At the simplest level one may say that Historic Preservation is the preservation of what is historic. However, what is determined historic and not just old is no simple matter. In fact, what is historic and should be preserved remains a complicated issue. If it is an historic building or a site the question to ask is “Is this building or site worth saving,” rather than it being torn down to make room for something new. That is the most common question in historic preservation, a field that must frequently choose its battle since not everything can, nor should be, saved. Preservation should not and does not come at the cost of progress. Rather, historic preservation sees growth as being built on the past, that the past is prologue to the present and the future.
Historic Preservation as a field has a keen awareness of America’s cultural and architectural heritage. Along with this awareness of the cultural/historical significance of certain structures and sites is an awareness of how fast they are being lost. In the field of historic preservation there are both advocates and craftsmen. There are preservationists that campaign to preserve the best of the historical fabric and the many who cultivate the crafts necessary to do so, and those who do both. Preventing a structure from being torn down is merely the first stage of preservation. Preservationists see the potential of historic structures to be conserved and used as part of contemporary society.