Don’t erase history

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To the Editor:

I’m dismayed at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s willingness to raze yet another historic Vineyard home that has essentially been demolished by neglect.

A very few years ago, and for decades, the Edwin Luce House on Indian Hill sheltered a Vineyarder and her live-in carers while her child lived in the guest house. It was, in short, a fully functioning home. It is very easy — too easy — to let these precious, centuries-old buildings fall into disrepair and then argue, well, now nothing can be done. The MVC’s decisions seem to reward this behavior time and time again.

I was particularly horrified by Commissioner Barnes’ blithe assertion that we need to look to the future, not the past. Really, Trip? A future of ever more bloated homes that suburbanize this unique, rural, historic place, and have the carbon footprint of King Kong? And I laughed out loud at his concern for the contractors’ bottom line at a time when every construction-related trade on this Island is so burdened with overwork they’re practically booking into the next decade. Of course, a renovation would also provide plenty of good jobs, as would the maintenance of these buildings over the years they have been left to decay.

I was also troubled by the assertion that historic houses that can’t be seen from the road aren’t worth preserving. Is that really all we care about now? Being a fantasy Island for tourist buses to gawp at?

Indian Hill is a wonderfully preserved enclave of this Island’s rural past. It’s increasingly rare historic homes speak to our Island history as a rural place where people of modest means lived and thrived by hard labor and closeness to the land.

It helps us to answer the essential question of who we were, through which we reach a better understanding of who we have become. If the MVC doesn’t change course in the way they evaluate issues of historic preservation, that entire story will soon be erased from the landscape.

Geraldine Brooks
West Tisbury