Rich in culture, diversity and history, Fresno is home to more than 300 historical properties and 3 historical districts.
And it is up to the future generation including Fresno State’s students to continue preserving historical landmarks in Fresno, Karana Hattersley-Drayton said during an open forum Monday afternoon. Some of these landmarks include the Forestiere Underground Gardens and the Old Administration Building of Fresno City College.
Fresno State professor of art and design A. Sameh El Kharbawy spoke on the importance of community history.
Photo by Khlarissa Agee / The Collegian
Drayton is the historic preservation project manager of the City of Fresno. She works under the Development and Resource Management Department and the speaker of the forum.
The forum is part of the “Fresno Future Project” organized by A. Sameh El Kharbawy, a Fresno State professor of art and design.
“It aims to inform and promote public discussion on the fundamental questions that pertain to who we are,” he said. “Who we should be, how we should live, how we can innovate, and how we can, or should, contribute to the challenges facing our communities, neighborhoods and cities.”
Throughout the forum, the main message to audiences was the importance of our society’s contribution to preserving Fresno historical landmarks the city’s history.
“It was intended to provide a series of basic facts and information about historic preservation about Fresno’s history and therefore why we might want to save and celebrate certain aspects,” Drayton said.
The landmarks signify Fresno’s past and in a way, gives Fresno its identity. In the presentation, Drayton uses the pictures on postcards as examples. Although there are pictures of “modern buildings and places” on postcards, there are also pictures of these historical landmarks.
Kharbawy felt it is because of our natural desire to progress that people should care about our history. Fresno’s history, he said, gives people the clearest roadmap to its future.
“From history we get the courage to try the unfamiliar, the will to go to places where there are no footsteps to follow, the ability to question ourselves, and from time to time, to confront and change our actions and beliefs,” Kharbawy said. He referred to this as the “audacity of history.”
Despite efforts made to save these landmarks, there are a few issues that the City of Fresno faces. The first challenge is for people to be patient and see the significance of the buildings, he said.
For example, people wanted to tear down the old administrative building at Fresno City College. When the historical society finally said, “Let’s give people tours,” people who visited started saying “Gosh this is beautiful!” Drayton said.
Similar to this, another issue is the vision that the community has for Fresno. The community needs to understand and see not only the historical but also architectural and cultural significance to the landmarks.
“Can you see that this could be great? Can we hang in there? Can we figure out a way to put things together to save our Hotel Fresno or whatever?” Drayton said, in regards to preservation.
The third issue is the funds needed to preserve and maintain these landmarks. There are concerns whether public funding should go to these buildings. People then have to ask themselves what they value since money is tight everywhere.
“Do you value tearing things down to have more new housing, or do you like to see a building such as that turn into housing?” Drayton asked. “So really there’s a lot of input from the public.”
The last issue faced is the need for the City of Fresno to be proactive instead of reactive to their mission.
Drayton clarified however, that new buildings are important as well. The key is to find the balance to keep enough of the past while moving into the future. These landmarks create a sense of place, pride and history throughout changes, she said.
When a project comes to Fresno, it is Drayton’s job to evaluate the consequences of the project from a cultural and historical perspective. Another way Drayton and her team are trying to be proactive is going to different places, including University High School, and talking about the preservation.
So at the very end of the forum, it came back to the point that it is the future generation’s responsibility to understand the rich value of Fresno historical landmarks.
“This is your history,” Drayton said. “This is your future. I care about it but some of the leaders, we’re all in our 50s, 60s, 70s. Who’s going to step up? What do you want to see your city looking like in a few years?”