Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I'm thinking "parking lot"

So, the Mark Twain house couldn't make it.

Let's do what we do with all of our historic buildings in Hartford. Knock it down, and pour blacktop. We need more surface parking in case people ever decide to come to Hartford.

The only problem with tearing it down is that every promotional brochure in the state, which features "things to do in Hartford" would have to be torn up and reprinted. Twain's house is the most visible sign that Hartford has a culture to protect, and its failure is a true indication of how much respect culture really gets here.

And if we don't need another parking lot (and who could imagine ever having enough parking lots), then we can subdivide it, put up cubicles and turn it into a social services agency, a halfway house, or a needle exchange.

But what will visitors to Hartford do, if they can't be directed to Twain's lovely manse on Farmington Avenue. Where will Springsteen go the next time the E Street Band rolls into town, the legislative office building? How will Steven King spend a sunny afternoon in the Capitol city, trying to find where Wallace Stevens lived? Where will Meryl Streep stop on her way between Litchfield and Boston, the Hartford Public library for a quick bathroom tryst?

In their desperation, I would hope (there's that damned subjunctive again), that the people running Twain place have approached every major personality who has ever graced Twain's doorstep for a contribution. I would guess that they have pleaded with each corporation that has ever snapped a photo of the graceful brick and lattice work for use on a "Welcome To Hartford" booklet for transfers and new hires, to cough up a few bucks. I would expect that they would have run a public campaign to collect pennies for the house where Huck was born.

Somehow the word "mismanagement" creeps into my thoughts. How is it that the lovely Harriet Beecher Stowe home is ripe with endowment? Is it that directors have been hired who exhibit Twain's vaunted lack of a business sense? Will Twain's ghost have to walk the floors of Uncle Tom's Cabin?

There must be someone with a little imagination who can sell the idea that we ought not shutter a building where one of America's great minds spent hours avoiding the work that would make him famous.

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