I generally walk to the Rockport Post Office for my mail. I haven’t been home for several weeks, so I missed the demolition of this house at 97 Pascal Avenue. It’s a house I’ve admired many times for its mature landscaping and the proud way it sat on its lot.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe in private property rights. That includes the right to buy property and convert it into something that more suits the owners’ needs. And I’m happy any time a fellow citizen builds a pricey home; it takes some of the tax burden off me.
I’ve got a friend who always gets to the bridge on Pascal Avenue and throws his hands in the air and exclaims, “Can you believe that we get to live in this beautiful place?” (It’s disconcerting when he’s driving.) He watched the house being knocked down and reported that “not one bit of recycling or re-purposing happened.”
The Penbay Pilot concurred with that, saying, “It was a bit of local history being demolished, with most of the antique house, which was built in 1843, along with its fireplace and foundation turned to rubble and hauled to the landfill.”
I realize time is money, but that house was built with old-growth timbers. It’s kind of a crime against the environment to break them up and pitch them into a landfill.
When I was looking for a house in Rockport, I really wanted a similar old Maine cape. The joinery is usually first rate, their granite foundations make poured concrete seem fragile in comparison, and the interior spaces are simple and appealing.
Alas, I was outbid on my first choice, and the others on the market at that time were too far from Route 1. I’m very happy with the house we eventually bought, but in no way has my love of traditional Maine architecture diminished.
This week I’ve been watching HGTV shows about buying and selling real estate (a real sacrifice since I hate television). Over and over I’ve heard buyers whine, “I need…” and “I’m so stressed out.” What do they need? Playrooms the size of my first home’s living room. Bathrooms in which I could hold a dance party. Granite countertops, and, inevitably, stainless steel appliances. And what stresses them out? Well, probably the same mind-set that makes them believe that they need this stuff, rather than that they want it.
I’ve watched perfectly good 20-year old cabinets torn out to make room for this season’s white-cabinet aesthetic. Beige ceramic tile being replaced by beige travertine. People rejecting a house because the paint colors are dated and they lack even the basic imagination to understand how small a problem that is.
All this need, all this stress—it adds up to all kinds of mess, including many tons of housing material thrown in a landfill.
My house in Rochester is a 1928 faux Tudor on a street of similarly charming houses. I am not rebuilding it with the bells and whistles of a model home, because the people attracted to this neighborhood don’t even want that. I just want to make changes that are useful, attractive and environmentally responsible.