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Let's find way to allow business growth & heritage preservation

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

I am writing this in response to Carole Polony's letter, dated January 30th, in which she offers her opinion about the current condition of the Hathaway House. In it, she states, "tearing it down would be wonderful, it's such an eyesore."

When we read of abused and neglected animals, we will admit to human neglect, and often owners are charged with that offense. Yet, when it comes to dilapidated buildings, we see no fault on our part. Perhaps the feeling is built into the human psyche that it is easier and far quicker to destroy a historic building rather than admit to any neglect on the part of humans. There is no doubt that a run-down building is a constant, nagging reminder of what we have not maintained, and we prefer not to be reminded of it.
Typically, preservation projects begin with the vision of a very small group of people. Often, the core group that begins the project remains the sole defender of a historic property — until the restoration is finished and the structure is restored to its former glory. It is only then that it becomes the pride of the entire community.

Laconia's Belknap Mill is a shining example of this type of vision and true determination — and great opposition. This preservation/restoration project began with four far-thinking businessmen: Peter Karagianis, Norman Weeks, Richard Davis, and Lawrence Baldi. During an era of urban renewal and little understanding of the need for historic preservation, these men encountered constant and massive opposition. In fact, the same words used by Ms. Polony were used in a letter to a local newspaper in 1973, and I quote, "If the Belknap Mill was fixed up ... it would still be a disgrace and eyesore ... they have better looking cow barns in Canada." Today, that "eyesore" is the scene of many happy wedding receptions, fourth grade field trips, endless cultural events, and is home to a one-of-kind industrial museum. The Belknap Mill Society, the non-profit organization that continues to preserve the mill, has won countless local, regional, and national awards for its preservation.
A more recent restoration that has taken place in Gilford possesses the same background. The Gilford Outing Club warm-up hut in Gilford is, for the most part, fully restored. Before its preservation, this historic structure was considered Gilford's eyesore. Thanks to the efforts of only a handful of local residents, the hut has become a favorite piece of the town's history. The property will see the addition of a state historic marker this spring, and the future contributions of the property are being discussed. More importantly, the building will be here for future generations as they learn about their heritage — and their ancestors.
It is important to note that nearly all restoration projects are performed by volunteers. These individuals ask for no paycheck, receive many insults along the way; yet, they remained focused on the goal. In the end, it is the community that receives the benefit of their hard work.
It is up to us to find a way to allow for both the growth of business and the preservation of our heritage. One does not have to happen at the expense of the other. Both can happen simultaneously, but we must first rise above calling a neglected building an eyesore.

Carol Anderson