Best Practices

Quotations on the importance of history and historic preservation

Index by author's last name

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

For a list of quotes compiled by the South Carolina SHPO, click the link

To add to this list, please e-mail Kristen Harbeson

A Index | Back to Top

Anonymous - "It's not good because it's old, it's old because it's good."

Armstrong, Louis - "There are some people that if they don't know, you can't tell them."

B Index | Back to Top

Baker, Russell - "Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things."

Baudeliarie, Charles - "The form of a town changes more swiftly alas! Than the heart of a mortal."

Bierce, Ambrose - "God alone knows the future, but only a historian can alter the past."

Brown, A. Whitney - "The past actually happened. History is what someone took the time to write down."

Burke, James - "If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you are."

Burnham, Daniel - "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood ... Make big plans; aim high in hope and work ..."

C Index | Back to Top

Churchill, Winston - "We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us."

Cicero - "To remain ignorant of things that happened before you were born is to remain a child."

Conant, Isabel La Howe - "He who loves an old house never loves in vain."

Confucius - "The strength of a nation is derived from the integrity of its homes."

D Index | Back to Top

De Kooning, Willem - "The past does not influence me; I influence it."

Deuteronomy 27:17 - "Cursed be he who removes his neighbor's landmark."

Dobie, J. Frank - "The man for whom history is bunk is almost invariably as obtuse to the future as he is blind to the past."

Drew, Bettina - "The past reminds us of timeless human truths and allows for the perpetuation of cultural traditions that can be nourishing; it contains examples of mistakes to avoid, preserves the memory of alternatives ways of doing things, and is the basis for self-understanding..."

E Index | Back to Top

Elton, G.R. - "[W]hat we call history is the mess we call life reduced to some order, pattern, and possibly purpose."

F Index | Back to Top

Flaubert, Gustave - "Writing history is like drinking an ocean and pissing a cupful."

G Index | Back to Top

Gardner, John W. - "History never looks like history when you are living through it."

Gehry, Frank - "In the end, the character of a civilization is encased in its structures."

H Index | Back to Top

Hartley, L.P. - "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."

Hawksmoore, Nicholas - "Whatever is goode in its kinde ought to be preserv'd in respect for antiquity, as well as our present advantage, for destruction can be profitable to none but such as live by it."

Hegel - "We learn from history that we never learn anything from history."

Hughes, Robert - "Memory is reality. It is better to recycle what exists, to avoid mortgaging a workable past to a non-existent future, and to think small. In the life of cities, only conservation is sanity."

Hugo, Victor - "[W]hatever may be the future of architecture, in whatever manner our young architects may one day solve the question of their art, let us, while waiting for new monuments, preserve the ancient monuments. Let us...inspire the nation with a love for national architecture."

J Index | Back to Top

Jacobs, Jane - "Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings."

K Index | Back to Top

Kierkegaard, Søren - "Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward."

Kornbluth, C.M. - "The only thing we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history."

M Index | Back to Top

McCullough, David - "History is who we are and why we are the way we are."

Morris, William - "These old buildings do not belong to us only, they belong to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our own property to do with as we like with them. We are only trustees for those that come after us."

Muschamp, Herbert - "A building does not have to be an important work of architecture to become a first-rate landmark. Landmarks are not created by architects. They are fashioned by those who encounter them after they are built. The essential feature of a landmark is not its design, but the place it holds in a city's memory. Compared to the place it occupies in social history, a landmark's artistic qualities are incidental."

N Index | Back to Top

New York Times Editorial (on the destruction of Penn Station)- "We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."

Nickel, Richard - "Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men."

O Index | Back to Top

O'Rourke, P.J. - "Those who do not know history are probably also not doing well in English or math." P.J. O'Rourke

Orwell, George - He who controls the present, controls the past.

P Index | Back to Top

Payton, Charles -"Never believe a politician or a bureaucrat who says there's no money for preservation."

Powell, Jane. - "American culture, and advertising in particular, has done an excellent job of convincing consumers that they are the center of the universe, and that their needs and desires should be more important than anything else. This has led to a huge sense of entitlement, including the idea that one's time is so valuable that it couldn't possibly be spent maintaining the house. Here's some news you may find distressing. You are not the center of the universe. I am not the center of the universe, either. We are temporary. We are not playing Monopoly, and there is no "get-out-of-maintenance-free" card. (Those who are elderly or disabled get slack.) A house comes with responsibilities, and a historic house comes with more responsibilities. We are only the caretakers of these houses, which were here before we owned them and which will be here after we are gone. They contain the wood from the old-growth forests, they are monuments to the skill of those who labored to build them, they represent our cultural heritage. To destroy them, or allow them to be destroyed by neglect, to remove their original fabric in the pointless pursuit of "no maintenance" is profoundly disrespectful both to the trees that gave their lives and to the labor and skill of those who built the houses-with hand tools, I might add."

Proverbs 22:28 - "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set."

R Index | Back to Top

Ruskin, John - "When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for our use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will look upon with praise and thanksgiving in their hearts."

Ruskin, John - " is again no question of expediency or feeling whether we shall preserve the buildings of past times or not. We have no right whatever to touch them. They are not ours. They belong partly to those who built them, and partly to all the generations of mankind who are to follow us."

S Index | Back to Top

Shankland, Graeme - "A country without a past has the emptiness of a barren continent; and a city without old buildings is like a man without a memory."

Shannon, David - "Life is not simple, and therefore history, which is past life, is not simple."

T Index | Back to Top

Tomlin, Lily - "Maybe if people started to listen, history would stop repeating itself."

Truman, Harry S. - "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know."

W Index | Back to Top

Wilde, Oscar - "[A] ny fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it."

Y Index | Back to Top

Young, Dwight - "Saving old buildings and neighborhoods is an enormously effective way to provide continuity in the places where we live."


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