Another Merrill landmark, the Hermione Livingston American Legion building located across the street from the T.B. Scott library in Merrill, is in danger of being demolished!
The citizens of Merrill do not usually get much advance notice when one of our buildings – historic or otherwise – is slated for demolition. The result is that often a building is here today and gone tomorrow. Many city blocks in Merrill have empty lots where buildings previously stood but where no building can be placed now because building code regulations require greater setbacks and minimum sizes than previously. Although some buildings are clearly derelict or abandoned and the need to remove them is clear, there still is a bit of a surprise when a piece of land that held a building yesterday turns out to be vacant today.
But members of the Merrill Historical Society got a warning shot across the bow last week at the annual meeting of the society: the Hermione Livingston American Legion building is endangered. The building is currently owned by the Merrill Historical Society which uses it for collections storage. At the annual meeting of the MHS the Board of Directors suggested two possible motions for members to vote on concerning the building. One choice was to spend no money on maintenance or updating of the building, the other was to accept a $17,000 proposal to evaluate the building from an architectural firm that is already on record as saying that it would be more cost effective to build a new building (that recommendation was made when the firm hoped to get the commission to build a replacement. That option subsequently fell through.) Board members had earlier voted in favor of the motion not to spend any money on building maintenance – a declaration of intent to neglect the building. MHS members were going to be asked to vote to accept the Board’s position. At the same meeting, our city administrator, David Johnson (who sits on the MHS Board of Directors) explained that the building could be acquired by the city which would demolish it in order to expand the parking lot of Kitchenette Park. To be clear, the Livingston Building would be demolished in order to make a parking lot!
After vigorous discussion – during which Johnson claimed that the building has no architectural significance (in fact, it is listed in a 1991 Survey of Buildings of Potential Historical Significance commissioned by the City of Merrill as part of the effort to get the Center Avenue district listed on the National Register!) and members were told that they apparently did not understand what the costs of historic preservation are like (an assumption that everyone in Merrill is an uninformed or naive country bumpkin) I made a motion to table any decision until members could be better informed about the options. That motion was seconded and carried by a show of hands.
What is clear is that, unlike the T.B. Scott Mansion which is owned by a private corporation, the Livingston Building is owned by the members of the MHS – and we can choose to preserve it or not. Yes, it very well may be expensive – but a new building will be expensive as well. The previous work on the current MHS Museum & Cultural Center – an addition to the old Bethlehem Lutheran Church – cost over one million dollars. A proposal for a combined storage space and expansion of exhibit space made this spring by Oberbeck Associates of Wausau was another 1.2 million dollars. Preserving and protecting the Livingston Building is more likely to run around $250,000 and has the added bonus of saving a historic building. Once we demolish our history, we cannot rebuild it. The irony here is that most historical societies would fight to acquire a building like the Livingston Building in order to preserve it. The Board of the MHS does not, however see the building as historic – only as a building that they purchased for storage space. What kind of historical society works with city officials to demolish hundred year old buildings that are structurally sound and already in their possession?
The options are clear:
Members of the MHS can attend the next meeting and/or make their preferences known to the Board of Directors either in favor of protecting the Livingston Building or in favor of a pole shed replacement.
People who are not members of the MHS can join the Historical Society and make their desire to save the building known to the Board of Directors.
People can make restricted donation to the MHS – specifying that donations should go toward the maintenance and upkeep of the Livingston Building, one of our nicer historic buildings.
Or, people of Merrill can do nothing and watch yet another Merrill building be turned into an empty field – and then complain about it later.
So, it’s your Merrill. Do you want to preserve it or do you want another parking lot?
Letter to the Editor:
My wife and I toured the new Pine Crest addition, the 20-bed Special Care Unit on the west end of the building.
Thanks to the people who envisioned this project; the Lincoln County Board Supervisors who voted for this project and the employees and volunteers who work there. They all should be commended for a job well done.
The citizens of Lincoln County should be very proud of these upgrades, including the second project which will be a 20-bed rehabilitation unit. The families in the future will see a good change with private rooms.
Phyllis & Larry Simon
Citizens for Decency, Lincoln County Inc. exists to support and honor good citizenship, respect laws, be specific and dedicated to promoting, teaching and supporting moral and sexually honorable and legal personal relationships between and among all of our fellow travelers.
Citizens for Decency is part of my “What in God’s name is right with you and right for you” program of education and support for all those people who may be troubled by what they believe, what is wrong with them and/or what has been done to them.
Abuse, neglect, tragedy and other destructive events and relationships are a chronic epidemic among us. Even those of us who seem to have been “lucky” can get spiritually and emotionally misled and hurt.
Sexualized events and relationships that occur outside of honorable and mutual loving can produce an endless replay of abusive relationship patterns for an entire lifetime of an individual and their future capabilities and successes.
That’s why it is important for everyone especially those connected in any way with children to attend the hosted event by Citizens for Decency, Lincoln County Inc. on Nov. 4 1:30 p.m. at T.B. Scott Library, Merrill, to become educated on preventing childhood sexual abuse, child sex trafficking and child pornography. Do this because you care and want to learn more to help who you can.
I’m really excited about the ongoing celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It’s now in process, and will continue until Oct. 31, 2017.
On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther, monk-turned-professor, posted his “95 Theses” on the door of the University Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The Theses were topics for discussion and debate by church theologists. They were rapidly translated from Latin to German, printed and distributed throughout all Germany and beyond. This is considered the start of the Reformation.
It turns out that Luther unintentionally became a major part of a movement to insure freedom of speech, besides his major teaching that God’s love and forgiveness are totally unconditional gifts.
Regarding freedom of speech, Luther, in a debate with church spokesman John Eck in 1519, proclaimed, “I have the right to believe freely, to be a slave to no man’s authority, to confess what appears to me to be true whether it is approved or disapproved, whether it is spoken by a Catholic or by a heretic…” This view, already in the hopes and hearts of many, eventually became the law of the land in many countries. It is enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…”
But there was much more. Luther taught, based on Scripture, that God’s love, His forgiveness, His presence, were gifts to be received, without condition, by faith alone.
In essence, the teachings of Luther suggested that we are the recipients of God’s gifts to us of Himself. Is this not astounding?
Oct. 31, 2017, will be special. Happy 500th Reformation Day!
James A. Lewis
Village of Maine