Friday, September 26, 2008
Let’s honor Highland while preserving it
“Time is of the essence” concludes the Highland Building Study Group in its report to the Board of Selectmen (see www.carlislema.gov). The report warns that the old school building, now shuttered, that holds so much town history will continue to deteriorate unless urgent repairs are made soon. An estimated $409,000, utilizing Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to be voted at Annual Town Meeting, would “stabilize” the building until its future use can be determined. Demolition, estimated at $133,000, is still considered an option if repairs are rejected.
The fate of the Highland Building has been debated for over 30 years, but now an air of urgency hangs over the century-old structure. Unoccupied since last year, the building presents a liability to the Carlisle Public School and the community in its present, unmaintained state, according to the Study Group.
In the past when the Highland’s existence was threatened, those advocating preservation have suggested that it be listed on the National Register of Historical Places (NRHP), a federal program that honors historical properties. Although listing on the NRHP would not protect the building from demolition or removal to another site, it would make it eligible for funding. At one time the Study Group did explore this option, but the NRHP is not mentioned in its recommendations.
As part of the town-wide historical properties survey for the Carlisle Historical Commission (see the Mosquito, May 16, 2008), preservation consultants Anne Forbes and Gretchen Schuler have recommended that the Highland Building and the Brick School both be nominated for the National Register. The Massachusetts Historical Commission, which must approve a nomination before forwarding it to the NRHP, has a long-standing policy of only approving properties in communities that have completed an historical survey. Carlisle’s survey will be completed later this fall, so the foundation has been laid.
The consultants have described the building as “a well-preserved example of early 20th-century Classical Revival scholastic architecture in a small-town setting” which served the town’s schoolchildren for almost 80 years. Some of those schoolchildren still live in town and retain fond memories of their school days.
Listing a property on the National Register can be a lengthy process, taking up to a year to complete at the state level. The $3,000 application fee can be paid by CPA funds and the proposal must be written by a preservation professional.
Inclusion in the National Registry will not resolve the Highland Building’s future. The funding level is uncertain, but the honor of a Registry listing would emphasize the value that the town places on this unique structure. The Selectmen should not overlook the NRHP this time as it prepares options for Town Meeting voters.
There’s no place like it
We recently had a visit from a person we hosted for his senior year at Concord-Carlisle High School in 1989-90. Lutz was from Cologne, Germany, and since then he has grown into manhood; he has a wife, Sophie, and two beautiful children, Zoe, age 4 and Liv, age 2, a BMW, and a mortgage. What a treat it was for us to see him and his family and to see him introduce them to his “American home” and its surroundings. We told him prior to coming that he could show Sophie what life was like when he was here 18 years ago, since little had changed in Carlisle in the ensuing years. One afternoon, after a walk at Great Brook Farm, Lutz said “There’s no place like this in Germany. We all live on top of each other. To think that all we hear here is the sound of the birds in the trees . . . and are so close to Boston . . . Carlisle is truly a special place.”
I trust that we all appreciate just how special Carlisle is. We know that it is among the best in public schools, and in overall quality of life for young and old alike. All that said, paradise has its costs. Do you remember the article in the Mosquito a couple of weeks ago about the third generation Carlislean who was feeling the pinch of high living costs here and was reluctantly concluding that he had to move elsewhere? I commend the gentleman for his candor and for highlighting some of the realities of living here. Unfortunately, in Boston Metro, Carlisle is not unique in its high cost of living. People everywhere are feeling “pinched” to some extent. But here in Carlisle, it’s kind of jolting to hear of someone experiencing hardship. Whether it’s new or increased school “fees” or home heating oil costs, we’re all affected in some way.
I learned that the Friends of the Carlisle Council on Aging was able to help ten Carlisle households with fuel assistance last year. The Friends raise money to supplement the COA’s programs, and they have provided funds for home heating assistance for several years. This year it will be particularly difficult to find adequate funding to help those in need, as heating oil costs have nearly doubled over last year, and additional families may qualify. Here again, we can claim that, “There is no place like Carlisle,” in that all of the money donated to the Friends of the Carlisle Council on Aging (FOCCA), goes directly to those who need it. That’s right, no “administrative costs;” 100% goes to those who need it. Where else can you show your generosity in a way that benefits needy fellow townspeople without being diluted in any way? I’m making a contribution today by sending a check made out to FOCCA and sending it to The Friends of the Carlisle Council on Aging at PO Box 38, Carlisle, MA 01741. How about you?
© 2008 The