Historic Preservation vs. Commercial Development

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Anyone who reads my blog regularly is aware that I am heartbroken each time I see an old building fall.   The aged Victorian above was torn down in the early 1980’s to make room for a parking lot for a pizzeria.  Many people in our little hamlet tried to save it, but the owner’s rights made its  destruction possible.   He claimed that it would cost too much to renovate the old house, which had once belonged to one of the founding fathers of our little community.  Closely adjoining the property is the burial vault for many members of the founding family of our community.  This property also became home to a member of our community who ran a small business in front of the house for years; his store was a gathering spot for neighbors, with gas pumps, ice cream, soup, sandwiches, and time for conversations — many memories were made here.  When the house was destroyed, the shop out front was renovated into a pizzeria, and the lot behind was vacant. 

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The pizzeria remained in business at the corner for a few years, changing hands at one point, until it was renovated into an upscale Italian restaurant — a lovely building with charm and delicious food.  Now, that business, too, has left, and the building has remained empty for a year or more.

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This property carries the essence of a great deal of history; memories abound for those of us who live here and those who grew up here.  Our little hamlet consists of a mile-long strip that has been designated a National Historic District.  The original homes of four members of the founding family are still lovingly cared for by their present owners, and the district itself is filled with lovely homes that were built during the 1800’s and early 1900’s.  The residents take pride in our beautiful historic treasures.  

Until now, there has been no large-scale development within our small district.  That is about to change; a developer is submitting plans for a bank and three rectangular 8-unit apartment buildings to be built on this historic lot.  And, of course, the residents of our quiet little community are going to do everything in our power to protect the history that has been lived out on this lot.  This is no place for a modern-looking development.  We have enough of that a half mile up the street — there is a roundabout, grocery stores, several banks, restaurants, and a multitude of apartment buildings, which took the place of woods and fields and pretty homes.  We do not need another bank; we do not need more apartments!

The problem we face is a daunting one.  Our town government has generally shown little interest in historic value.  It is more concerned with growing its tax base, and those apartments and a bank would  certainly provide more tax base.  We have to convince these officials there is something more important than money.  We have to show them that we love our quiet little historic district and the memories that people have carried with them as they moved on from the area.  We must come up with possible alternatives that might appease the town, while remaining true to the heritage of this plot of land.

We are all realistic; we know we face an uphill battle, because we have seen other old buildings and farms fall, as big box stores, shopping malls, and housing developments take their place.  This plot is actually located at the heart of our historic district; this is the corner where the original toll gate stood on the plank road that our forefathers traversed.  It is heartbreaking to think of a bank and apartments here.  Personally, I feel we have given enough to “progress” — the commercial area up the road a bit is our contribution to economic growth.  

Many of us who live here have spent the better part of our lives here.  These old houses and the neighbors who surround us make this a place where we are content.  Is it too much to ask that our town government consider our quality of life as they make their decision on this developer’s plan?  I’m certain alternatives can be found for this property which would be a good compromise between saving the historic flavor of our district and increasing the town’s coffers.

We are prepared to fight for what we love!! 

The Ghost of Valentines Past

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I was born a romantic at heart, and Valentine’s Day was the perfect holiday to fulfill my fantasies.  In school we decorated cigar boxes with pink paper and lacy white paper doilies, in anticipation of the cards we would receive.  We carefully picked out our cards and sorted through them for just the right one to give to each classmate.  Of course, there was always the horror of giving one that was a little too “lovey” to a boy who didn’t return our feelings.  Our mothers baked cupcakes and cookies with pink and white icing for our class party, and we opened our boxes and looked at all of the cards.  The teachers were careful to be sure that no one was left out — we were required to give one Valentine to each person in the class.  Sixty years later I can still remember the excitement and almost taste the party cupcakes and tiny candy hearts.

Those were innocent days; this year my romantic heart almost forgot that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching.   I am still reeling and a bit in shock from the election and inauguration of our new President, and becoming used to the uncertainty of the course our country will take.  I feel as if I am moving slowly through each day — completing all of my tasks, but not really completely “here.”  Alas, the holiday is almost upon us, and I am attempting to join in the anticipation of this most romantic holiday.  Today I searched for some little Valentine gifts for my grandchildren — the loves of my life — always a pleasant chore.  

However, if I am honest, as I look back over the years, the very best Valentine’s Days were those of my childhood, when my dreams were of being swept away by true love and living happily ever after.  Of course, we all know that is the stuff of fairy tales.  In reality, my romantic heart has been broken many times over, and my older self realizes that this holiday brings the pain of loss to many people.  There are those who will celebrate with champagne and roses, and quiet little dinners with their beloved, but there are also many who will be alone on this special day, having lost their loved ones or never found love, or who will be deliberately not celebrating this day of love, because their years together have left no reason to celebrate.

Somehow, though, when this holiday rolls around each year, a small part of me still holds on to that long-ago dream.  I picture a cozy table for two, with a white lace tablecloth, roses and lovely china, good wine, delicious food, and a face gazing lovingly into my own.  We romantics just never give up on the dream, I guess.  Through disappointments and heartbreak, we never stop believing that something wonderful will happen.   

May something wonderful happen to you this Valentine’s Day!!!

Farewell 2016

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The Christmas decorations have been tucked away, and the house is now filled with soothing shades of winter white and a touch of greenery, with candles to warm the dark, cold evenings ahead.  New Year’s Eve is upon us, and it is a day to look back on the year that is ending.  For many, it has been a difficult year.  Our world has seen more than its share of violence and dissension; the long months of election campaigning were unpleasant at best, and many of us are worried about the changes that are coming.  We lost many beloved celebrities, too many people met violent ends, and we mourn our personal losses of loved ones and friends.  For me it was a year filled with family issues and worries of my own and sadness for friends going through times of loss and illness.   I am not unhappy to leave 2016 behind.

Of course, as always is the case, there were many happy moments in our lives during this year.  Babies were born, weddings and birthdays were celebrated, and friendships provided both enjoyment and comfort to us all.  We enjoyed the pleasures of the seasons, time spent with loved ones, and the personal satisfactions we all treasure. The little grandchildren I have taken care of since infancy are now all school-aged and thriving, and I can enjoy the freedom of time for myself, time to pursue my own dreams.  There has been a great deal for many of us to be thankful for as we look back over the year.  

At this stage of my life, I view each year as a gift.  There are some years that bring more sadness than others, but often it is the most difficult years that require us to pause and give thought to what is really important and what needs to be done to make our private world, as well as the larger world, a better place.  2016 was one of those years for many of us.  Today is a day to revisit the struggles of the year past and look for the deeper meaning of it all.  

And then, tonight we can celebrate the beginning of 2017.  There is a blank slate of 365 days ahead in which we can do our best to positively influence our neighborhoods, our country, and our world in whatever ways we are able .  We can strive to be more informed, more involved, more kind, and to do our small part to make this world a better place.  We have no idea what this new year holds for us all, but let’s celebrate together tonight and hope that 2017 will be a better year — one where peace and hope abide.  

Whether you party the night away or quietly greet 2017 from your own living room,

Happy New Year to You All!!!

A Message of Christmas

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These three pieces are all that remain from the nativity set of my childhood, but I treasure them dearly.  I can remember holding that precious Baby Jesus carefully in my chubby hands when I was very little; now they remain behind my china closet doors to keep them safe from harm.  As I look at them — the praying mother Mary, the innocent lamb, and the peaceful Baby Jesus,  I feel serenity in my heart.

Serenity is not easy in this tumultuous world of ours.  Daily we are bombarded with photos of innocents wounded by war, terrorist attacks and mass shootings are becoming more frequent in our society, and the Presidential election this year has brought out the worst in us, as we spar back and forth on social media.  Divisiveness abounds as we look with suspicion on those of different races, colors, and religions.  We are living in difficult times.  

We must hold in our hearts the good that we do see — the photos of men digging by hand through the rubble of war to save each and every living being who is buried beneath the stones and concrete, the churches, synagogues, mosques and temples that open their doors to each other to forge friendships and promote understanding, the school playground where black, brown and white hands grasp each other in friendship.  

That little baby boy, born all those years ago in Bethlehem, grew into the Savior who taught us that the second greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” 

May we all hold that commandment in our hearts as we sit in church on this Christmas Eve, as we gather for dinner with family and friends on Christmas Day, and as we go about our lives each day thereafter. 

Merry Christmas and may peace be with you and yours 

 

 

Holiday Bliss

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While I savor all of the seasons, my most favorite is the mini-season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We have just enjoyed the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the delicious meal, and the time spent with family and friends, and today our thoughts turn to Christmas.  I have never been one to succumb to the Black Friday mania of shopping.  I am too impatient a soul to stand in lines for a bargain, when, most likely, I can find everything I need a bit closer to Christmas as retailers begin to drop their prices to move merchandise quickly.  That being said, this Black Friday morning I am sitting quietly in the light of winter dawn, reflecting on this season I love so much.

When my children were young (and I was younger), these few weeks were filled with frantic decorating, baking, shopping, family outings, and the general chaos of too much to accomplish in too short a time.  Now, however, my house is quieter and my days less hectic, and I have time to treasure the moments that compose this loveliest of holiday seasons.  I wasn’t preparing our Thanksgiving dinner at my house, so I was able to gather my decorations from their storage places and place them around this beloved home of mine.  The candles are lit in my front windows, the little tree is lovingly decorated and lit, and the house is filled with greenery, snowmen, St. Nicholas figurines, and much-loved old ornaments.  How warm and inviting this old house looks in its Christmas finery.  Today I will stop at a local garden shop for evergreen swags to tie around the porch posts.

Our limited retirement income has precluded the massive shopping trips and gift-giving of my younger years, but I still enjoy choosing gifts for my grandchildren.  No longer do I spend hours choosing beautiful wrapping paper and lovely ribbons to wrap gifts for everyone.  My little ones are much more interested in the gift than how lovingly it is wrapped.

I find that I have much more time to linger and savor the beauty of this season — the Christmas trees and Menorahs placed in small town gathering places, the holiday celebrations and house tours in local villages, the familiar carols, the scents of pine and bayberry and the aromas of Christmas baking, the warmth of a fire gently burning, gathering with friends and family for celebrations, and quiet teatimes with those dear to my heart.   And, of course, the highlight of this most sacred of seasons is the Christmas Eve service, when the lights are dimmed in church, candlelight is passed from one person to another and held ever so gently, as we sing Silent Night, and I once again feel the wonder of Mary as she looked down on her precious new baby, the Light of our World. 

No matter how busy your own days are, try to savor the special moments of this season!