Camden Herald letters, Sept. 6, 2012
To Demolition or Salvage
Camden's gorgeous — so gorgeous we were voted #1 in Down East's September issue. People come from the world over to sail our bay, eat our lobsters, and relish our beautiful New England architecture. We're famous for it all.
And if they get here quickly, they can see the Frye house. Before it's torn down.
Yes, it's coming down — the most classic 19th century, working person's Maine house with attached barn on the street — its lovely demeanor a given on the corner of Frye and Chestnut for 13 decades.
Not any more. On August 21 neighborhood residents received a letter informing them that, due to it being "too lightly built" and "too new for salvage", new owners were demolishing it. Included was a drawing of her replacement — a random contemporary, matching in no way any historic building there.
Too lightly built? It's stood for over a century, nothing falling off.
I live across the street, thankful each day for how she gracefully anchors the block, standing vigil over time. And for decades I've been connected to the family whose ancestors build and lived in it.
Many remember Peggy Babcock. In the 1700s her family settled North Haven, then Camden. It was her grandparents who, on "October 28 commenced to build our house" and who, on "May 28, 1883 came in it to live." He was boat Captain Fred Frye, and part-time livery stable owner we were told. They were just one family, living out their small town lives in their vibrant community. Long after they were gone their house would stand, her elegant lines a legacy to the town. Not to be.
One of 91 designated properties and districts under 'The National Registry of Historic Place Listings in Knox County, Maine' is "The Chestnut Street Historic District." It goes right by the Frye descendants — about what we are lucky to have here. And what we continue to lose because we don't protect our buildings.
When people wee told the house was going, reactions were unified: "But WHY!?" "They can't do that! — it's a historic building." "That cant' happen in Camden!"
No one seemed to know that it could.
No one on this block wants this to happen; tourists had only shocked regret to express. But as one local said, "If you want to preserve a building in this town, you have to buy it." What a sad statement.
Would new town protections be unwelcome? All the local folks asked were upset too and many had their own sad tales of loss. Control need not exclude nor entitle. It should be about what we want our town to be, what we want to leave to those who come after us. Keeping our historic buildings is preserving what we say we care so much about and leaving beauty and continuity for others — core human values, not superficial trappings. Isn't it time the town woke form our neglect to what so many places protect? Do we want to look back and say, "What did we do!!?"
I'm sick about this. But all I can do is speak for the old homes of Camden.
So make it quick. Take one last look at Fred and Clara's. Check out the way you feel when you look at it, then notice how you feel when you look at new construction nearby. Take in the graceful porch and its sweet acorn braces. Look at the setting sun bouncing off the old livery stable door. And relish one last time the roses in the arching, etched glass panels of the front doors. It's all going.
But what a sight and gift such a building would have been to someone walking this street in 2099!
I'd give anything not to lose it.
So I end with asking: can anything come out of this tragedy?
I have an idea; let's vote in some changes now toward real architectural protection.
At long last.
Lisa Gray Millimet
The house at 58 Chestnut Street is going to be torn down and a more modern house put in its place. The house has stood many years..since the 1800s.
What an injustice.
Another piece of Camden’s heritage is now in danger. Neighbors have been notified that the new owners of 58 Chestnut Street have “determined that the present structure is too lightly built to be considered for renovation.” This is Captain Frye’s house on the corner of Chestnut and Frye Street. It has been there for 130 years, through the 1938 hurricane and 130 Maine winters.
Chestnut Street has generally been lucky over the years. Most of the houses up the street have been preserved by new owners, with alterations taking place on the rear while the street side has been largely left alone. As a result, it was the second area of town after High Street to be recognized as worthy of inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Being on the Register, however, offers no protection from the actions of private owners. Local historic preservation ordinances are needed for that, and Camden’s does not extend to private buildings.
The new owners propose a shingled cottage that, however attractive it might be in a rural setting, is not in character with the rest of the street. The house that’s there is a classic white clapboard town house with a porch that speaks of the days when porches were for sitting and greeting passersby, and building a house was an act of citizenship, demonstrated by a respect for local traditions.
The owners say they look forward to being “a part of the neighborhood.” If they continue with this plan, they will be, known as the people who tore down Captain Frye’s house.
A murder is about to be committed on the corner of Chestnut and Frye streets in Camden. The beautiful, historic house is about to be demolished by new owners who never made their intentions known to the previous owners. This is a tragedy for many parties including the descendents of Peggy Babcock whose family built the house. It is also devastating to the the block and the beautiful town of Camden. Can there not be some protection for houses like this which are so important to the look and feel of our town?
The house the new owners intend to erect has no relationship to the architectural context of the street and the town. The design has nothing to do with the site....a corner and thus an anchor for the block. The proposed design is more in keeping with suburban neighborhood than with the historic Maine village of Camden.
Ironically, the house was extensively renovated by the previous owners who maintained the architectural integrity while modernizing. This house is in move-in condition.
The owners have received a demolition permit and, to date, intend to proceed with this travesty.
Please lend your voices to this issue. Maybe we can persuade the new owners to change their minds! And for the future, can we find a way to protect our towns historic houses?
I am absolutely appalled that the town of Camden has approved a demolition permit to destroy 58 Chestnut Street, the town's former livery stable, and my former residence. We recently sold our home on July 1, 2012, having no idea what the future residents had planned. Had we known, we surely never would have sold. One would think that the placard from the National Register of Historic Places on the outside of our former home and on most others on our historic street, would lend some sort of protection against this destruction of history in order to build a brand new, generic looking home with absolutely no historical relevance to our town, or neighborhood.
Apparently history matters little to the the board which approved this demolition, in spite of the fact that nearly every person who currently resides on Chestnut Street, even those in the newer homes, signed a petition asking to stop this demolition and to preserve this home in keeping with the history and appearance of the neighborhood. I'm not sure who this board represents in their vote to demolish 58 Chestnut Street. Surely not myself, my family, my son who was born in the home, nor anyone else who currently lives on Chestnut Street.
Former resident of 58 Chestnut Street
As my wife and I were taking our daily “dog walk” route down Chestnut Street yesterday, we became aware of the unbelievable news that the Frye house on Frye and Chestnut Street in Camden is scheduled for demolition.
We moved to Camden two years ago. We came to Camden because it was a beautiful harbor town with a great school system that clearly valued its architectural heritage and its history. Nothing typifies that heritage more, than a house like the Frye house, which is such an intrinsic part of downtown Camden’s historic neighborhood. The house is part of the story that’s told every time you walk or drive down Chestnut Street. Its a story of architecture and much more! It’s a story about the life of the people that have lived here and still live here.
I would plead with the new owners of the property to listen and respect the towns history, its architecture, and the feelings of the people who value the story that the Frye House has been part of - the story of a beautiful harbor town, the families that have lived there and an era of architecture.
This historic “Frye House” deserves to keep standing, providing beauty, shelter and heritage.
If we don’t to everything in our power to prevent this wonderful historic house from being torn down, every time in the future we pass by its space on Chestnut Street, we will feel ashamed of our apathy.
WMD in Camden Harbor?
Perhaps that would have been a more appropriate caption for last week’s article “USS Normandy to visit Camden Windjammer Festival” where you noted that this Navy vessel carried “guns…missiles, plus other weapons.” Other weapons indeed. The Navy neither confirms nor denies its nuclear capabilities.
The irony of ironies is that the ferry boat shuttling the children of our community for this holiday tour is named Pied Piper. Is this the purpose of the Windjammer Festival? To recruit children and lead them down the path of mutual self-destruction? As an early childhood educator I would hope that the planning committee would reconsider.
Spindlewood Waldorf Kindergarten
On Labor Day weekend, Camden celebrated its Windjammer Festival, and there were many things to celebrate at this community led celebration of Camden's maritime heritage. However there was one ominous note to the festivities: docked offshore the USS Normandy (CG-60), a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser, was available for public tours. This warship is armed with naval guns, and anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine surface-to-surface, and anti submarine warfare. The cruiser was the 1st U.S. warship since 1945 to go to war on her maiden cruise. In 1998 The Normandy was cited for "Most Tomahawks Shot by a U.S. Cruiser." It received several medals and 2 bronze stars for its' efforts in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm where it rained dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles into populated areas killing indiscriminately. It seems inappropriate that such a warship be offshore during a festival for "the whole family."
Warships like the USS Normandy should be dismantled not brought to public events where they are used as a recruiting tool to entice young men and women to join the navy. The money that is spent on these warships should be rerouted into social services and aid for the poor in our own country and around the world. It would be better not to have a warship at next years Windjammer Festival. The offshore presence fo a weapon of mass destruction really has nothing to do with the maritime heritage of this area and gives the wrong message to our young people. The survival of this and future generations depends on our collective ability to create a world of non-violence in which we resolve our disagreements in peaceful diplomatic ways. We must teach our children to work hard and work together in the same way that the sailors on the windjammers of old had to cooperate to survive. We must set aside the temptation of gunboat diplomacy in which we circle the world with warships.
We are not free because of these warships. Nuclear weapons and guided missile warships only enslave us to wars that never end. We have had too long a time for war. More children and other bystanders are crippled and killed than are military people in these wars. The numbers are unbelievable and the tears are endless. It is time to say no to war and to beat our swords into plowshares.
George & Mauree Kehoe-Ostensen
Update on Sage
After a reported sighting at the Union Fair on Friday, Aug. 24, the tracking dogs came back on Monday afternoon and confirmed that it WAS Sage's scent. The scent trail led to the banks of the St. George River, just up from Ayer Park in Union, and ended without finding Sage, and with sad news.
Sage was tracked to Ayer Park on Route 235 in Union. Then, the scent led to the banks of the St. George River, just a few hundred yards up the river from Ayer Park toward Round Pond in Union. Sadly, the tracking dogs indicated that here the scent was of her dead body. We would appreciate readers' help in her recovery. Please keep yours eyes open while anywhere on Seven Tree Pond, Round Pond and the St. George River between the ponds (her body could be anywhere because the currents and wind are variable).
After this 3 month-plus long journey by Sage, it is hard for us to accept/believe that she was OK Friday night and gone by Monday morning. However, this is the best information we have. While very sad and hard to bear, this information does help lead us to a path of resolution.
However, to be honest, if her body is not found, there will always a glimmer of hope that she may still appear. If by some miracle, the tracking dogs are wrong and she made it out of the river, eyes on the surrounding areas are also helpful. Please call immediately with any information.
Gail & Fred Ribeck
Sage hotline only: 207-390-0078
This election is a choice between;
- Class Warfare OR Self Reliance and American Independence?
- Crushing Tax Rates like European countries OR Smaller Federal government?
- Allowing our nations’ “safety net” programs to go bankrupt OR
Shrinking the number of folks on these programs by putting them on a path to prosperity and strengthening these “safety nets” for those who truly need them.
You see, the Obama campaign is already spending tens-of-millions of dollars to distract voters from the real issues by distorting the facts.
….Before you Vote, ask yourself the real question?
“Are we better-off or worse-off after 4 years of President Obama?
I say, Mr. President, Fool me once — shame on you!
Fool me Twice — shame on me!
We must replace the Obama administration with the Romney/Ryan Team and get back to the Constitution.