Progress versus history

So, here we go again: Another piece of Milford history is for the chop. Years ago, it was the Stone House on Nashua Street. It was preserved, sort of.

Now there’s a granite building on Tonella Road soon to fall to development, although the developer, kindly, as agreed to save the stones so they can be carted away, perhaps to be reassembled somewhere else. As if that’s going to happen.

A representative of the developer, Doug McGuire, said of the building, “We are certainly not going to knock it down and bury it.”

But the key phrase is “knock it down.” Had he stopped at “We are certainly not going to knock it down …” historians would be cheering, not shaking their heads in frustration.

And, yes, Milford Planning Board Chairman Chris Beer was right when he said that a property owner can do whatever he wants with his property. Well, within reason. And any property owner has the right to demolish what the town’s Heritage Commission feels is an historic building with some historic significance.

Save the stones? Yippee.

As Historic Commission Chairman David Palance pointed out, it isn’t the stones that count as much as the symbolism of the building which, he said, “talks about the occupation of immigrants who fathered most of us — their hard work of cutting stone raised us to the life we love here in Milford.”

Ah, one could argue, Milford will still have the stones. Perhaps they could be piled up on the Oval for all to admire.

Now, if you will, parse this comment from McGuire, the developer’s representative. First, he said that anything to do with this stone house “is the prerogative of the owner”, a sentiment with which we can’t disagree. He also said the owner is being generous by offering the stones to the town, which seems to be a rather broad definition of “generous,” but perhaps that’s just symantics.

He followed that up, though, with his:

” … if he feels there are roadblocks, I think that generosity would change.”

In other words, if Dave Palance can find a way to halt, or delay, the tearing down of this building, there would be, to paraphrase the Soup Nazi in “Seinfeld,” “No stones for you!”

Makes one think.

But, McGuire has a point. The developer can do what he wishes with the stones and if doesn’t wish to give them to Milford, he doesn’t have to.

This battle of history against “progress” is undoubtedly lost. Maybe what the Heritage Commission needs to do is look around the town and identify other historic buildings that could be in the path of development and act to protect them.