The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 12, 2007



Playing hardball with Highland

This October the Red Sox aren't the only people playing hardball. So is the Carlisle School Committee with their startling eviction letter to the artists at the Highland Building. (see story, page 1). At the same time, the School Committee announced plans to mothball Highland, thereby setting the stage for the building's probable demolition.

Is this what Carlisle wants? The School Committee stands resolute that Highland must disappear from its Church Street hilltop perch, clearing the land for a school parking lot. The financial implications of doing anything at all with Highland — demolition, removal, repair, renovation — are significant. Any action will require public funds at a time when replacing the Spalding Building and Concord-Carlisle High School are immediate needs.

It is regrettable that revisiting Highland's future now is "déjà vu all over again," but the School Committee's actions force the issue, taking the building to the brink of demolition and raising preservationists' alarms.

Both the Historical Commission and the Historical Society have previously gone on record to support saving the building and exploring non-school uses. In various school districts around the nation, Victorian-era buildings (Highland was built in 1908) are falling apart without adequate maintenance. A number of community groups, determined to put preservation first, have saved their old schools and renovated them, either for educational or community use. These school districts have made a decision to value their old schools not only for their period architecture, craftsmanship and distinctive design elements but also for their continued benefit to the community.

The Highland Building, which reaches its century mark next year, is a unique example of the public architecture of its time and represents a tie to Carlisle's roots. During its long lifetime, it not only served the educational needs of Carlisle children, but it has been part of the town's character. It is one of the elements that give our community its distinctive sense of place. Much of Carlisle's rural flavor has slipped away; can we let another part of its history die without exploring every option for saving it?

At the Selectmen's meeting on October 9, Chairman Tim Hult announced that the Highland Building will be on the agenda at its next meeting, October 23. At that time the School Committee's recommendation that the Selectmen create an ad hoc committee to comprehensively study the future of Highland will be discussed. Calling the resolution of Highland "a significant issue," Hult said that the Selectmen will consider the composition of the task force and its charter. While the School Committee wants to limit the new committee's role to recommending "the removal or disposal of the building," Hult spoke of "a third option" and "long-term renovation." The preservation door is open.

It's the ninth inning for the Highland Building. Who will step up to the plate to preserve it?

Diagnosis: SDI

Vocabularies are as seasonal as the weather. We often talk about the delicious spring air and balmy days. Summer has the words languid, lazy, and luxuriant. If the spring is the season of hopeful terms and thoughts, autumn brings to mind terms such as Indian summer, which reminds us of the weather that prevailed when we should have been doing the jobs we now know we won't get to for another set of seasons.

Summer and winter are the seasons of minimal conflict. The weather is either too hot or too cold to do anything. Spring is the season of good intention, and fall the season of mild regret. Both spring and fall are the seasons when good intention usually runs up against recreational alternatives. For instance, every spring one resolves to paint the fence. But tomorrow it might rain; today is too beautiful (let's do something fun after being cooped up all winter). In the fall, despite long-accumulated regrets about checking out for the summer months (too hot, too whatever), when the air is fresh (and we know that there won't be many more such days), we still want to get in one more day at the beach, one more round of golf. The sun sets way too early to get much done after work.

Maybe the seasons are best described by the plenitude of bad excuses that we, with too many opportunities, throw up to escape to our second homes, recreational venues, or hammocks. And why not? Don't we all work hard to earn our creature comforts? If, every day, good intention ruled our Palm Pilots, the wine and liquor lobby would be up in arms, the obesity rate might decline, and no one would worry about the Red Sox's post-season angst.

This seasonal inability to get things done when they ought to be is known as SDI, or Seasonally Defective Intention. It is probably not curable beyond a certain point in our lives. Despite our best intentions as parents not to infect our children with SDI, it is probably endemic (and readily diagnosable) in well-to-do communities where early-onset hyper-stimulation (both athletic and academic) is prevalent at a relatively early age. Fortunately, SDI does not require the services of a therapist, as the malady seems to be culturally acceptable and does not seem to disrupt any of the normal daily expectations any of us might face. SDI should not be confused with such dangerous conditions as HCF (Homework Completion Failure), which sometimes requires close monitoring (or getting rid of the dog).

Although there are no known side effects at this time, ISD (Irascible Spouse Disorder) may occur simultaneously and does require delicate handling. Currently, there are no known support groups for the SDI-afflicted.


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2007 The Carlisle Mosquito