David Currey, president of the Tennessee Preservation Trust, told the Rotary Club Thursday afternoon that Chattanooga's historic buildings are important because they were built as "monuments to the city's emerging status on the regional and now national scene."
He said, "Our history might be forgotten at times but it should never be lost."
Tennessee Preservation Trust is a Nashville-based organization that supports preservation all across the state. Each year, TPT also releases a list of the most endangered properties in Tennessee. In 2013, both the Delta Queen and the St. George Hotel in Chattanooga were on the list.
The Delta Queen has been the subject of debate not just at the state level but also at the national level, as well as from all sides. In 2007, a bill in the Senate to help the steamboat was co-sponsored by Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell.
More recently, Mayor Andy Berke pushed to have the boat removed, but the Delta Queen survived again.
The St. George Hotel, dating back to 1920, was partly torn down by the city in 2012. The front part of the hotel is now all that remains.
Being on TPT's "Ten in Tenn" list has helped promote awareness about other historic structures, keeping them from being lost forever. Mr. Currey said he hoped the same thing would happen for the Delta Queen and the St. George Hotel.
Mr. Currey said, "No one can really predict the future. What we can do when it comes to preserving historic structures in our communities is welcome discourse as a civic responsibility where we discuss saving or discarding important elements of our built environment."
He continued, "The dialogue we all engage in about these issues is something we do for the common good of our communities, ourselves, and our children."
He told the club members, "Preserving and reusing the work of those that came before us can be an important project for all of us. It is only accomplished through our collective imagination to strike a balance between what we've created in our own minds as competing visions of progress, the past versus the future."
He quoted William Faulkner to close his presentation, saying, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."