From the people to the people--the 1909 Randall County Courthouse: a precedent in Texas historic courthouse preservation
Louden, Elizabeth I.
Essential to understanding man is knowing who he was; history concerns itself with men interesting just as men and the past just for the sake of the past; for how can we know who we are if we do not understand what our culture is based upon? The word history comes from the Greek word histor and the Latin historia meaning "learned man." Two centuries ago German critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing said, "Without history we shall be in hourly danger of being deceived by ignorant braggarts, who not infrequently hail as a new discovery what men knew and believed many thousands of years ago." Those discoveries recorded as history are the foundation of progress in the future. So it is that our architecture of each age stands as visible milestones of that progress. It is said that "buildings are the mirror of a society." If so, then buildings can communicate to us significant ideas about the people that required, constructed and occupied them. A history of political thought, of social customs, of literature, or of physics can be formulated by understanding the built environment. Tangible history imbedded in buildings is the material used ". . . to construct descriptions of past personalities and places, narratives of past events, expositions of past ideas, or synthesis of past periods or cultures." The Roman Triumphal Arch motifs used to celebrate entry, the Greek Temples used during the Greek Revival period in America to represent democratic society, and great monuments of national ideals, such as the Lincoln monument represent prominent examples. Others such as Williamsburg, Virginia, depict the beginnings of our country just as the St. Louis Arch symbolizes the westward movement of a whole people. These all express to present and future generations important ideas that were the foundations upon which people of the past based their lives. That they were preserved to the present time connects us with the past and those who have entrusted us with that heritage.