Majority Attitude (Bye bye 2401 Monroe Street)

It is so easy to go with the flow and believe what the majority tells you and wants you to believe.  I get so sick and tired of people telling me that revitalization, preservation, etc. is a wasted effort and that it will never happen.  In fact, I have started a list (see my page named: Naysayers) of persons who have told me that my preservation efforts are not worth it and revitalization will never happen in my neighborhood.  Why do that, you ask? Because when it does happen, I am going to remember each and every one of them.  I will find them all (even if they are 100 years old and hobbly) and give them a front row seat to the revitalization and beautification of this charming neighborhood that WILL HAPPEN.

About two weeks ago, I ran into a man who introduced himself to me.  His name was Rob Ratcliff.  He told me that he was going to move a late 1800s Queen Anne Victorian from its original location (down the street from me) to the outskirts of town.  I also own a Queen Anne and his house is similar to mine.  Not only was I shocked, but immediately appalled.  The house of which he spoke was in beautiful condition, well kept and it anchored the spot it was in.  There are only maybe a handful of Queen Anne Victorian’s left in this area and his was one of four that are still in great condition.  If this siginificant house was moved, it would only create a big, empty lot (like a missing tooth) which would attract trash, loitering, drugs, whatever….  To preface this, I live in a part of town that is poised for urban revitalization.  Many people, such as myself, are looking for an older house with charm, close to conveniences, and a mortgage that doesn’t cost a fortune.  I can’t say that my neighborhood is the worst, but it is definitely not the best in the city (right now, that is).  It is not a cookie cutter, poorly planned, urban sprawl neighborhood.  It is an older neighborhood with beautiful architecture and bungalows buried under 20-30 years of absentee landlords, poor preservation ordinances and elderly people who do not have the funds to keep them up.  Several people, such as myself have invested in this neighborhood by buying homes and we are all in the process of fixing our homes up and, in my case, buying a house or two around me, fixing them up and putting them back on the market.  I have a vested interest in seeing this beautiful old neighborhood shine like it once did. 

Anyway, several residents and I got to together and wrote this man a letter pleading with him to leave the house exactly where it is.  This is how our letter went:

“We, the concerned residents of the Garden District area and more particularly the Monroe Street area, understand that you have purchased a property on 2401 Monroe Street and have plans to move it from its original site.

Sir, we are writing this letter to implore you to not move this important piece of Alexandria’s history from its foundation. Moving our beautiful historic homes from their original location not only detracts from the area, but causes further blight. What is to be done with the empty lot?

It is our position that to move this house would only cause more harm and further blight Monroe Street. We wish to improve our neighborhood, not take away from it. Please reconsider moving this vital piece of Monroe Street’s history from its original site.

Borrowing the words of Mr. William Morris:

“…these old buildings do not belong to us only; they have belonged to our forefathers, and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us.”

~William Morris

Please help preserve what is left of our historic buildings and reconsider your decision to move this beautiful example of a nineteenth century Queen Anne outside of the city limits and from its place of origin. Revitalization and rehabilitation is coming to our older neighborhoods and we are inviting you to be a part of it by leaving this excellent house right where it is.

 

Yours very truly,

Garden District and Monroe Street Residents”

Shortly after drafting this letter and as we were circulating it for signature, I found out that this man had cut the house in three pieces and was in the process of removing the roof and readying it to be moved.  I quickly delivered the letter to Mr. Ratcliff.  I was heartsick that our letter arrived too late and would probably be ineffective in changing his mind now that he has gone so far.  But, I was compelled to send it anyway, just so he would know how we felt. 

Mr. Ratcliff called me and was very upset that I wrote this letter and copied it to the city administration and the local paper.  I was very polite to him and told him that I have the right of free speech and they have a right to know what is going on.  He was upset because he did not want me to cause any “trouble” for him now that he had invested a lot of money in this project.  I asked him a simple question: Why are you doing this?  This does not help the neighborhood, it causes further blight and harm.  His response was that he was “saving” this house from the area.  I snorted and told him I completely disagree.  He said: That neighborhood will never experience revitalization, it will never happen there.  I told him: Sir, if everyone continued to say that, it never will.  But, someone needs to stand up and say ‘enough is enough’.  I am saying ENOUGH!

I feel that Mr. Ratcliff had a very “thin” excuse for what he did.

To make this story better (or should I say worse!), this man is a Commissioner for the Alexandria Historic Preservation Commission.  He is entrusted with protecting and preserving the buildings we have left in Alexandria.  We have very few of our 19th century historic buildings still standing due to a “tear it down” mentality from previous city administrations.  The Garden District residents were appalled that this man was committing an act contrary to what his title implies.  He is supposed to be saving buildings and bettering neighborhoods, not further blighting them.  After thinking about it, we (The Garden District/Alexandria Residents) got together again and formulated a letter asking him to resign his position. 

This is how that letter went (We addressed it to the Historic Preservation Commission, the Mayor and our area Councilman”:

“Dear Ms. Anderson, Mayor Roy and Mr. Marshall:

As you may now be aware, Mr. Robert Ratcliff has been successful in cutting a late 1800s Queen Anne Victorian into three pieces and is in the process of moving it off of its lot at 2401 Monroe Street. There are less than a handful of these properties left within the city limits. We have written a letter to Mr. Ratcliff requesting that he reconsider, but at the time our letter was delivered, he had already accomplished the feat of cutting the house and was in the process of readying it for its move.

Gentlepersons, this letter stems from much shock and outrage that a man who is entrusted with the duty of advocating for, protecting and preserving Alexandria’s historic buildings and neighborhoods, has perpetrated an act counter to what his title implies. As a Commissioner of the Historic Preservation Commission for the City of Alexandria, Mr. Robert Ratcliff’s actions do not embody the creed of that Commission. The Historic Preservation Commission’s sole purpose is working to preserve our historic buildings, not cut them up and move them. By moving this house Mr. Ratcliff will aid in causing more harm and further blight on Monroe Street. The empty lot that is left will only attract garbage, loitering, drugs, etc. We, the residents of the Garden District, wish to improve our neighborhood, not devastate it further. We are saddened that Mr. Ratcliff has chosen to remove this historic building from where it has successfully reigned for over 100 years.

Borrowing from my letter to Mr. Ratcliff are the words of Mr. William Morris:

“…these old buildings do not belong to us only; they have belonged to our forefathers, and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us.”

~William Morris

 

By copy of this letter to Mr. Ratcliff, we are calling upon him to resign due to the conflict of interest he has shown in his actions of failing to protect the historic buildings that he has been commissioned to protect. We do not feel that a person who has committed such an act should be entrusted with the future of our city’s historic buildings.

 

Sincerely,

Residents of the City of Alexandria”

I don’t know if he will consider resigning.  But, I have lost all faith in him as a “preservation” commissioner. 

To the beautiful Queen Anne: Good bye dear lady, we will miss you from your spot at 2401 Monroe Street.  You were a shining star in this neighborhood and we will rue your removal.  I wish we could have saved you sooner.  As you are torn into several pieces, gutted and disfigured, please forgive us for not acting sooner.

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3 thoughts on “Majority Attitude (Bye bye 2401 Monroe Street)

  1. Pingback: Proposed Bus Station: Bolton and Florence Avenue « Alexandria, Louisiana - My opinions

  2. Pingback: 2401 Monroe Street « Perpetual Renovator

  3. Pingback: Some call me inhospitable « Perpetual Renovator

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