Love stories start in the darnedest places.
Isn’t that what every rom com – and nearly all of Julia Roberts' on-screen career, for that matter – wants us to believe? Whether we’ve just missed a flight home for the holidays (it’s always the holidays, isn’t it?) or we’re standing in line for coffee on an ordinary Tuesday, we should always be prepared to trip and fall into the arms of a heartthrob, right?
Annnnd snap back to reality. Everyone knows it rarely goes down like that (c’mon, on the subway?!?). Until it kind of does, but in a way that is adorable and utterly real.
When the National Trust rolled into Buffalo this fall, Bernice Radle and Jason Wilson had never met, though both had long been preservation dynamos working overtime for the city they loved. It wasn’t until after the conference – and the individual preservation events they each planned for it – that their interest in all things old brought them together.
Fast forward to today, and their conversations (I overheard them!) go something like this: “Can you believe these houses on the demo list? Where should we go for date night? What’s the status on the reuse study for the Trico building?”
Totally cuter than Julia Roberts being unexpectedly swept off her feet, right?
Knowing what you now know about this young preservation power couple, it shouldn’t be a shocker that the majority of Bernice and Jason’s Valentine’s Day preparations were spent churning out personalized construction paper hearts … for vacant and abandoned historic buildings. It’s a concept their group, Buffalo Young Preservationists, dubbed a “heart bomb.” Because my words probably wouldn’t give it justice, I’ll let the love birds explain it themselves.
PreservationNation: For starters, how did the whole "heart bomb" idea hatch?
Bernice: I love all things heart-shaped and I love Buffalo. Buffalo and hearts combined is the ultimate Buffalove! So one day, Jason and I thought it would be fun to throw Valentine's Day hearts (lace, glitter, and lots of construction paper) onto our most loved vacant houses to pull on the heart strings of Buffalonians. Heart bombs!
PreservationNation: How many buildings did you end up "bombing" and how did you choose them?
Jason: Although there are several buildings worth highlighting, we ultimately chose four beautiful homes located throughout the city. These homes have a high degree of architectural detail and unique character that is difficult to find in any new build today. We also believe that these gems could be saved and rehabbed with a little love from a special someone.
PreservationNation: Once everything was hung with care, how did you spread the word?
Bernice: Mainly, we used Facebook and Instagram to show off our art project in real time. Instagram gave the houses a cute, vintage flair. We also posted photos on popular blogs and the Preservation-Ready Facebook group, which is home to 600 people who love Buffalo and preservation. And for the more traditional types, we wrote a press release (filled with love, of course!) and sent it out.
PreservationNation: At the end of the day, what do you hope these little guerrilla valentines accomplish?
Jason: These four homes are actually on the city's most recent demolition list, which mainly consists of tax foreclosures. Through the creative use of art, we aim to raise public awareness of these and other threatened architectural treasures. With the added attention we hope to start a productive dialog among concerned citizens and elected officials that will lead to a proactive approach to dealing with our city's vacant property crisis.
PreservationNation: Tell us a little about your group, Buffalo Young Preservationists.
Bernice: Buffalo Young Preservationists is a group of young, energetic preservationists who love Buffalo and want and try to make positive change. We are a small army of preservation folks filled with enthusiasm and passion. We are a proactive bunch and are involved in several projects that we know will help to preserve Buffalo's future. It's a lot of fun getting us together. We throw a great party and geek out on Buffalo.
PreservationNation: Is this the first time you've dabbled with art to raise awareness?
Jason: Not at all, we've done similar actions before. A few months ago, we put a large red ribbon on a wonderful little house that was slated for demolition on Buffalo's east side. The "Bow Bomb," delivered right before Christmas, was the first time we realized how effective our message could be if communicated creatively and correctly.
PreservationNation: What advice would you give old building lovers in other cities who want to save historic places?
Bernice: There are so many important things to do, but the first thing that needs to happen is to build a story around a place that deserves to be saved. When was it built? What neat historical features does it have? Does it have qualities or features that cannot be recreated? Make people fall in love with the building. Make them want to save it.
PreservationNation: Lastly, today is all about love, but what does it mean to be in Buffalove?
Jason: Buffalove is an extremely unique feeling. It's realizing you're living in a place rooted in rich history that's not only worth saving, but celebrating as well. And like in any good relationship, you can have a direct impact in the overall positive outcome if you try hard enough.
PreservationNation: Do you agree with that definition, Bernice?
Bernice: Yep! Buffalove is really comprised of the rich history, a unique urban environment, the friendly people, and the belief that Buffalo can be an even greater city than it already is.
Jason Lloyd Clement is the associate director for online campaigns at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Like Bernice and Jason, he is also in Buffalove.