A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sad Fire

I hear sirens all the time from my house, but I don't think much of it. I'm only two blocks from both the police and fire headquarters, and emergency vehicles on their way to just about anywhere in the city start off right in my neighborhood. A siren doesn't necessarily mean that anything is going on nearby.

Yesterday morning, however, when I walked the dog, I discovered that the fire trucks I'd been hearing during the night were bad news for the Armoury-Quadrangle historic district. A beautiful home around the corner from me at 25-27 Elliot Street was severely damaged, and a firefighter injured as well.

This home was built in 1872, a year after mine, in the same style. It's a second-Empire style Victorian with slate mansard roof. Originally built as a duplex for Charles Blackstone and Peter Bailey, it was owned for years by Rita McGinnis, an cool octogenarian who sold it only recently when she married. The new absentee owner, Marjorie Fallon of Wellesley, had a bit of it rented out, but didn't give it much TLC.

I spoke with the owner of the Alexander House next door. His place, which gets plenty of TLC although he lives on the Cape, was thankfully not damaged by the fire, although he's got a soggy yard and cellar, and a trampled garden. He says the prospects for rebuilding the Blackstone-Bailey House are dim. Mrs. Fallon had told him the house was riddled with termites anyway and that the bricks were soft (??!). He sounded sorrowful.

If the house comes down, what will take its place? As the land sits right next to the new federal courthouse, it's probably too valuable to remain empty. It's in a local historic district, supposedly the most protected status, but so what. The courthouse is as well, and there's nothing historical or historical-looking about it. So what's to prevent a raised ranch, a Butler building or a Sunglass Hut from coming in? In this city, probably nothing.

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