Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor:

It’s hard to ignore the two letters to the editor last week, one from Ann Kelleher and the other from Kevin Kelly. As another person who loves Charlestown, I am grateful they took the time and made the effort to put into words what so many Charlestown residents feel, the dread over a seemingly unstoppable construction mania.

Building goes on everywhere.

All around, another crane waits to loft high in the air.

A few years ago, I had the great luck to roam around Charlestown with my digital camera, snapping photos of buildings that were interesting to me. Patch, at that time a new online newspaper, hired me to write for them. The editor said I could choose any topic. I wanted to write about the buildings. There were so many I marveled at when I was young and this writing gig gave me a chance to indulge my curiosity.

The Swallow Mansion on Cordis Street, for example. I never knew its name, but always wondered about the beautiful house with white columns. The Rope Walk in the Navy Yard.  What was up with that long, low, skinny building? Each week I chose a different building — many were homes, some schools, a few institutions, some landmarks. The thing that became so clear was their uniqueness and their modest architecture,  designed to fit their space. Take a look at the house on Devens Street, the one I call a half a house because of its narrow rooms. Built, I would assume in that shape to fit a specific plot of land.

My first over-building shock came in 2011 when a three-story hulking condo went up in front of the house I grew up in. The condo looms over the house, blocking out most of the sunlight. They demolished the Knights of Columbus on School Street.  Sounded great.  The Knights would just relocate to Medford Street. Hopefully the Knights were on board with that. But then Gatehouse 75 Apartments came – 75 units where a two-story brick building once stood. Some 75 units, bringing at least 75 cars. On Bunker Hill Street, the One Charlestown never-ending saga proposes to rebuild 1,100 existing apartments and add an additional 2,100 units. That could be 2,000 more cars. To park where?

Years ago, it now seems like ancient history, the residents of Charlestown organized to resist urban renewal. Their efforts saved 60 percent of Charlestown, then designated a slum, from the wrecking ball. That is why so many of the old homes are so sweet today. Instead of tearing them down, owners got loans to fix them up. There are stunning photos of what Main Street used to look like in the early `70s. Warren Tavern is boarded up, waiting for its own wrecking ball. Today you can have a beautiful meal there in the amazing front room with the small curtained windows.  Maybe in the same way as Charlestown residents resisted 60 years ago, residents now need to resist any more building.

Call a moratorium. March to City Hall. It’s what they did then.

In Big Yellow Taxi Joni Mitchell wrote:

“Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone.”

I hope that’s not the case with us here.

Helen O’Neil

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