American city might sell its historic landmarks

According to a recent release from CBS Baltimore, Maryland’s largest city may soon be looking to offload some of its historic landmarks to private owners or foundations.

In a new plan by city officials to bolster the cash-strapped community, 15 historic landmarks across the city — 12 of which are protected by historic landmark designation — may soon be up for grabs, and the decision is causing a ruckus in the Baltimore political and historical community.

So why the hesitancy on the decision?

Before making the announcement final, city officials want to determine how much they could actually pocket for sites such as Shot Tower, a landmark, which was once the tallest building in the nation back in 1828.

Involving more than just potential revenue, however, the city argues that many of the sites lack adequate funding and they have fallen into disrepair. In addition to providing revenue for the city, proponents of the plan argue that this move would ultimately be in the best interest of the historical sites due to the greater likelihood of a private owner being able to offer proper maintenance and care.As can be expected, not all Baltimore citizens are on board with the plan. In statements made by local citizens interviewed on the matter, many feel that these are landmarks, which belong to the city of Baltimore and are part of the city’s lengthy history.

Of course, while the sale of American landmarks is a sad state of affairs, there is an ironic political wrinkle to the tale which is the root of much of the ire:

In preparation of the plan, Baltimore city mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has approached the city spending council asking for $46,000 in public funds towards consulting fees for appraisal of the historic sites.

As a student of American history and a champion of fiscal responsibility, I’ll be blunt and admit that this saddens me.

What do you think? Is this a creative form of raising revenue meant to spruce up the community, or a disappointing reality which addresses a deeper problem?

Regardless of personal opinion, it’s not a concept that is unheard of. The greatest cultural treasure and historic landmark in all of Cambodia, for example, is privately owned by a company based in Vietnam, the same country which militarily invaded and occupied Cambodia for nearly a decade.


{Image via Flickr user James Cridland}