On Tearing Down Lyman Terrace
Reprinted with permission, a letter from John Brigham, who teaches at UMass and lives in Holyoke, on tearing down Lyman Terrace:
April 24, 2012
TO: Holyoke Historical Commission
I recently moved to Holyoke after 30 years in Amherst. I teach at the University of Massachusetts in the Political Science Department.
The attractions of Holyoke were its history and its dynamic and diverse population. Tearing down Lyman Terrace would go against both of the things that attracted me to the city.
I have lived in New York City in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. I have visited the “First Houses” on the Lower East Side and the former industrial district that is now SOHO. I know what it means to preserve the physical structures that tie the present to the past. I also read the wonderful article on Lyman Terrace published by Amy Hewes in the Social Service Review from the University of Chicago in 1942 that tells of the hope for the then new housing project.
I also have a lifetime of experience with the attractions of diverse populations. My entire career at UMass has spanned a transformation of my department from one that was predominately white and almost entirely male to one with a more diverse faculty. I do not oppose change that honors who we are.
While Holyoke is neither NYC nor UMass, there are lessons from both places about how we build for the future. Caring about our past and our residents seems like such an obvious thing that I sometimes think a proposal like that for tearing down Lyman Terrace is just a bad dream.
Yet I know the reality. There are interests that would demolish our history and remove those who inhabit our historic buildings. But history shows that there can be serious political and financial repercussions for destroying the historic and social fabric of a city.