This morning I saw an episode of an HGTV reality show. A couple with too much money—by which I mean way more money than I have—invest in a resort property for the rental market. Essentially, they are able to afford a second home by having renters pay for it during the “high season.” The target area was Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border.
The host (whose name I never quite learned) and his clients inspected three candidate properties, none of which had the necessary level of Tahoe-ness—whatever that may be. The clients chose a a down-on-its-luck example from the 1960s, wherein and on the host applied a chalet entry porch, faux beams of distressed wood, and other rustic touches said to be characteristic of that region. I flashed back to a Fargo parallel of the 1970s.
At the southwest corner of Broadway and N.P. Avenue there was a men’s clothing store (whose name escapes me) that had a going-out-of-business sale, closed its doors and was promptly remodeled as “Old Broadway.” The interesting thing for a budding preservationists like myself involved the removal of everything in the essentially intact interior sales area and its replacement with imported historical artifacts that may well have come from a warehouse in Milwaukee or Omaha or Newark, for that matter. All of the interior surfaces—bead-board wainscoting, wallpaper, pressed-metal ceilings, hexagonal toilet flooring, etc. and, of course, nothing to do with the actual history of Fargo’s central business district and everything to do with the nostalgia then popular with twenty-somethings. In the 70s, we preferred a homogenized pseudo history for the real thing. And, of course, that faux history is a shifting target that changes with each generation.
This afternoon on MPR’s talk channel, there was a piece on the rebuilding of New Orleans and the remarkable phenomenon that restauranteurs are playing in that process. Here, also, Katrina had created a situation where the synthetic could all too easily have supplanted the authentic. Yet The Big Easy had resisted that trend. Instead, former neighborhood haunts survived, reborn through the persistence of their owners for the expectations of the clientele. Friends and neighbors they and been; friends and neighbors they remain. And the benefits accrue to rest of us. I, for one, look forward to a chance to revisit New Orleans for the first time since 1972! And, of course, I’m curious what the authentic-versus-synthetic dichotomy has to do with Agincourt.
- not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
- having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified: an authentic document of the Middle Ages; an authentic work of the old master.
- entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy.
Authenticity, coincidentally, has been my goal for Agincourt, itself a synthetic community based on the circumstances of its time and place. This ersatz essay can only pose the question: How is Agincourt substantially different from the Tahoe-fication of a weekend place in Nevada?