By Gail, Graduate Student, Historic Preservation
Often when we think of historic preservation what comes to mind are beautifully preserved house museums or quaint villages where every building around a central square is on the National Register [of Historic Places]. However, a field study trip to Cleveland’s Nottingham neighborhood, one of its oldest, opened a window to a very different way of thinking about the preservation of our built environment.
Nottingham, located between Lake Shore Boulevard and Euclid Avenue west from E. 200th Street, is recognized as a distinct historic place – there are signs posted that read “Welcome to Nottingham” – but much of it is not a place of preserved structures, historical markers or upscale businesses. Rather, it is a mosaic of nineteenth and early twentieth-century houses and small buildings in various states of use or abandon, some well- maintained, some in disrepair.
There are old brick streets and asphalt. There are quiet corners with large trees and the noise of St Clair Avenue. There are remnants of its railroad-connected history for those who are interested and know where to look.
For others, it is a place to just survive day-to-day – the neighborhood does not exhibit wealth. Nottingham is layers of history and interconnected, mostly untold stories.
Walking Nottingham I wonder about how to preserve and tell the stories anywhere of those who are usually not remembered because they do not control the wealth or the dominant narratives – how to preserve their stories without changing them into something to be co-opted by those in control.