That's our Tess, who loves to model hats! :-)

    Thank you for your excellent explanation of preservation vs. restoration! Now that I understand, I am also firmly in the pro-preserve/conserve camp. :-)

    I know just what you mean about contemporary buildings that stick out like sore thumbs amid historic ones. My high school in Maine added a hideous shoebox-shaped wing to the beautiful old main building, and the old domed courthouse here tacked on a tumor that looks like a big shipping carton as an annex. Who gets to decide these things, and what are they thinking?!

  8. Laloofah -- I believe that some municipalities just are not tuned to old buildings and what they mean to the community. -- barbara