A Fountain In Salem, And A Note About Preservation

A ton of people retweeted/Facebooked my post about Express taking over 1552 Broadway, and I can’t thank you enough. There’s no question the message was received by the right people – let’s hope they listen.

But this sort of situation isn’t unique to New York. Chances are, there’s a concerned group of citizens desperately trying to save something right now in your town, and unfortunately, the odds are stacked against them. For every McDonald’s forced to restore a historic Georgian home because locals demanded it, there are dozens more that simply get an appointment with the bulldozer.

I was reminded of this just the other day when I received the above video from someone in my hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. If you’ve ever been to The Witch City, chances are you’ve taken a stroll on our wonderful pedestrian walkway down the main strip. And on your way, you might have noticed a fountain near its entrance.

If you look closer, you’ll learn that the fountain was built on the very spot of Salem’s first town water pump, immortalized in a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne in which the fountain provides a narrative of its history and the various people who use it. As kids, we used to play in the fountain, and I always thought it was great that water has been flowing from the same spot for hundreds of years.

Of course, plans are underway to open up the pedestrian strip to cars in the winter, and the bulldozers are already rearing to get this annoyance out of the way. What will go in its place? Nothing.

It’s just another reminder that these sorts of fights happen every day, with no fanfare or reward for the people that lead the charge. But never forget that you can help – another name on the petition, another $20 donation, another face at a town hall meeting – it honestly makes a difference.

Definitely watch the video, which makes a great point about what happens when art goes through the dangerous period in which it looks dated. Also check out the creator’s website here for more information. Finally, feel free to share any preservation battles going on in your city or town in the comments.

As I’ve posted many times before, from the NY Times “Farewell to Penn Station” editorial…

Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.”


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  1. You are doing such a great job!

  2. You make an extremely important point. So much is lost because everything seems to go through a period where it is old – and perhaps obsolete – but not yet historical. We’ve lost so many things that way; buildings, ships, trains. People need to be made more aware this curious limbo that so much worth saving and remembering doesn’t survive.

    • I had no idea the Olympia was up for sale. I’ve been down to Philadelphia a few times to see the United States. She is exactly what I had in mind when I wrote that comment. We just had a great exhibition about here in NYC to drum up awareness of her plight. Hopefully both ships will find suitable permanent homes.

  3. I really like your blog and this post rings loud and clear for me. I live in Houston. The mantra here is, if it’s old, tear it down. I love my city, and I appreciate that it’s cheaper to rebuild than to bring “old” up to code, but it is quite depressing. And, I love that quote. Keep up the good work.

  4. Scout,

    I know this is an old post, but I would like to point out that half just about half-an-idea of what you are talking about.

    The fountain was not razed, there were no plans to do so. It has been re-de-designed and the brass relief survives.