“There’s gold in your attic!” could also apply to our city’s historic buildings. There are consequences to tearing down our older buildings and homes; we could be throwing away a major economic benefit. The “gold” is heritage tourism, which can provide long-term returns on investments in our historic resources.
Lake Oswego has the only remaining iron furnace west of the Rockies. The city helped finance the major restoration of the 1866 furnace and the only extant iron worker’s cottage. In addition, the Oswego Iron Heritage Trail guides visitors to these and other former industrial sites.
Promoting tourism, especially in light of the recent Oregon State Heritage Area designation and possible national designation, makes economic sense. Studies show that heritage travelers stay longer and spend more money than any others.
Visitors drawn to our city by the unique vestiges of the iron industry will also be attracted to our restaurants, shops, hotels and surrounding neighborhoods. For a city with such a long and rich history, it’s alarming that, as of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan update, we retained only 8 percent of the housing stock built prior to 1950.
Especially in the 1920s and 1930s, major Oregon architects were designing Lake Oswego homes, and many of these have been lost. The city, based on our Comprehensive Plan’s historic preservation goal, should encourage private property owners to retain older homes by providing real incentives to do so, funded by the hotel/motel tax. Charming streetscapes have often defined our neighborhood character, but this is changing with the increasing pace of demolitions.
Historic preservation is far too often viewed as a burden, but, given incentives and a shift in emphasis, it can be of tremendous positive benefit to our community. As Arthur Frommer observed, “Tourism does not go to a city that has lost its soul.”