An event that occurred about a year ago reminded me today of just how little the City of Amarillo seems to care about preserving history.
Last year, during the downtown festival, the City of Amarillo chose to park golf carts on the site of the historic Madam Queen train. The site was used as outdoor storage for the festival. Ironically enough, while the City found the site useful for providing storage, they did not find the site important enough for historic preservation.
The fact that the City of Amarillo used the historic site as outdoor storage sparked concerns from many within the train preservation community. This was seen as a slap in the face to those who have been promoting preservation of the historic locomotive for years.
Today, the state of historic preservation is still poor in Amarillo. The City of Amarillo cares more about advancing political agendas than preserving historic sites in Amarillo. For example, one of the oldest buildings in Amarillo was just recently torn down to make way for a baseball park. And, more recently, the City pulled security support for a parade that has been ongoing in Amarillo for 94 years.
The City of Amarillo also owns another historic site that is currently in grave disrepair. The Liberty Theater has been a target for those hoping for preservation for years, but the City seems more intent on using the site as political capital than actually promoting restoration. For example, the historic theater was rolled into a $22 million bond proposition in 2016, for an issue that included little in the way of historic preservation, in the hopes of forcing a "for" vote on that particular bond. Since that issue did not pass, the City has let the site suffer and has blamed the public for not passing the bond to provide funds to restore the theater. This is also extremely sad, as a major proponent of restoring the theater, Keith Jones, just passed away.
Many of these sites in Amarillo and across the area could be saved the private sector. However, in cases like the Liberty Theater and the Santa Fe Depot, the City of Amarillo is still attempting to leverage the sites as political capital. Local government entities have also shown a willingness to prioritize certain areas, like downtown, over tourist attractions like Route 66 and important historic sites in North and East Amarillo.
The City of Amarillo needs to get out of the way and let the community save these historic sites. If we let these sites fade away in the name of "progress," then we will have done Amarillo and future generations a major disservice.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief