I know that people like to frame the debate as “for or against”. You know, either you’re with us or you’re against us. Any kind of dissent means you disagree with everything and therefore have no valid input to the issue. The flip side of that is that if you support something, anything that can be construed as being in the best interest of that goal has to be above reproach. It’s team sports-101.
The mantra is that after we spend a few million on BMH, it will be good for another 100 years. On the other side of the debate we see it as a black hole that will always need more work and will suck us dry over time. If we could get the army of 1890’s skilled laborers that built the place to go back at it, we might have a chance. But the reality is that there are few craftsmen left and none that will be low-bidders for any BMH work. Let’s look at a few recent examples:
Here are the nice period looking light poles that someone thought would make the place look good. They have leaned over at a 5º angle. Is there anyone around that can put a pole in plumb?
That probably seems a little picayune. Remember those new ramps and rails?
Here’s a better example. Remember the big spruce up project three or four years ago? The “Romeo and Juliet” balcony was falling down so some restorationist guy volunteered to completely rebuild it. Remember the thing being apart all summer and finally looking great after a few months work? Here it is today. Notice how it’s sagged away from the building and is rotting where the deck attaches to the building. You have to have a serious water problem to get something to rot that fast. Romeo oh Romeo, catch me when this thing falls down.
This is the kind of stuff we can see, and not too hard to understand. Crooked poles, rusted railings, rotting balconies. What about the things we don’t see? Do you really think that after dumping millions into this place we can expect to have a low maintenance budget?
If you took one of those tourists who supposedly come here to see the place, stood out front and asked them to tell you what’s brand new about the place, do you think they would point out the light poles, or the railings, or the balcony? How about if you asked them what was original? Most of those things could pass.
If you want an example of something that was done right, look no further than the Cate Park bandstand. Built with private donations and overseen by people who wanted that investment to last, the place still looks great after more than a decade of being exposed to the elements.
The inflammatory rhetoric has it wrong. We don’t want to bulldoze BMH. We just have reservations about committing to a Taj-Mahal town office building based on it. I don’t know about you, but when I throw my money away, I like to choose the hole to throw it down.