Over the weekend, I saw the movie Away We Go with some friends. It’s a very sweet movie about a couple who, while expecting their first child, travels to various cities in order to find a place to settle down and raise their family. They’re looking for roots, so each place they choose to visit is the home of a family member or old friend, and hilarity ensues, as you can imagine. Seriously, Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal should get awards for their performances as truly awful people – I’m still cringing at them even two days later. And John Krasinski…
But I digress. One of the friends I went with is the Historic Preservation Officer for San Antonio, and after the movie, we talked about the fact that each of the homes they visited were either historic or traditional local architecture. Miami’s was a low 1960s ranch house surrounded by orange trees; the Tuscon home was stucco and stone; in Montreal, they visited a lovely urban brick townhouse.
It’s made me wonder, if, like the couple in the movie, we’re all so drawn to places with history, roots, and individuality, why are we so hell-bent on making every city in America exactly alike? Visit some of the newer suburbs in any major city and you’ll see the same tract homes, the same shopping centers, and the same traffic jams.
San Antonio’s falling into this trap as well with its outer suburbs, although the downtown area and older suburbs are still distinctly San Antonio – and thankfully, San Antonio is like no other city. I think we can thank the early founding of the San Antonio Conservation Society for this, as well as an active Historic Preservation Office. Preserving the spirit of a city is an ever-changing battle, but if we don’t want to live in McAmerica, it’s one worth fighting.