It’s easy to take for granted some of the historically important structures we have in Newton. The current Senior Center – originally the Newtonville Branch Library – was built during the Great Depression as a WPA economic development project. It contains a stained glass window by the noted artist Charles J. Connick. At the dedication in 1939, Robert Frost read his poem “Mending Walls”.
Planning for a new Senior Center building has been underway for almost two years. In July, the NewCAL committee decided they preferred to tear down the existing structure and build an entirely new center. However, architecture firm BH+A has developed perfectly good plans for a new Sr. Center that would preserve the current exterior and we support this alternative!
Why do we have to pit two worthy goals — historic preservation and services to seniors — against one another? The short answer is that we don’t. #WeCanDoBoth
As word spread that the latest plans called for the current building to be demolished, Neighbors for a Better Newtonville (NBN) organized a petition and letter writing campaign to save the current exterior.
In June, Neighbors for a Better Newtonville (NBN) announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the city of Newton.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Sign a Petition
The petition organized by Neighbors for a Better Newtonville already has over 500 signatures. Sign your name today!
Attend a Meeting
The next public meeting on this matter will be the NewCal Working Group on May 19th. Please consider saying a few words in support of our goals to preserve the exterior of a historic building AND build a new Sr. Center we can be proud of.
REPORT FROM THE FIELD April 24 `22
Today I went for a visit to The Park [hereinafter referred to as Park] in front of the Senior Center. It was the first time I had ever been there to walk around inside the black iron grillwork fencing. I only went a step or two on the main walkway before I noticed on the left that there was a small bronze plaque on a metal stake in the ground among the vinca leaves. It read “In memory of…” a name I did not know. As I proceeded, I saw that there were similar plaques all through the Park, and even one name I recognized, “ In loving memory of my father, Harry Quint [from his daughter]”. I knew Harry Quint, the Florist once on Centre Street, whose home and flower fields were on the other side of The Ridge up here for years and years, until he died.
In all, there are probably about 8-10 memorial plaques among the plantings in the Park.
Who is going to take charge of those plaques, and notifying the families that the whole thing is going to be bulldozed? If indeed there is even any way of finding the people who put them there, who may themselves have died by now. I didn’t have a camera with me but next time I will at least try to take legible photos of all of them.
The original teak chairs and some tables remain, albeit very badly weathered gray, but who would dare replace them? Two young children sat at one of the tables looking at images on their cell phones. We said hello and spoke about how cold it was to be outside.
Someone last fall had planted a lot of quality spring tulips here and there throughout the areas where the plaques are among the vincas. On the left side, beyond the walk near the building the planting is in quite bad shape – unclear what the plan was there. The next thing I noticed was the black rubber disks everywhere signifying an underground sprinkler installation, an important investment. But it also looks also as if some of it has been vandalized so maybe it no longer functions. But where would the water come from, and who would have paid for it? Water in Newton is very expensive. The Historic Commissioners claimed that this Park is not in the domain of Parks & Rec. Anyway, it looks like the whole area hasn’t been watered for a long while. As I walked around, I could see the bones of the original landscaping that must have been done when it was last spruced up, in the `90s maybe. The vinca groundcover was a perfect choice and is still going strong. The small ornamental trees are doing well, and the rhody is well-budded and ready to go. [One shrub definitely needs a lopper.]
The walks and probably some parts of the plantings in the Park had to have been raked by someone, this spring and likely last fall, too. There is a large, crumbling gash in one of the sidewalks that could become hazardous. All the garden areas are choked with leaves, a tedious chore that cannot be done quickly, especially because here and there I saw a candy wrapper and a discarded bottle.
And what was once grass is either bare or so worn thin from lack of fertilizer and water all around most of the main lawn areas near the fence that bare earth is now the result.
The whole effect is one of abandonment. The plants are doing their thing but cultivars need some people to cultivate them and care for them. Clearly somebody cares, and does what they can, but it is not clear who. When I have finished my own raking, I plan to take some leaf and trash bags and go over there to spend a few hours. On a day much warmer than today.
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