A registered historic resident

By David Grima | Feb 05, 2020

People everywhere are panicking about getting coronavirus, the latest fiendish Chinese disease apparently obtained by drinking yellow Mexican beer.

A certain well-known pharmacist in Rockland told me he expected to be out of his current supply of the annual flu vaccine by the end of January because of a sudden increase in the number of people a-feared of the Coronathing which, he assured me, has no connection to flu.

Meanwhile, up at the Department of Labor, they've been handing out dust masks bought at Home Depot because all the medical masks in creation, normally available in drug stores, have been bought up by terror-stricken human beings.

My pharmacist informant also pointed out that the Corona-thing kills about 2% of those who are infected, while the death rate with flu is rather higher.

Never one to miss out on a good thing, my dear friend Lord Prez Trumpleton has announced plans to set up Trumpleton Medical University to train thousands of people (at exorbitant tuition rates, naturally) to treat sick people by using long forked sticks, tongs, drones, and other unique hands-off devices.

* * * * *

By the way, congratulations are surely in order to the Lord Prez for so easily dodging the Peach Mint. I find it impossible to believe there was a single sentient being in the United States who did not realize he would get away with it.

The next piece of fun will be watching his lawyers send their enormous bills for representing him in the Senate trial. If they think he’s going to pay a red cent to any of them, then surely they have been asleep these past few years. It’s just not in the old boy’s nature to pay the people who work for him, the poor dears.

You’d think lawyers would be smart enough to know that.

* * * * *

Word is out on the street that the Blessed South End ought to become a registered National Historic District!

I do wonder if this is the right time to suggest such a thing, what with the firm promise that property taxes in the South End are inevitably going to increase at a greater rate than in the rest of our Lime City once this year’s reevaluation is carried out.

However, I remain of an open mind -- please don’t laugh -- on the general subject of becoming a registered historic resident, if only because I have not had time to look deeply into what it all means. Almost certainly the idea will mean different things to different people.

The Lime City already has at least 22 registered historical buildings, places, and whatnots, but not an entire neighborhood graces the western end of town, and known confusingly to all as the South End.

Five wooden sailing schooners based in the city are considered to be historic things to begin with. Then we have such magnificence among us as the county courthouse, the Farnsworth Homestead, and the breakwater and its lonely lighthouse. These are all on the list I looked up on the Interwebby thing.

The Rankin Block, believe it or not, is also listed. So, more understandably, are the Strand Theater and the public library.

Three or four individual houses are on the register: 198-200 Broadway, 157 Talbot Avenue (aka the General Davis Tillson house) and 34 Old County Road.

Our once and future railroad station, currently home to Trackside Restaurant, is also among the honorees, being more or less where FDR caught a ride home after chatting with Churchill in 1941. Surely ‘tis worthy?

But so is the railroad turntable and roundhouse between Park Street and New County Road, which many might find puzzling, as that part of town sometimes attracts unkind comparisons to a slab of industrial wasteland.

Many a civic beautification committee over the years has beaten its collective head against the simple fact that the railroad yard at this site is, unfortunately, located at what ought to be the grand southern (or possibly western) entrance to the city.

Let us not forget the historic Main Street district, listed in 1978 and expanded in 2012; and the only current historic residential district I am aware of, being in the region of Union, Granite and Masonic streets.

So at the very least, anybody who is a mite troubled at the thought of the South End becoming an historic district ought to give some thought to these existing locations. They range from the modestly respectable all the way to the downright scruffy, I should say. Which certainly sounds like the South End!

A million questions arise, of course. What are property owners allowed to do, and not allowed to do, with historically registered real estate? What are the effects? A glance at the Interthing suggests that people are willing to argue the whole gamut of possibilities, from increased property values (and therefore taxes) to nothing much at all.

Naturally, I do have some personal questions. Exactly which parts of the South End might be considered historical? Would it include the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live? What about the Four Seagulls of the Apocalypse who live with me?

What does it mean to be historical, anyway? Hard to say. In most cases, it just seems to mean rather elderly and slightly shabby. Not that anything historical actually needs to have happened there, either.

No battles were fought on this place in 1329, for example. No treaties signed, no massacres committed, no buried treasure dug up, no little room on the third floor where some brilliant scientist first had the idea of letting an apple fall on his head, and no moth-eaten boarding house where George Washington once slept when he got lost one foggy night staggering back from Trackside. None of that sort of thing.

Mind you, Tolman Cemetery on Lake Avenue is on the list, and contains the bones of several gentlemen of this town who served in the Revolutionary War. That spot deserves its little sunbeam of historical illumination, surely.

But I fear the South End will have very little to commend itself as truly historical, beyond a shipyard where lots of ships were once built. But that’s what happens in a shipyard anyway. Also, several shipyards and other things that just aren’t there any more.

Oh, and we used to have some very old streets, but I guess they probably won’t reappear for another five years after being pasted over last summer.

So I will leave it there for now, wondering whether or not this idea will gather momentum and reserving judgment on the whole notion, other than to mention that last Wednesday afternoon we suffered a broken water main in the neighborhood that deprived us of water for a couple of hours.

Maybe that sort of thing would not be allowed in a registered historic district?

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.