A few years ago, my husband and I took a trip to Europe and visited the old town areas of many cities. All of these places had cobblestone streets that were very well-maintained. In one area, workers were repairing some damaged stones by chipping and fitting in the replacements.
Another place where stones are very well a part of history is Gettysburg. There are signs on the battlefield that state that it is a crime to remove even one stone.
Closer to home, if you drive up Route 104 toward Orleans County, you will see many cobblestone houses that are tourist attractions.
In my neighborhood, stones were used a century ago by immigrants to pave the streets, build homes and create a park. Many of these stones were paved over throughout the years, but we had one section of a Medina sandstone street still untouched. These were on an incline where the kids used to ride their bikes and go bumpity-bump down the hill. A few weeks ago, I got a call from a neighbor who said the stones were being covered. No one knew this was going to happen, and I felt a little chunk of history disappearing.
A few years ago, a 100-plus-year-old stone building was knocked down at our Davey Street Playground. The members of the Iron Island Society adopted this area as part of the Olmsted Adopt-A-Park Program. We cleaned, had trees planted and were able to view the inside of the building. Although neglect and vandals had caused indoor damage, the building was structurally sound and could have been repaired. Instead, more history was erased.
Hennepin Park was noted for stone work and a hilly area. The Iron Island Society also adopted this park and spent many hours cleaning and planting. However, with a building on one end of the park and the destruction of two brick shelter houses and removal of a wading pool, there was not much green space to work with.
Without our knowledge, a man from California was hired to design a playground. His idea took lots of work from volunteers, including Iron Island members. The day after we did our work, I got a call from someone who lived by the park: "Marge, they're taking the stones out of the park."
A drive-by revealed all the Medina sandstone had been removed. The next day, I drove past and the man was looking at two stone pillars, which have been in the park forever. I asked him what he was doing and he said that the other stone was not appropriate.
Our group was able to take the Medina sandstone and have it stored for future replacement. However, we were threatened with charges of grand larceny so we returned it to the park, only to see it given to a neighbor for use around his pool. The slate used for steps in the park was given to the contractor who built the huge office building in the park.
Most people who live in the Iron Island still love their homes and their neighborhood, but they have to admit that the character has been diminished.
I wish newcomers could have seen what it used to be like when Hennepin Park and Davey Street Playground were perfect places for recreation, and the Medina sandstone street was a perfect place for bumpity-bumping on your bike.
When people ask: "Marge, whose fault is this?" I point to their elected officials, who have no interest in old stones or historic preservation and surely don't follow the wishes of the electorate.