October 29, 2022 | Last updated May 1, 2023

Portrait of the Preservationist as a Young Woman

We’ve talked a lot about what historic preservationists do over the years, but we haven’t talked as much about why they do it.

Here’s our own Kelli Bacon’s story of what drew her into historic preservation.

I was a preservationist before I knew what a preservationist was. How did this happen? I grew up around architecture because my father and grandfather were real estate agents. When my father held open houses, my mother, brother, and I would oftentimes stop by to say hi and bring him something to eat. I always enjoyed walking around the houses and admiring any interesting architectural details.

My father was also a real estate appraiser and drafter. During the summer and school holidays when my father needed to appraise farmsteads, he would take me to neighboring county seats to look up information in their courthouses. We would find what he needed and drive around the surrounding countryside to look at the farmsteads he needed to appraise. My father would give me a plat map and ask me to navigate our way. This was a great introduction to map reading. And I still love looking at maps to this day. I would walk into the farmhouses and imagine the lives of the people who once lived there while admiring the architecture. The property I remember the most was an old Italianate farmhouse with a cupola. This house had a beautiful grand staircase, and it was fun going into the cupola to see the surrounding farmland.

My early introduction to architecture led me to consider a career as an architect.  I enjoyed drawing house plans and talking to my father about them, but I decided that that career wasn’t for me. Fortunately, the field of preservation offered an alternative path where I could channel my love of architecture into the saving of old buildings. I did not discover the large field of historic preservation until I was in college and graduate school. Today I work for History Nebraska as a Certified Local Government Coordinator where I seek to educate and empower communities to use their local historic resources.

An Italianate farmhouse in Indiana

Example of a Plat Map

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