The Martha’s Vineyard Commission sent a sharp message when it fined the owners of the Mill House $100,000 for demolishing a piece of history without approval, but it remains to be seen how well the message will stick.

The sad truth is that for some it is easier to pay a penalty than to go through what is seen as a time-consuming and expensive historic review process.

The Island’s warm embrace of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and the Vineyard Trust attests to the community’s respect for history, but it’s a lot easier to love antiques when preserving them is someone else’s responsibility. Historic preservation bylaws are too often seen as a burden on homeowners rather than an opportunity to discover untold stories and to integrate the old with the new.

As the chairman of the Tisbury historical district Harold Chapdelaine told the Gazette, the real tragedy of the Mill House is not simply that it was razed, but that it was done without a full review and catalog of its historical assets. One can imagine a thorough review might have highlighted unique architectural features that might have been saved even as the house was renovated to accommodate a 21st century lifestyle.

Historic preservation itself needs a public relations makeover, and the demolition of the Mill House could be the needed catalyst.

The MVC has directed that $25,000 of the penalty imposed on the Mill House owners to be used to create a more thorough database of historic houses in Vineyard Haven. The other $75,000 is to go the museum for an exhibit and studies of historic homes and people on the Island.

That’s a start. But more work needs to be done to persuade people of the benefits of historic preservation and more incentives need to be found for rehabbing old structures. Fines alone won’t change behavior.