My first foray into my historic preservation education came last fall when I did an independent study cataloging two historic buildings in the Manatee Village Historical Park in Bradenton, Florida, as part of a disaster preparedness measure. Because I was still working full time at a newspaper in Naples, I would spend a day every week or two measuring, photographing, and diagramming the materials of the 1889 church and 1860 courthouse, the oldest of its kind in the state. My two favorite structures in the park are the boat building shop (because I’m a big fan of wooden boat building) and the 1912 Cracker house (not named after the derogatory term for a white person but for early Florida ranchers who were named after the sound of the whips).
Historic building parks get a lot of flak from preservationists, but I don’t mind them. Sure, the first choice for an at-risk building should be to try to keep it in its current location. If that’s not possible then if it could be moved to a place where it will be protected, it should. Historic buildings parks provide the community a one-stop location to learn about the area’s past. And sometimes the buildings can serve as more than just giant museum pieces. For example, the church at the Manatee Village Historical Park still is consecrated and hosts weddings and other religious events.