Commentary: Cahaba Project is compromise of preserving history in building for the future
By Chris Yow
Case in point: Cahaba Elementary School. It’s almost enough said.
The restoration and expansion of the high school building for Cahaba Elementary School is exactly how a city should preserve its history, and still build for the future. The debate is ongoing about the Cahaba Project homes, and how the city should go about preserving the district. It’s living history, for goodness sake.
Nowhere in the United States can you go and find an area similar to the Cahaba Project. That’s something this city can be proud to say. Trussville cares about its past, and rightfully so.
The problem lies with those homes that have been built through the years on these historical lots. From brick ranchers to concrete block homes, these spots have presented an odd problem. How can the city preserve the history, and not make those homeowners feel left out? The answer — for me — is simple. Don’t worry about them.
Sure, there probably needs to be a set of guidelines to keep a home from going up that sticks out like a sore thumb, but those homes should probably be updated even more so than the originals. Driving through the project, a person can watch the housing fads bloom before their eyes. I’m just curious who still has shag carpet in their den.
But the fact is, those homes have very little historical value, and updates to them will only make the neighborhood better. After all, everyone on Monday night during the meeting with the city council agreed that atmosphere and the neighborhood feel of the project area was the most appealing aspect.
Children being able to ride bicycles with friends or walking to the river to go fishing — that’s what matters.
Ken Lancaster, a man who moved into a project home when it was built, said he didn’t even feel like the homes were “sacred”. While I almost disagree with him, I think I understand what he meant. Sure, the original structure is very important to the aesthetic look of the home from the outside, but the insides are almost all different now. Arnold Reichart said the reason they’re called project homes is because residents always have a project going on.
There’s nothing sacred about the home’s interior because people and families just don’t live that way anymore.
And that’s OK.
The fact is there are several homes in the area that have additions to the original structure, and they look fabulous. There are also homes who have added on, and it’s obvious. Plenty of homes can be used as templates to show potential renovators of these homes.
The compromise here has to lie within the answer to the question “What matters most? The homes or the atmosphere?”
It was apparent to me, an innocent outsider, what really mattered to most of the people in attendance — atmosphere. It’s the charm of seemingly small homes on a barely two-lane road where cars have to stop and let children ride their bicycles across the street or maybe slow down for mothers pushing strollers to the library.
There has to be a compromise, and fortunately there is a solution. Remember the past, plan for the future.
Cahaba Elementary School.