I have a complaint. What a surprise. I just don’t understand why some people want to change Paradise. I suppose if they make it to heaven, they’ll be switching out the pearly gates for low maintenance fiberglass and changing the gardens to plastic!
In my own neighborhood these days some terrible changes have been taking place. We have a historic district that is cared for by the historic district commission. Within that district are a few houses built before it was designated historic. These were not faithful reproductions, but acceptable. Over the last thirty years, through the building booms, a few rear lots and approved building lots appeared that kept the neighbors and the commission busy and worried. Builders and newcomers wanted to build and live on our lovely, historic street. I completely understand wanting to reside in such a picturesque place, and we welcome any sensitive, like minded folk. Two centuries ago there were many more houses here that were lost during the days of the Depression, it would be great to have them back. Or let them come to restore some of the homes that have been neglected and need restoration. Come, love this place as we do, help restore, enjoy and protect it.
But that is not what most newcomers have in mind. Someone please explain to me why these folks don’t understand what it is that drew them here in the first place. It is right under their noses – wood clapboard houses, small paned windows, brick center chimneys, brownstone steps, split rail fences – how easy is that? So simple.
These people need a lesson in seeing. As in art – it’s about seeing. Everyone should take a drawing or painting class at some point in their lives to learn to see. It’s amazing how much is missed when you don’t. In this case, one of the folks who built here, just one house removed from the historic district, saw a beautiful neighborhood but apparently missed every detail that made it special – and built herself an Arizona ranch! Yes, big windows, stucco walls, flat roof. Another, fortunately for them but unlucky for us, came in before the district was designated – and built a raised ranch. Lord help us. Mother nature cracked its foundation twice as they were building – she was on our side! – but as man is apt to be stubborn – he fixed it.
A more recent newcomer purchased an old timer’s reproduction home, that had weathered nicely over time and had a good stand of old tree growth and lush landscape. He proceeded to replace the front door with a mission style/modern door, placed plastic domes over his basement windows and moved his electric meter smack in front of the house! Guess he likes looking at electric meters? Then proceeded to devastate the picturesque landscape, strafed it, cut down all the old growth trees, opening it up to the surrounding neighbors properties – so it now looks like a bomb hit it. (and the neighbors wish it had). He plans to build a ranch house on the lot behind (approved long ago). Unfortunately, historic district commissions cannot dictate the style of house, only its materials and try to assuage the details. Now why would someone with these intentions move into such a place? Why would anyone want to upset their neighbors, destroy a neighborhood, thumb their noses at the past? It is ironic that the very thing that draws them here, they do not see or understand, and thus proceed to destroy. The neighborhood is forever changed.
The changes are insidious. Decorative cornices are removed to make way for low maintenance aluminum. Wood clapboards removed for low maintenance vinyl. True divided lite windows replaced with vinyl and snap in grills. Wood or slate roof shingles replaced with black asphalt. It goes on. Even wood split rail fences are being replaced with fiberglass!
I want to live in an old sepia photo taken in 1910. I want to walk down around the bend on that dirt road that leads to the big crooked house with the well out front and the giant elm spread over it. I want to live in a house that nature can take back any time and not leave a trace. I like living in a real world. It may be less convenient, but not by much. An extra sweater in winter, a bit more elbow grease in maintenance, a floor that leans this way or that, but overall a much more human experience. I look out my window, through the wavy glass held together by muntin bars fashioned by a craftsman’s hand, and I see the tree they came from. I think of the floors it gave us, the paneled walls, the corner cupboard, the kitchen table, the salad bowl. The bricks for the chimney came from the clay under the ground by the stream. How can you not be moved by this?
If only the sensitive would move into these peaceful places, I guess we’d have found Paradise. Perhaps that is not to be, but we must keep trying. We must educate them. We need to teach them at an early age, to open their hearts to the past, and open their eyes to see.