I have had the pleasure of living in Westfield for over 25 years. During these years, I've seen many changes, and as a pragmatist, I understand progress and growth. When developers purchase and knock down older homes in town, I understand that they are in business to make money but I always hope that they will preserve the integrity and aesthetic of the town, rather than build enormous monstrosities that abut the property line and disregard the surrounding community.
On our street, although it is only one block long and one block from town, we have many older homes, some from the late 1800's and some from the 1920's. There is one house on our street, one of the oldest in town in fact, built long before the rest. I remember meeting the woman who was born and grew up in this house. Her name was Helen Pearsall and she explained that her grandfather had built the home that the street was later named after. His name was James R. Ferris.
In fact, her distinctive pre-Revolutionary home was recognized by the Westfield Historical Society in 1990 and awarded a plaque (made with wood salvaged from the flooring of an old farmhouse), depicting the era that the house was built, "circa 1750." Sadly, when the home was purchased by a developer, the plaque was quickly removed.
This developer, who also owns the property on the adjoining lot, has primarily kept the historic house empty and it is presumed that he plans to bulldoze the house and develop the land. He is, after all, a developer, and that is what they do. However, when the grass became exceedingly high and weedy this past spring, the house began to look abandoned and neighbors became concerned.
A few weeks ago, I luckily (or so I thought) bumped into this developer, introduced myself pointing out where I lived, and politely asked if he were in charge of the lawn at 112 Ferris. He said he did not know. I was surprised and stated my concern that the house was beginning to look somewhat deserted. Ironically, his colleague overheard our conversation and agreed with me.
Once the third party left the conversation, the owner/developer became extremely defensive. He repeatedly asked me who I was, what I did for a living, and then asked, how I would like it if he came to my house and asked about my own home.
Needless to say, I was shaken and intimidated. I apologized for upsetting him and continued on my walk.The following week the lawn was mowed, and in addition, five beautiful mature trees were leveled to the ground. Sadly, this also happened to be the week before the town council was scheduled to discuss closing the loophole in Westfield's tree ordinance law.
Although I've been here a quarter of century, I still very much enjoy being a part of this community, attending school functions, volunteering at various organizations, and participating in numerous activities throughout the town. And yes, I get that times change and things get built. However, progress and development do not have to be at the expense of our historical and architectural distinctiveness. I believe we can move forward and still respect Westfield's rich history, as well as the neighbors who happen to live around it.
And perhaps, even more importantly, we take notice before this pre-revolutionary home, which is a part of the significant fabric of this community, becomes rubble. Isn't it time we stop turning a blind eye to the historic preservation that is inherent to the beauty of this town and giving developers carte blanche?