Monday, February 6, 2012

Occupy the Trolley stop

Trolley Station on North Pleasant Street, built 1911

Those who fail to appreciate history are doomed to retweet it.

Last week I asked UMass director of campus planning Dennis Swinford about the current status of the quaint brick trolley waiting station (now recycled as a bus stop shelter) and received this ominous reply: "The Massachusetts Historical Commission issued a ruling that the structure can be demolished after photo documentation and measured drawings are prepared and submitted to the Mass Archive."

In other words, the bulldozers are already warming up.

Retired Professor Joseph Larson, a historical preservationist on a mission, recently pegged the cost to save the station at $75,000...down considerably from the original lone quote UMass received at $200,000.

Considering the Amherst flagship campus has witnessed an unprecedented construction boom over the past ten years, averaging over $100 million annually, that new quote to save a healthy piece of history comes to less than one-tenth of one percent--an even more startling statistic than the Occupy mantra centered on the 1%.

Original Trolley Barn Cowles Road North Amherst, built 1897. One year demolition delay expires 7/28/12

Second Trolley Barn, now Amherst DPW, built 1917

A brief history of the local Trolley by Jonathan Tucker


Brian McCullough said...

Thanks for shining a light on this, Larry. One only needs to look at the book "Lost Amherst" to realize that the town once had marvelous things that are now gone.
I've heard people say that there is nothing historic in Amherst except Emily Dickinson. They'll be right if good people don't speak up.

LarryK4 said...

No problem. I hate it when my alma mater screws up.

The Amherst Historical Commission is meeting tonight, and will no doubt discuss this matter--and rail against destruction I trust.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if people are educated they would no what is right in front of them. The trolley stop should have historic photos in it for all to see.

Cowardly Anon said...

I've stood in that bus stop many a time and never knew it was such a piece of history. That building they are placing next to it is ugly and not-well thought out, and the trolley stop should be preserved.

Anonymous said...

The trolley stop appears to be in the public right of way (owned by the Town).
Why is this UMass's problem?

LarryK4 said...

It's close, but we're not dealing with a hand grenade. The trolley stop is not in the right of way, it's clearly on UMass property.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Larry, check it out on the GIS. It know that GIS is not a survey, but the prop line appears to run through the building.

Did anyone ask for CPA funds to save/move building?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I'm sure (uber-reliable source confirmed).

I'm also told by another reliable source that our Community Preservation Act Committee is generally somewhat hostile when it comes to spending money on historical preservation projects of any kind.

But you are correct, the town does own all of North Pleasant Street running through the heart of campus.

And UMass does want to close down traffic on it. So maybe we could make a deal:

We'll trade them North Pleasant Street for the trolley stop AND the former Frat Row.

Anonymous said...

The three buildings together are beautiful and a wonderful part of Amherst history I knew nothing about. Thanks for this story and let's hope they remain -- with signs explaining the history.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone should slap an Endangered Amherst sign on these buildings.

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic piece of history. Larry, please let us know the result of that meeting.

Kira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LarryK said...

The Historical Commission decided to send a letter to UMass requesting a full pardon for the trolley stop.

Anonymous said...

$75,000? Really? Geez, you could build a 2 bedroom house for that.

Ed said...

How did UMass actually acquire the building?

The street in 1887 and that is where the title for that land comes from. Someone owns land to west of town's land. Trolley company builds building (with license from town to run trolley) -- they either buy the land from the owner at the time or acquire it via trespass. But they definitely own it.

Trolley company goes bust, and town acquires its assets - at least those in the right of way of the streets.

I would argue that building the building there expanded the right of way of North Pleasant Street, much as the turnaround expanded the roadbed down by Pine street.