Millennials Preserving History

July 10, 2017


Tim McClimon

Recently, American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation released findings from a survey entitled Millennials and Historic Preservation: A Deep Dive Into Attitudes and Values. Nearly 97 percent of the millennials who responded to the nation-wide survey said that they value the role that historic preservation plays in their communities.

Millennials tend to value a mix of old and new buildings where they live, dine, shop and travel. For example:

  • More than half of millennials (54 percent) are interested in historic preservation as a means to save the places that define us as Americans.
  • Fifty-three percent of millennials view historic preservation as a way to protect the unique, cultural wealth and diversity of communities.
  • Nearly one-in-two (44 percent) prefer living in a neighborhood with historic character.
  • When sightseeing, three-in-four (71 percent) millennials enjoy exploring the history of an area.
  • Two-thirds (67 percent) are interested in bunking at historic hotels.
  • More than three-quarters (80 percent) of millennials would rather spend money at businesses supporting efforts to preserve and protect buildings, architecture and neighborhoods over those that don’t.
  • Millennials are twice as likely to prefer shopping or noshing in historic downtowns (52 percent) and in places with historic appeal (49 percent) over malls and planned commercial districts (26 percent) or recently constructed places (22 percent).
  • And, more than half (58 percent) would head to a happy hour in a historic building.

“The report reflects what we’ve seen in cities from Los Angeles to Buffalo to Houston – that millennials prefer to live, work and play in neighborhoods with historic buildings,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The revitalization of many urban communities is being driven in large part by the influx of young people seeking authentic experiences and places with character that are found in historic neighborhoods.”

One-in-two millennials view historic preservation through the lens of engaging in authentic experiences (52 percent), preserving a sense of community (52 percent) and creatively re-using structures (51 percent), but only one-in-three (36 percent) are preservation “fans” and have taken some action in support of the cause. But, half of millennials would like, follow or share historic places on social media (53 percent) or cast their vote online to choose a historic site to receive funding (59 percent). So, there is plenty of opportunity to engage millennials in historic preservation – it’s important to figure out the right ways to do so, however.

And, as far as the term historic preservation is concerned, millennials decidedly gave it thumbs down. Their preferred name for the cause? Preserving history!

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