Reader asks, “How can we build our future if we demolish our past?”
I had to see for myself. I knew the building was going to come down. I didn’t want to watch it, but of course I couldn’t draw my eyes away.
I had spent 11 years of my childhood in the building performing with the Wolf River Theatrical Troupe. The years that I spent with the troupe in that building set me on my life path. All of those emotions and memories were flooding through me when I realized that over the sounds of the demolition and the machines, I could hear other people cheering as the brick facades were pulled down.
I could not understand why people were cheering. Did they not understand that we were losing another piece of New London’s history? Some of you reading this will remember others that met the same fate – The Elwood Hotel, Pichelmeyer’s Drug Store, Cristy’s Department Store.
Why does this continue to happen? What difference does it make if an old building comes down? We can’t grow as a city if we continue to tear down the structures that support the growth of our businesses. A new business can’t open on green spaces and parking lots alone.
All of us (Wolf River Theatrical Troupe members) who worked in that building fully realized that the structure was failing. The Troupe did not have the funds to renovate. A buyer from outside the city was found. The business of that buyer was to purchase, repair and lease back. That did not happen here.
Perhaps the structure was too costly to repair. So the decision was made to raze the building. That’s understandable.
Could the next step have been saving items from these buildings that reflect the history? The Troupe attempted several times to contact the present owner to receive permission to remove things from the building (for example, tin ceilings, chandeliers, iron work, lighting, and artwork) but there was no response. I believe recycling these items back into our community could have been a great compromise. Thankfully, during the writing of this letter, two of the paintings were salvaged and returned to the artist.
As I watched, I also heard from other people on the street; their own concerns about what was being destroyed. I knew I wasn’t alone in my thoughts. Can there be a plan to address future treatment of our remaining historical buildings? Where are the parameters to stop someone from destroying history in our town?
Other communities have these parameters in place including Clintonville, Shawano, Tigerton, Ripon and many others throughout the state. There should be guidelines concerning changes or demolition to our historic buildings. There should be a committee specifically set up for that purpose. Conservation of existing buildings and neighborhoods may help counter the disinvestment, decline, and socioeconomic problems of older urban and rural communities.
The building is gone; my memories remain.
Come on New London, how can we build our future if we demolish our past?