“Palimpsest preservation” suggest the necessity of keeping the successive layers of urban form alive rather than simply effacing and rebuilding, for that keeps a city’s history alive. No city without a tangible, tactile history, without the capacity for denizens and visitors to reach into the past while experiencing the present, can be truly vital. But this is a contested approach. George Orwell’s 1984 offers a warning in the guise of a party slogan: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Preservationists may advocate on historical, architectural, or cultural grounds, but the final decision on designation is political. Preservation is essential for the health of the city, and the nation, for it preserves ideas, experience, and values no less than buildings and places. Maintaining a dialogue between past and present is essential for a citizen’s sense of identity. The article uses examples from New York City, including the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire, the Carnegie Libraries, Tin Pan Alley, and the Greenwich Village townhouse that was destroyed by the Weather Underground.