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.
G is for Gateway
A gateway is an indication on the landscape or in the built environment that you are crossing to a new setting. This indication is a tangible change in the environment. Think of a gateway like an entrance to someplace new; however, gateways are more than gates and fences, of course. A gateway might be a bridge, stone walls, landscaping or a settlement pattern that gets denser as you approach the center of town. A bridge is a gateway to a historic district because it anchors one side of the district boundary. Upon crossing that bridge, you are entering the village or historic district.
Gateways are important because they allow us to read the landscape as we travel and to recognize communities. Because of this, our historic bridges are important to maintain and rehabilitate. Removing a truss bridge or an ornamental concrete railing to be replaced with a standard highway bridge will change how you read the landscape. Historic bridges signify crossings and entrances.
Towns and neighborhoods do not need a bridge in order to have a gateway. Sometimes when an “entrance” to a village is less obvious, due to development and sprawl, towns will employ welcome signs and banners or other landscaping elements. The street might be narrower or sidewalks begin at a certain point. These are examples of reading the more subtle hints of the built environment. New development and even shopping malls today attempt to create the feeling of gateways by lining the traffic lanes with ornamental street lights and banners, using pavers or dyed concrete.
When you cross that gateway maybe you get the feeling that you are in a settled area, a more human scale area as opposed to the wide open spaces or the sprawl development. Take a look next time you’re traveling.
Think about this: how do you recognize when you enter your town? What does the approach into your neighborhood look like? Would you say that it has a gateway?