I recently wrote about the two old houses in Berkeley that belonged to the University of California. Most of my blog entries have been about families purchasing old houses to make them their homes, but another good method for saving old houses is for organizations to purchase them. The University of California appeared to have used at least one of the old houses for offices, unfortunately the need for expansion has caused them to go in a different direction.
James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia has expanded considerably over the last 20 years, and they have purchased many old houses in proximity to their campus to use as university offices. After purchasing the houses, they restored them to their former splendor to showcase the house, and the university. Many towns and counties also purchase old houses to use as offices. In many cases the old houses had historical significance in the area, and it was a way to save and restore them. Organizations interested in history often purchase and restore houses to use as their offices, or simply to put on display for the public to enjoy. Old houses in commercially zoned areas make good professional offices with a little work, and are a big improvement over the vanilla office buildings that were springing up everywhere prior to the downturn in the economy.
So, while families and individuals purchase old houses to use as homes, and I believe this is the best way to preserve old houses and their memories, if this doesn’t seem to be an option there are other avenues to try. If you belong to an organization or club that is looking for space or offices, you might suggest a big old house nearby that would be perfect with a little work. If you are aware of an old house that is sitting empty that may be of some historic significance to your county or town, bring it to the attention of local historical societies, or mention it at local council meetings. A county or town that needs additional office space might find that the public is more sympathetic to using an old historic house for those purposes, rather than voting funds for a new building. Or, the next time you are visiting some professional in a strip center, and they mention that they have outgrown their space, mention that big old house that is sitting empty, and just waiting for a new owner.