Preservation is more than saving;
it’s also about maintaining livability
To the Editor:
I was motivated to write in response to your stories about granting historic status to a property on Grampian Way, and the companion piece examining historic houses in Dorchester. When you followed these stories a week later with a piece about the future of the Strand Theatre, and the distressed Fowler-Clark Farm Mattapan property, I was really pleased to see stories that illuminate the range of examples that fall under the banner of preservation.
Dorchester’s rich history is evident in its built environment; examples can be seen in every neighborhood. But preservation is about more than saving old buildings; it’s also about protecting the character of neighborhoods and maintaining the elements that make them livable. So it is vitally important for neighborhoods dealing with development pressures to engage in a thoughtful process about what gets built.
It is very hard to persuade a developer or a public official to ignore today’s bottom line for tomorrow’s benefits, primarily because they don’t have to live day to day with the results. But it is in the interest of people of good will who have made an investment in a neighborhood and set down roots there to protect their investment.
When a developer pitches a plan to build an over-sized, cheaply made apartment building and uses the argument that “it’s better than what’s there now,” not only is this approach an insult to any reasonably intelligent person, but it also reveals a complete disregard for the people who live in the neighborhood, and a failure to understand what makes a place livable.
What constitutes livability is made up of many intangibles, but like so many things in life, you know it when you have it.
Livability includes such elements as a reasonably uniform streetscape. Size and scale are often jettisoned in an attempt to squeeze more apartments or condominiums into a building, and the only interest that serves is to generate maximum profits for the developer. Then there are the additional cars that come with all those new units.
When you don’t have a driveway, the ability to find a place to park within walking distance of your home without circling the block for an extended period of time falls under the category of livability. Just ask your friends in South Boston what a horror this aspect of life has become.
And there are worse outcomes: it’s bad for everyone if sections of the neighborhood end up as profit centers for absentee landlords.
Making choices about new construction is the way a community reflects its values. Too often, civic associations confronted with a proposal from a developer feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. No one is happy when there’s a vacant lot or a crumbling eyesore in the neighborhood. Neighborhood groups often toil many hours engaging in the under-appreciated and thankless task of serving as gatekeepers for the greater good, giving freely of their time and energies to make decisions without benefit of the professional architects and builders that a well-heeled developer can bring to the table.
While they know from the get-go that they aren’t on a level playing field, there are groups who have worked to define the parameters for new construction in their neighborhoods, and who understand that in this economy, developers are like buses – wait 20 minutes and another one will come along. The developer who shares the vision established by neighborhood groups is the one whose project will get approved.
This, too, is another definition of preservation – the act of keeping safe or free from harm or decay; to protect or prevent.
Boston Street, Dorchester
Savin Hill house should be preserved
To the Editor:
Thanks for your recent articles highlighting both the successes of the historic preservation in Dorchester, focusing on the Pierce house and the Clapp/Blake houses, as well as the challenges, as evidenced by the controversy over preservation designation for the George Wright/Tomasini house in Savin Hill.
As a Dorchester Historical Society (DHS) board member, I am pleased with our progress in preserving the Clapp and Blake houses and it is always great to spread the word! But I am also concerned about the pressures on other worthy relics from our past.
The immediate issue with the George Wright house is its preservation based on its association with the noted athlete and sports entrepreneur, but it is also important that people recognize and honor Dorchester buildings of architectural significance that, by their very existence, teach us about life in Dorchester past. The George Wright house qualifies on both accounts.
Christopher C. Binns, Dorchester
DHS board member
Buildings help preserve our history
To the Editor:
I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to call awareness to the potential loss of two more historic Dorchester buildings. As a member of the Dorchester Historical Society, I know this area has an incredibly rich history that has been eradicated for decades by developers with no other concern than their own wallets. Teaching residents about their surroundings can only help in the fight to preserve the little history we have left.
Mr. Robin Allsop
Wilbur Street, Dorchester
To the Editor:
I want to commend you and the Reporter for your highlighting of the historical homes and communities within Dorchester and Mattapan. As a board member of the Dorchester Historical Society we recognize that many important homes and landmarks were lost when our community was not fighting for or seeing these important historical sites.
Your regular reporting has been significant in bringing out the facts, and helping all of Dorchester see how we live today on the shoulders and leadership that Dorchester residents have had in local, city, state, and national growth and development for over 300 years.
Recently, I have been learning about my ancestor, Captain John Kendrick, who was the captain of ships Columbia and Mary Washington as our country was forming between 1776 and 1794. And the Chinese trade route was established from Boston to western coast to Hawaii and China and back.
Keep up the great work the Dorchester Reporter is doing.
Rev. Dr. Bill Loesch
Brent Street, Dorchester