Letter: Lenox must protect its historic properties

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To the editor:

In 1792, Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Root was pleased to move his family and his blacksmith business into his new home at 36 Pittsfield Road. That home, owned by the Hashim family, was unceremoniously demolished.

The Lenox Demolition Delay bylaw takes effect March 1. If it had been in effect, this historically important house would have almost certainly been considered for preservation. Unfortunately, this demolition followed in the shameful tradition of letting a property deteriorate to the point it has to be torn down.

Other historic properties are at similar risk of demolition by neglect:

— 17 West Street (Cozynook, owned by Chabad of the Berkshires.

— 50 Church Street barn, owned by Tony Chojnowski

— 1843 School House across from Eastover, owned by Yingxing Wang (Eastover.)

— 211 Main Street, which may have recently been purchased

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Preservationists in Lenox made numerous attempts to reach the Hashim family and Chabad of the Berkshires to offer assistance in saving these historic properties by paying for consultants or in writing grants for funds available from the town and the state for historic properties. Crickets.

The arguments for this type of neglect are slim.

Too expensive to rehabilitate. Really? Demolition is costly and harmful to the environment. And what does new construction cost? $300 per square foot?

Not configured the way the owner wants it. This shows a lack of imagination. Just down Pittsfield Road the Revolutionary War era twin of the Oliver Root house, the Arcadian Shop, has kept a recognizable historic exterior while functioning well as a modern retail store.

The loss of any historic asset is a loss for the whole community. Lenox's sense of history is a contributor to its attractiveness as a tourist destination and certainly a heritage for residents. Historic assets add value to the whole town's real estate values just as run-down properties — historic or not — subtract from real estate values.

Why let these properties deteriorate when they could be sold to an owner interested in rehabilitation or donated for re-use as much needed affordable housing — and possibly a tax deduction?

Lucy Kennedy,

Lenox


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