Letters, Sept. 7, 2017

Sep 07, 2017

Must be another way

At a recent vote by the Congregational Church members in Brooks, a nearly unanimous decision was made to tear down the historic Rose House Inn, which also has served as a parsonage for 30 years. Opened in 1875, the house has had quite a history and is the last of the surviving inns. The original sign, purchased and donated by the former minsters of the Congregational Church, Charles and Janet Heslam, now hangs in the Pilley House Museum. The Rose House Inn still stands as a tall, proud sentry to greet travelers entering the village from Belfast.

I have great respect and fondness for these church members, but I and others in the town disagree with the decision. Many townspeople don’t even know yet about their decision, as non-members were not told of the meeting and were given no voice in the matter. True, the church owns the house and has the right to decide the fate of the historic house.

My mother, Betty Littlefield, served as the first president of the newly formed Brooks Historical Society from 2003 to 2016. She was able to acquire the Pilley House for a museum and wrote the grant to acquire funds to build the Menard timber-framed barn. Yet she only heard of the demolition plans two weeks ago, alerting me to the fate of the Rose House! The empty lot is to become a parking lot. At a time when small villages across Maine are trying to save historic buildings, it is disappointing to think a parking lot takes precedence over a historic property!

The small congregation is aging and I concede that taxes, insurance and maintenance are too expensive for the church. Wouldn’t tearing down the building will be pricey too? Doing the groundwork and the paving of the parking lot will also be costly. Then there will be plowing and maintenance expenses. There has somehow been enough parking in the past 50 years. True, more parking would be nice for a wedding, funeral, or a supper event. But how aesthetically pleasing is a parking lot?

Why not consider selling the house for approximately $50K, including an easement in the deed (on the right boundary line), to park 15 or more cars perpendicular to the train tracks? Or could a quarter-acre be held back for parking? Some are concerned that a new owner might let the house become an eyesore. Certainly there is that risk, but a family with vision, energy, and improvement skills could make it the showplace it was 30 years ago. There may be buyers who do not need a bank mortgage.

The money from selling the house could be placed in a trust fund to assure the church and the Varney Building could be maintained in future years, even if the membership declined. And with the parking easement, a gain in parking would be realized.

Perhaps a well-advertised public meeting (through social media and newspaper articles) at the church would give others in town an opportunity to give voice to the controversy and other ideas could be shared. In the end, possibly the only solution logically is demolition. Once Rose House is gone, however, there could be remorse. Sadly, there is no turning back once it is torn down.

To a traveler, the appeal of any small village is really only as great as the well-maintained, charming old homes and businesses with a variety of architectural features. I’d like to think the Rose House could remain tall and proud, a welcoming site. I can imagine the trees, shrubs and gardens planted by the new owners. It may take them years to make all their improvements, completing projects each year. Isn’t that the way many Mainers fix up our homes?

There may be people working in Belfast looking to buy and remodel a home in a town such as Brooks, where prices would be affordable. The village has much to offer, and one cannot find better friends and neighbors anywhere!

I still believe that some church members have mixed feelings about demolition. Why not hold off on demolition to hear ideas from townspeople and those who are interested in preserving historic homes? Could there be other options for the home?

By the way, I do own a property in Brooks and have been a dedicated supporter of the Pilley House Museum since the day the key was passed to the Historical Society by Robert Eliot. Thus I cannot, with conscience, watch the Rose House be demolished without expressing my sadness and disappointment in the church’s decision.

Joni Mitchell sang in "Big Yellow Taxi," “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got 'til it’s gone, They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.” Written 50 years ago in 1967, the sentiment and logic remain true today. There must be another way!

Andrea Lucien

Old Town

Economies of scale

Recently my bathroom scale died. I didn't really care how much I weighed but how much I didn't. Off to Reny's and bought a Taylor digital scale complete with batteries for $15!  It was made in you know where. Started thinking, it would have cost at least three times that much if made here. Probably a former long-term employee of Taylor may have been making $30 an hour and now makes $10. So nothing has changed; he or she now makes a third as much and can buy a scale for a third as much. I'm not sure if they would be too happy with the equation.

Speaking of weight, a pound of hot dogs is now 14 oz., a quart of Gatorade is 28 oz., and when was the last time you weighed a bag of potato chips?

Peter Clifford

Northport

Hard workers

Donald Trump spent Labor Day at his New Jersey golf club, which requires another no-fly zone to be put in place over the area, at taxpayers’ expense. Meanwhile he opposes raising the minimum wage. He opposes trade unions. He seems to pander only to those employed by extractive, polluting industries. As of this morning as I write this letter, I’ve not heard a word from Mr. Trump that would inspire anyone other than those he favors on this Labor Day.

I’m a retired public school teacher who worked an average of 60 hours a week to meet the needs of as many as 150 middle school students. I’ve been a worker too.

I have many friends who have also been teachers, as well as people in the medical community whom I presume work as hard as I’ve worked. I know a number of people who work to promote clean, renewable energy as well as conservation of resources. They happen to be workers.

So many people are hard workers — but our president doesn’t seem to speak for them. He speaks for the upper echelons in our economy as well — the 1 percent who obviously must have worked harder than we have; otherwise they would not have amassed such wealth.

Beverly Roxby

Belfast

Earned it

In a great town like Belfast, one would expect several candidates to run for the spots on the City Council. It’s puzzling that, according to the last edition of The Republican Journal, only one person intends to run for the three places up for renewal.

Belfast seems to be flourishing, with a new farmer’s market on Saturdays and a new Crosby community center and the Front Street Yacht company, and young workers enlivening the streets. So why aren’t fresh faces presenting themselves to voters?

It could be that the grey eminences who have held office for up to a decade are doing such a fine job that no changes are needed. Or it could be that young people are afraid to try.

One young woman, however, is trying very hard to become Belfast’s mayor. Samantha Paradis has spent weeks going door to door, listening to constituents and creating energy in front of the election. She is smart and eager to serve the people of Belfast, and I hope she gets the chance to do so. She has earned it.

Charlotte Herbold

Belfast

 

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