Monday, February 4, 2008

Hi$tori¢a££¥ Important Architecture

Earlier, I started another journal entry by noting that my little slice of The Beach is referred to as "The Country." I may not have said "by Beachdwellers who like to go vroomvroomvroom on their post-1998 Harley-compatible motorcycles or pre-1998 Oldsmobuicks."

As tenement-denizens, cityfolk are assured that it is their birthright to enjoy a drive through the natty neighborhoods and sometimes stop at a roadside stand for a bag of turnips, in season. "Assured?" By whom?

By the Swampers who need them around in order to have somebody to grumble about.

That's what's called a symbiotic relationship. The cityfolk can envy the countryfolk their simple ways and big yards, and the countryfolk can complain about the cityfolk.

Nature is, indeed, perfect.

Recently though, a new and different invasive species has brought credit-enhanced and self-indulgent anthropogenic changes to South Dartmouth. Changes that are not met with cheer. Because the changes made are permanent and caused by the kind of cityfolk that don't bring Dunkin' Donuts and Burger King lunches.

"Monstrous." "Ludicrous, ridiculous." "A horror story." Just some of the noises emanating from locals reacting to what's usually done to chunks of American history down here.

The Dartmouth "martini glass" aid to navigation went down after James and Connie B spent $8.5 million to buy the land around it, plus a rumored $180,000 to "try" to "save" it. Well, at least they made an effort.

Edward and Dale M, of Washington D.C. (which already made them suspect), paid $6 million for (according to their lawyer, a "leaning, twisty, funky 42-room warren") they didn't want anyway. Two buildable lots, 25 acres. BostonGlobe photo of what was leftWhen they sought to demolish the old building, an outcry caused them to look into ways to preserve some of the history; there were rumors that they would keep the facade and rebuild inside, leaving at least the image of 300 years of history intact. Tales of John James Audubon and George Patton and champion Quansett Farm horsebreeding and other significant historical moments were shared throughout the media and at meetings. Surely feeling assailed by the family of the original owners, neighbors, historians, local, regional, and national preservation groups, the new owners did the only thing newbuilders can do: They waited the required period of time, spent what looked like a reasonable amount of money on a contractor who claimed mold damage and prohibitive costs, nodded and smiled, shook their heads gravely, and then tore it down and built their Tuscan villa or whatever the hell.BostonGlobe photo of what ended up(I, for one, am thrilled that directors of big private equity firms and multinational Trilateral-types are living near me. Because these guys usually know something about safe places to be for Amageddon and such.)

Long-time residents and those who appreciate historically significant structures usually float the following lifering: Buy the house, move it to a location far from the philistines, restore it on your own sweet timetable, and, erm, uh, I'm not sure what happens next. Because I know of two that were torn down before the option was ever seriously played and the one that actually did move, well, nothing much has happened to that place in two years. I live next door to it and, yes, I am aware of the grumbling about how the owner hasn't done anything and it all looks like crap.

This from people who can't pick up the tires off their own lawn.

The Tuckerman Farm (another award-winning-horse farm also known as Little Sunswick Farm) in Westport went down. The St. James Convent in Tiverton (the Church Estate I mentioned here) didn't even get that much thought before it went down.

And don't start with the "They bought the place, they can do what they want." "Private property is none of your business. It's private," or "It's unAmerican to deny someone the right to do with their stuff whatever they want, this isn't Communism, you know." Even the "Their house will be historically significant, too, some day."
I don't buy it.

But then again, I can't buy it.

It's usually a little out of my price range.

n.b. -- The Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust, Inc. (DHPT) will "protect and preserve architecturally and historically significant structures and sites located in Dartmouth and surrounding communities, through the acquisition of such structures and sites, and easement interests therein, through providing financial and technical assistance in connection with the preservation and restoration of such structures and sites, and through education and advocacy." So there's that.

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