Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Demolition of Grandma's House

Shown above is the work of local artist, Scott Brough. . I know Scott. I love his work. He paints the spirit of old and disappearing place like no other I know. You can't paint a picture of an old House or barn and do it complete justice unless you love the subject. We artists are just that way. We need to be personally vested to get the creative juices flowing. It shows in his vast work that he loves what he paints, there is a personal attachment to the subject. This Guy gets it.
I arrived at work one morning to find a newspaper article on my desk. The ladies that I work with know my fondness for old houses and more to the point their preservation. I was saddened as I read this article to find that another Old house had fallen prey to progress. If that wasn't bad enough. it was Scott's Grandmother's house. I hurt for him and his family as read of the demolition of Grandma's house. Read below what Scott had to say about this.

The Demolition of Grandma's House.
By Scott Brough

I grew up in Kaysville and have always believed that my hometown was a unique and very special place rich in history. My grandmother's home was like a jewel, located in the center of town. It was an historic red brick home with beautiful stained-glass windows, gables and a bar tile roof.Giant walnut trees gave the house perpetual shade and made hot summer days cool and comfortable. The original part of the house was built in 1903. Grandma always had her eye on the beautiful home and when it eventually came up for sale in 1928 my grandparents bought the property.

As a young man growing up I have had many choice memories there along with my siblings and numerous cousins. To everyone I knew grandma's house was the heart of Kaysville. We couldn't leave grandma's house without a hot loaf of bread or a jar of homemade jam in hand.
I was nine when Grandma passed away and I remember when Kaysville city bought the house from the family. We all watched as the house slowly became neglected and gradually fell into disrepair over the next three decades. Even though the house was no longer in prime condition, it was always grandma's house and we all hoped that it would some day be saved and restored.

As a fine art painter living in Davis County, I travel to many locations in search of older buildings as subject matter. Like many of my artist colleagues I am finding that these places are becoming increasingly harder to find. It has become a trend for communities to allow the destruction of virtually any old building.I find this to be extremely disturbing. In my work I see many beautiful old structures which endear me even though the building may be previously unknown to me. Any old structure has a unique history and profound significance regardless of your personal attachment. It doesn't matter if it is a place you know well and have a personal connection with. The value is still there.

I fear we are destroying ourselves whenever an old building is torn down. With each demolition a piece of us dies. These old structures are the physical manifestation of our heritage and the heart and soul of our communities. It is who we are. There are many more proactive communities around the world that realize this principle and cherish their historical structures. Those communities are loved and visited by travelers around the world solely because of the wealth of historical old buildings. Just because it is old does not mean we should throw it away.
On Wednesday, Aug. 25, I watched with many of my cousins and other family members as Kaysville city demolished Grandma's 107-year-old home. They did this in concert with the demolition of the Gailey home (the original Kaysville telegraph office) built in 1858, located a few hundred feet away, and on the heels of the demolition of the historical Boy Scout cabin a couple of weeks earlier. They said that Grandma's house was "in the wrong location," or "too far gone to be saved".

Jared Taylor, city councilman, called it a "danger and a liability." Another city official, Ally Isom made the claim: "The value is not in the wood, the floor and the rock; it is in the people that were involved over the years." I wonder what citizens of certain older European communities would think of Ms. Isom's sentiment. I'm afraid that my hometown is no longer the special and unique place I once knew. It's not at all like the "city of distinction" as is stated on Kaysville's website and welcome signs as you enter the city limits. Kaysville city is now becoming a common town, just like any other.

A piece of me died that day and the heart of Kaysville is no longer with us.
I strongly believe that we are headed in the wrong direction in regard to what we value. Each of us is the product of our community's history and we must pass our heritage on to our posterity. It is our obligation to be the caretakers of one of the most important elements in our towns and cities: our old buildings and structures. Anything less is irresponsible.
Some would claim that the demolition of old buildings is necessary for the sake of progress. I argue that the opposite is true. Once a piece of history is destroyed it can never be replaced. The damage already done to our community by shortsighted city officials will forever impact generations to come.

Cutting out the soul of our towns and depriving our posterity of meaningful structures is a mad dash away from progress. These irreplaceable historical locations need to be vigorously fought for, preserved, and maintained for future generations to enjoy and marvel. It is who we are.
Brough lives in Syracuse.

Cities need to identify the treasure they have, and protect them. Offer tax incentives to people to renovate and preserve. Demolition is not always the answer. Houses can be moved. I posted awhile back about a house in LA that had been moved three times. There are people that want these old houses. I would rather see a house moved to a new location, than to see it moved to a landfill. These houses, or other old building for that matter, once they are gone, they can not be replaced. Fine talk for someone in my profession that recreates the past. I will be the first to admit that you can't recreate all aspect of an old building. The soul is something you can not recreate. That soul is created over time, not by reproduction.

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