Rediscovering pricelessness

Gathering of American System-Built Home Stewards

A thoughtless article is making viral rounds extolling the difficulty in selling homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as if the desire to care for a piece of art was ever engrained in popular culture.

It is only recently that home buying was reduced to a profit game. Historically, home buying was an investment in living: a way to find comfort and safety and joy, a choice to experience history, touch craftsmanship, be part of a neighborhood, or to care for a concept or an ideal as one would care for a family member. That a dwelling happened to accumulate equity depended more on luck.

Case in point: the first owners of the Elizabeth Murphy House sold it for the same price that they paid for it, because they believed it was their duty as Jesuits. They didn’t take a low-ball offer, they listed it for what they bought it for, twenty years earlier, and happily handed it off to the the next stewards.

Yes, it costs more to live in a historic home and it carries special burdens. But no steward that I know is in it to flip it. Instead, I see folks searching high and low for native or reclaimed materials when renovating in order to retain the aesthetic. I see folks studying and re-learning the old ways and tools of construction in order to honor the original work. I see folks peeling back the chemicals that cover our environments to find the organic core. I see folks learning that experience and culture and preservation are vastly more valuable than simple interest.

The joy in historic preservation is not in getting your money out of a place, it’s about putting your time into it.

It’s time to rediscover the concept of pricelessness. When we do, we may also rediscover our American purpose.

– N. Hayes

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