Light On The Past

“The Importance of Preservation”

By Sarah Pearson Jones 

Sarah Jones is the Assistant Director of the Tybee Island Light Station on Tybee Island. She and her husband Casey live here year-round.

I can remember when I told my father that I was going to Graduate School for a Masters of Fine Arts in Historic Preservation. The first thing he asked me was what was Historic Preservation. I tried to explain to him that I was going to school to learn how to save old buildings. Not just on an intellectual basis but with hands on knowledge. His response to my explanation was “Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to live in an old house when you could have a brand new one with no problems?”

Where was I to go with a comment like that? There are so many reasons. The most obvious is saving our history. Imagine if there was no Louvre, no Pyramids of Egypt, what if the United States White house had been replaced by a Mac Mansion because new was better, easier. Think of all of the wonderful houses in this nation that have been saved because people cared about the history of those places.

Just recently I went to visit a friend in Virginia who works for Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. How great it was to be learning not only about Jefferson, but about architecture, gardening, and what it was like to live in the early 19th century. Thank goodness, Monticello was saved, just as on Tybee Island the Lighthouse has been saved. Not only was our Lighthouse saved, thanks to the hard work of all of our volunteers over the years, but all of the support buildings have been saved as well. We can now show and tell the complete story of the Light Keepers on Tybee Island. Speaking of volunteers, we still need plenty, so if you’re interested please give us a call at 912-786-5801.

Many people come to Tybee Island just to see the Lighthouse and stay to eat lunch or spend and evening at a local hotel. If the Lighthouse wasn’t here those people probably would not visit. We also employ a number of local people at the store, and to manage and clean the site. All of these dollars go directly back to Tybee Island.

There are other important reasons for preservation, too. First, preservation is green. Often you don’t have to use half as many of the materials to restore a building as you do to build new, yet you do have to hire just as many people to get the work done. It’s also, in most cases, cheaper to save a building then to pay to tear it down and build new. Sometimes you can even move these buildingsand save them in a cost effective way. Thanks to Mike Hosti the Tybee Island Historical Society is going to be able to save a raised cottage by moving it to our property next to the Lighthouse. This will be one more building saved – one more teaching tool that we can use to tell the story of Tybee Island. We intend to restore and interpret the house in such a way as to give visitors one more experience of what it was like to stay on Tybee in a raised cottage in the 1920’s.

Thanks to preservation and the sensitivity of Tybee’s citizens we have a unique island and many of our historic buildings are left. We’re not another Miami Beach with high-rises as far as the eye can see – just one more of the many advantages of historic preservation.


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