A new perspective on the (Anti)Wrecking Ball

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Last Thursday was my first formal historic preservation event with PAM (and ever). I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Is it actually a Ball? Should I be wearing formal attire to The Soap Factory? Do I need to come prepared with talking points? The answer, I found out, is that it really didn’t matter. One of the best aspects of PAM’s Anti-Wrecking Ball is that if you were there—you were 1000% welcome (and I’m not just saying that because I want them to keep me around)!

In my head, the Soap Factory wasn’t the most obvious venue for this event, but it probably should’ve been. St. Anthony Main is one of my favorite districts in the Twin Cities: the Mississippi river, the Minneapolis skyline, old mills, cobblestone streets—the reuse of the former National Purity Soap Company fits in seamlessly. Not only was the Soap Factory space amazing, but it allowed for constant exploration. Whether it was taking the Soap Factory’s guided tour, or just meandering through the different spaces created by the event, it was a complete visual representation of what historic preservation can mean for a community. If you’re going to advocate for the preservation of historic properties, what’s better than doing that in a saved 1800s soap factory?

I spent my first hour wandering around display tables, chatting with advocates from all around the state of Minnesota. This was especially awesome for me, because I am not a Minnesota native, and I learned quite a bit about geography that I probably should’ve known before (sorry, Geography professors). The advocates were very friendly in enduring my questions (“Isn’t Fergus Falls up by the Boundary Waters?”), and I learned a ton of Minnesotan history in the process. It was a pretty casual set-up where I felt comfortable asking the questions I had always wondered about the 10 Most properties. There was always at least one person who could help me out, and with Surly Furious in hand, my nerd-out transitioned smoothly from table to table. Later, as I (wo)manned the ballot box, I was able to enjoy The Steamboat Kings’ lovely tunes.

My take-away: PAM’s Anti-Wrecking Ball was all about creating a historic preservation dialogue. It encouraged advocates to communicate their concerns with enthusiastic and accepting learners. In the past, I always assumed that historic preservation was just a given. In attending this event, and through my time in the PAM office, I have learned that preservation is a process that requires passion and extreme patience. In my opinion, those two characteristics are what united such an interesting and diverse group of people on Thursday evening.

Maggie Runciman, PAM Intern

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