Monday, February 25, 2008

Rape and Pillage Come to Greenwich

Cultural vandalism is nothing new in this Town, but it's always disheartening when a fresh and particularly egregious example rears its ugly head. The historic McCutcheon/Malley house at the entrance to Belle Haven, an outstanding example of the Richardsonian-Romanesque style of the late nineteenth century, has been posted for demolition. The Historical Society has filed an objection, but this will only delay the process for ninety days.

Only ninety days to save 120 years of history. Can Rene and Marie-France Kern be persuaded to reconsider this folly? Why, in heaven's name, did they buy such a historic house only a couple of months ago when there are lots of other places on the market that would never be missed? Is this some kind of perverse Gallic "in your face, America" gesture?

If an American couple tried to commit a similar atrocity with a historic French home, it would quite likely become a national cause celebre. Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Le Canard Enchaine would all get into the battle, and pretty soon the hapless American couple would probably find that none of the merchants in the local village would supply them, none of the neighbors would speak to them, and their residency papers would suddenly become entangled in a bureaucratic nightmare of red tape.

Here, of course, they will probably be admitted to the once-prestigious Belle Haven Club, where they will find many of the more recent members avidly waiting to swap house project stories. The object of these stories, of course, is to try to outdo your neighbors in tales of extravagance and expense - which is how the nouveau-riche play "keeping up with the Jonses" these days. The destruction of a historic mansion will become fodder for bragging rights around the bar.

"Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of shame?" With these words Joseph Welch pricked the bubble of the infamous McCarthy hearings, and began to bring a national nightmare to a close. Your scribe poses the same questions to M. and Mme. Kern. Why would you buy a landmark house in order to tear it down? Can you perhaps find some other piece of property that will suit your needs without vandalizing our community? How would you react to an American behaving like this in France? And do you, at long last, have a sense of decency?

If so, please change your plans. Refurbish the house, as you originally planned to do - you will get your money back, and more. And you will also earn the gratitude of the local community.

How say you, M. et Mme. Kern? Nous attendons votre reponse avec hate et avec espoir. Soyez bien de nos amis, non pas de nos ennemis. Que dites-vous?


Blogger Vicki said...

Oh, I hoping they choose to refurbish. To tear down something that old with history is a shame.

February 26, 2008 2:22 PM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Vicki!

I have just heard that they are now willing to "come to the table" with the preservationists and see what can be worked out. So there's still hope!

February 27, 2008 9:27 AM  

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