Creative Destruction vs. Preservation: The Duluth Armory
“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” ~ Alan Greenspan
I've been reading Alan Greenspan's insightful book The Age of Turbulence. As chairman of the Federal Reserve Greenspan has had the privilege of working with two decades of presidents, holding a front row seat to the fall of communism, numerous bull and bear markets, the burst tech and housing bubbles, various global financial crises and the horror of 9/11. In the midst of the 1990's tech bubble he famously warned of investors' irrational exuberance, to no avail.
Among other things the book has much to say about the wealth-generating power of free market capitalism (which can be thwarted by corrupt governments or the lack of a free press) and the concept of creative destruction. What creative destruction means is that things that are less efficient eventually fall by the wayside when better ways of doing things come along.
Examples abound, but a few might include the refrigerators and freezers that replaced the ice industry in which blocks of ice were cut from glaciers and transported to "warehouses" to be stored and cut into blocks for people with ice chests. Automobiles replaced horses and jet airline travel replaced that slow boat to China. In several places Greenspan notes how this principle of creative destruction is at the heart of progress.
In the late 90's Greenspan married TV journalist and news anchor Andrea Mitchell. During their Venice honeymoon his ideas about creative destruction were challenged when he saw that some of the world's most cherished places have changed the least.
The financial and commercial centre of Venice is known as the Rialto and has been there for centuries. Though the area was settled by the ninth century it wasn't an important district until two centuries later when Venice's market moved there, and in the following century a boat bridge was set up across the Grand Canal providing access to it. This was soon replaced by the Rialto Bridge which has since then become iconic.
In Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Shylock asks, "What news on the Rialto?" and later, in Act III Solanio makes the same inquiry.
All this passed through Greenspan's mind as he considered the Rialto's grand heritage and that creative destruction should not be a hardened firm principle in all things. Preservation has its place.
ALL THIS TO SAY that this same conflict is being played out in our communities today, where decisions are being made whether to raze buildings to raise new structures that are more energy efficient or to preserve these remnants of our history. The Duluth Armory became a focal point where this discussion was being played out when ten years ago developers hoped to build condos on that property with its view of the lake. Today the Armory still stands, with it's advocates preparing to celebrate her 100th birthday this fall.
This year the Duluth Armory turns 100 years old in November, 2015 and the Armory Arts and Music Center (AAMC) is hosting an pre-birthday celebration on Sunday, September 6th in Leif Erikson Park across London Road from the Duluth Armory. They're calling it the Armory Arts & Music Center’s Salute to the Historic Duluth Armory Music Fest. It will be a free community festival featuring local, regional, national and international artists performing live at the historic Leif Erikson Park outdoor stage.
The concert's primary aim is to raise community awareness that fund-raising has been continuous for the AAMC's mission "to preserve the Duluth Armory and its historic value to American culture and the arts, while encouraging its reuse, placing emphasis on arts and education, including the AAMC’s successful Music Resource Center program." The Armory Arts and Music Center is a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible organization so your sponsorship is tax deductible to the full extent of the law.
According to Nelson French, who serves on the AAMC board, "The Armory Arts and Music Center Board of Directors has been busy this year working with community leaders and interested developers to put together a package that will ensure the historic elements of the Duluth Armory are preserved while developing and implementing the right plan to ensure the building will live on and inspire generations for at least another 100 years." The Board's sustained enthusiasm for the project over many years is admirable.
In addition to securing long term protection and economic viability of the building, AAMC is focusing its efforts on the following priorities:
- Strengthening the operation of our Music Resource Center-Duluth youth program
- Designing and developing a state of the art AAMC Music Resource Center in the Duluth Armory to house our youth music program
- Providing for a unique music legends historic museum and tribute space
This event is but a prequel to the real celebration. 100 years of service to the community, and host of major events. For more information visit DuluthArmory.org.
Meantime, life goes on all around you. Let's celebrate it.
Ennyman is a Life Under Construction. Writer, artist, philosopher, friend... visit www.ennyman.com to put your mind at e's.