The Destruction of Historic Architecture

 My defining moment. Why did they tear it down?

Every building with history has its own story and precious memories. Those of you who have witnessed the sudden disappearance of a home or building very dear to you, will understand the emotional impact and loss I felt that day.

It was a defining moment I will always remember. It was the moment when I realized I had to tell the stories of beautiful historic structures through my art …. before it was too late. 

The day started out well. I had traveled back home to New Zealand to see family and also take a nostalgic journey, re-tracing my artistic roots in Auckland, the city I grew up in and where I created my very first paintings of architectural subjects.

My excitement mounted as I drove through a familiar neighborhood, eager to see the majestic Victorian building where I would linger for hours with family, friends and fellow artists. So many happy memories, filled with song, music and art. It is also where I held my first art exhibition.

Finally, I arrived. But wait. Where was the building? I looked down at the faded drawing in my hand. Yes, the address, 10 Shelly Beach Rd, was correct. To my horror, a new building stood in its place. It rose high above the sparkling harbor, circular and alien, conspicuously out of place among the enclave of historic homes. A bold number 10 glared back at me from the entrance gate.

I stood there, stunned. How could this have happened? Why did they tear down this beautiful piece of history? I asked some passers-by what they knew, but they stared at me blankly. I felt outraged yet helpless, as if I had just learned about the death of an old friend but wasn’t invited to the memorial service. My attempts to learn about the demise of the Victorian at 10 Shelly Beach Road were futile and perhaps the only record of the home’s existence is the little ink drawing I created all those years ago.

When I returned to the USA, I made it my mission to capture the beauty of homes and historic buildings in every state across America. I did not embark on this task in a regimented or scientific way. Rather, it has been an adventure-filled emotional journey with plenty of unexpected twists. Upon achieving that goal, my next endeavor was to write and compile my first book to celebrate and chronicle the character of American homes with my pen and paintbrush.

In May last year I released my coffee table book, Hand-painted Homes: An Artist’s Pen and Watercolor Journey Across America.  This limited edition book documents my ten-year project to capture the spirit of historic architecture in this country.  Packed with 650 images and covering all 50 states,  I am honored to share the beauty of classic homes in the pages of this book. It is my hope that their architectural legacy will live on for many years to come.

Indeed, it is a disheartening fact that hundreds of beautiful structures with history are being demolished around the country every single week. As I state in the opening pages of my book, I believe that homeowners are the real heroes of historic preservation. Without their  dedication, we would only have a fraction of the historic fabric that currently graces the land. 

Faded photos or digital phone images do not always last, but memorializing these historic homes as original art forms can provide a treasured piece of art that can be passed down through the generations. And so my work to promote the need to stop unnecessary destruction of historic homes and buildings continues. . . one painting at a time.

Cheers,  Leisa