I know what you are thinking, but we are not talking about that song. (You feel guilty for knowing it don’t you?). Ok, what I am talking about is more than just a weekend, but a week in New England. My family recently returned from a one week trip to Maine that included stops in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Add in an afternoon in Boston MA and a day trip to Norwich VT and Hanover NH and we have successfully visited all of the New England states by my son’s strict requirements. Yes I drove the entire trip; we put over 1,800 miles on our car. It was worth it.
We also made stops in New Haven CT, Branford Center CT, Providence RI, Portland ME, and Newburyport MA. (You’re thinking how did you do that in one week?) Each of these cities has a thriving downtown core; some are college towns bringing additional life to the area. We saw unique neighborhoods, art districts, and water everywhere. As we meandered around the streets, we found great clothing shops, trendy stores, cool tourist spots, book stores, an unbelievable range of restaurants and ice cream everywhere! Minor league baseball is another favorite of ours to include in our vacation plans.
As I started to gather my thoughts to share the vacation experience, what became evident in my mind was not to relay trite vacation highlights, but postulate why this trip was so wonderful. These old cities in New England are great because the people here care. It’s that simple. Sure they have a few hundred years of great architectural stock as a good start, but without good people, the walls and windows would be gone by now. These cities are all very “New England” but each one has its own personality and character. You cannot find this outside this area.
There was a consistency in the overall imagery and the quality level at which these business owners keep their buildings. The facades are clean, the storefronts are quirky showing the shop owners’ personalities and the signage and graphics were exquisite. It was a great balance of respect for the historic architecture and the contemporary storefronts, logos and images of the independent businesses.
We strolled down the narrow streets and walked along the docks. It was a true joy. Have you caught on that we visited three Ivy League college towns? Can you name the colleges and universities based on the cities named? Did that make a difference? I don’t know.
Our thanks go out to those that have worked to restore and keep these cities in such good condition. Besides the individual property owners, I would like to think the municipal governments and the historic architectural review boards keep tabs on the development in the core areas. We need each city in America to look at itself, take pride in its historic stock, insist on preservation and think forward when there are new construction insertions. The suburban model has failed leaving strip mall fossils. I am not jumping entirely on the New Urbanist bandwagon; however, we do need to think differently. It does make a difference, not just to us tourists, but to the citizens and residents. They deserve it and our future generations deserve it. I wonder what are we building today that will be enjoyed and written about in the next hundred years?