Friday, December 13, 2013

Be careful what you wish for

Long, long before I moved to Boston, with the Village of Peninsula in it, a visionary moved into the Village. A rich, architectural designer visionary. He surveyed the shambles of a formerly thriving canal and railroad town, spotted many architectural gems, and set about saving them. He considered himself the hero he might have been, had his ego been smaller and his love of community larger.

He passed away four or five years ago, and left all his holdings to be administered and perpetuated by a foundation, The Peninsula Foundation. It is worth a trip through the web site to see how much of the village the foundation owns, and has removed from the tax rolls through historic easements. This means all the other residents of Peninsula pay to plow the streets.

Designation of the downtown area of Peninsula as an historic district, too, probably did more harm than good. Not that not paying taxes for services is a good thing, by inference. There are so many restrictions on the area that innovation didn't come. Modern services like sewer and water never penetrated the village. Other than that, a lovely place.

I have a history with one building in town, the Wood Store. It is a building renovated by the architectural visionary, and, if you haven’t clicked over to the Foundation’s page, here are before and after pictures.

The pictures of the restored Wood Store above was taken when my friend Kathleen, from The Crooked River Herb Farm had her shop in the Wood Store, when I began as township clerk. I helped her there for several years, until, like much of Peninsula’s downtown, the rents exceeded her budget, and she moved on. In fact, the picture of the restored building was during her time. Her large shop sign hung from a bracket that is part of the lamp standard. Apparently it was taken down for the picture.

I took my camera the other day to the Wood Store. I wanted to take some pictures of the sandstone interior wall, and tell you about adventures like a flash flood that came through the wall one June evening, years ago, and the shop vac I sped home to grab and help stem the tide. The store currently is leased to another shop, LeSeraglio. The shop, billing itself a fair trade importer, previously was down the street, and I shopped there.

The windows, lovely for displaying lots of goods.

The sandstone wall of infamy. Leaks like a sieve on a good day, and can't stop a flood.

For several years I've had a problem with the store. The Wood Store is a beautiful example of 
Western Reserve Greek Revival style architecture.

The last tenant, a furniture store, was permitted, by the Foundation, to put up that horrid structure over the sidewalk. Since its construction I think of the Foundation's visionary founder, and picture him spinning.

But as I walked up the steps to go in and take pictures, I saw what is really wrong.

There is a long bracket on the lamp standard to hang any sign, LeSeraglio included.

But, they have BOLTED a very large bracket INTO THE TREE to hang their sign.

The principles were not on premise. I declined the clerk's offer of baklava, took pictures, left.
The next day I brought the bracket to the attention of the Foundation by email.

No reply.

I mentioned it to the Mayor of Peninsula, who signs off on all zoning variances.
He shrugged his shoulders. "It's their tree."

I picture the spin attaining supersonic speed and delivering the Foundation's founder like a wrathful god onto Main Street.

In any case, my money won't go there.


  1. Hiss and spit. And the Mayor of Peninsula is in my line of fire too.

  2. There are trade offs when keeping old buildings but it seems too many old buildings have been torn down.

  3. It is a beautiful building though. You'd think the tree would die with the bracket drilled into it.

  4. Hari Om
    This sounds like the equivalent of heritage listing in OZ/UK - pros and cons as with anything; but on the whole I think I prefer the preservation. Good luck getting anything done for that poor tree. Though it has to be said our wooden cousins are the most forgiving of folks... Clearly this ensured the sign was more visible; wonder how business is doing? I'd be with you in walking on by.

    Thanks for keeping up the comments at my place whilst I've been away!! YAM xx

  5. What a lovely house... that pergola or whatever the heck it is just doesn't fit in..... neither does the flashy sign. That's progress?

    1. I seem to be the only local whose teeth are set on edge by an Italianate pergola stuck on a Greek Revival building. When it went up, three or four years ago, I mentioned the discord to someone, who replied, "But it's so cute."

  6. Eventually the tree will grow around the bracket and it will become one. They won't be able to remove it even if they wanted to. Still, what a shame. Too many people don't understand that trees are conscious beings.

    1. The heads of the bolts are half an inch; imagine the length. And an arm's length away, the bracket for hanging a shop sign, not that silly flapping banner. Incomprehensible.

  7. Great display windows but sad what folks do to living trees. And if the tree is ever cut down a miller or logger and/or their equipment can be injured severely with metal embedded in a tree.

    You live in Boston? I thought you lived in the country some where.

  8. Yes, Boston. Ohio, not Massachusetts. A township of six hundred odd folk.

    1. Glad you clarified that, Joanne - I thought maybe you'd moved! :-)

      Beautiful building, apart from the inglorious carbuncle on the side; and you'd think they could put up a proper holder for the sign rather than hack into a living tree.....!

  9. How interesting to learn a little about Peninsula. I hadn't hear of it before.
    And what to preserve and how to preserve is often such a quandary. Here in my small town in western Mass, someone recently neglected, allowed to fall to ruin, and last week completely tore down a huge home from the 1700s. Breaks my heart every time I drive by. (And thanks for adding you name to my blog!)

  10. 'had his ego been smaller and his love of community larger.'....... that statement puts it all in a nutshell. The building, though looks beautifully restored (bar the pergola, and that gross sign bolted to the tree)

  11. I think that anyone who manages to save historic houses is a hero, but as you say, it does depend on what happens to them afterwards. :)