STORY OF THE WEEK Worth a Thousand Words: How New Yorkers Use Archival Photos to Guide Restorations
New Yorkers have always known there is someone who cares about their homes at least as much as they do. Yes, the tax man.
Which is why, in the late 1930s, city officials used Works Progress Administration funds to hire dozens of unemployed workers to photograph every single building in the city for the Department of Finance. By 1941, those photographers had taken more than 700,000 pictures.
Early one June morning in 2008, as firefighters extinguished the blaze that had destroyed much of Liz Llanas’ home in the King William Historic District of San Antonio, Tex., a city official declared the smoldering structure in danger of collapse and called for immediate demolition.
Llanas, 55, grew up in the 1905 bungalow, which once belonged to her grandmother. She refused to sign the demolition order, convinced that she could still save her home.
Thirty-five years ago, the National Trust for Historic Preservation acquired Drayton Hall, one of America's most celebrated colonial houses, from brothers Charles and Francis Drayton. In early December 2009, Preservation Executive Editor Arnold Berke spoke with Charles—born in 1918 and a seventh-generation descendant of builder John Drayton—as he recalled a lifetime of association with the 1742 house, the land, and the lives linked closely to both.