Preservation ABCs: M is for Main Street

Preservation ABCs is a series that will work its way from A to Z, bringing words into conversation that are relevant to historic preservation, whether it’s an idea, feature or vocabulary term. The idea is to help you see preservation everywhere you look and wherever you go. Enjoy! See previous letters.

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M is for Main Street

misformainstreet.jpg

Marion, VA

Main Street is a common idea, phrase, and referenced place in historic preservation because it incorporates so much of what historic preservation believes. Main Street (whether or not yours is named Main Street) historically included prominent building blocks, local businesses, a mix of retail and residential, a variety of services for the community, gathering places, human scale buildings, transportation nexuses, and a sense of place. Over the centuries and decades, main street as a hub for all of this faded; populations moved to the suburbs and strip malls and large indoor shopping malls and big box retailers took the place of main street.

And now, people are realizing once again the economic and community value of a main street. The National Trust Main Street Center focuses on revitalizing main streets to viable, sustainable communities. Main Streets can reinvent themselves. Some become more artsy or food oriented. Others retain basic services like pharmacies and stationery stores. Each community will have different needs and interests. The key is finding what works for each one, and having willing, passionate people involved.

Does your town have a main street? Or did you grow up in suburban developments (like me)? Has your main street changed over the years? How?

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