I became a preservationist in the 5th grade. We were doing a unit called "The Built Environment," wherein we traipsed around on field trips, locating the oldest buildings in town and learning to spot architectural features like urban bird watchers. One of the buildings we studied, the quaintly-named Rose Mansion, was slated for demolition, with a hotel being planned in its place. If memory serves, we wrote letters to the mayor asking that it be saved. We didn't succeed -- the mansion came down, no hotel was ever built, and a preservationist was born.
In that same year, something else happened that would end up defining another aspect of my life - I discovered Bruce Springsteen. As strange as this may sound, I have a very specific memory of the Solid Gold Dancers putting their unique spin on "Hungry Heart" when it landed on the pop charts. (You can laugh if you want. I know it's absurd.) The dancing didn't do a lot for me, but the music did, and I started down the road of lifelong fandom.
A decade of employment at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and nearly 20 live Springsteen shows later, these two passions finally came together. Yesterday, a colleague sent me an article about the New Jersey house where Springsteen wrote Born to Run, which has just been purchased by a trio of fans who want to ensure that the house remains intact. Though I don't have the means to do such a thing myself, both my preservationist side and my Springsteen-fan side understand (and wholeheartedly support) the impulse.
The three [purchasers] have no plans to alter the property, though they would eventually like to “restore it correctly...”
Their immediate aim... was simply to keep the house from falling into the hands of someone who would take advantage of the property’s commercial zoning by knocking it down and replacing it with a business structure.
“Would it be turned into a parking lot or a condo? Not on our watch,” she said.
One of the new owners goes on to quote from the opening lines of the first song from Born to Run, "Thunder Road"
The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Thanks to the work of these three preservation-minded fans, the porch where Bruce Springsteen may have envisioned Mary dancing will be saved. And someday, when Madonna's childhood home in Michigan is preserved, the colleague who sent me the article about Bruce's house will get to write his version of this story.
Sarah Heffern is the content manager and blog editor for PreservationNation.org. She has a not-insubstantial collection of Bruce Springsteen bootlegs.
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