So this is the infamous Ward 4. Worst crack house in the city at one time. What a fine old Victorian girl she is now with her grand stairway and polished wood floors. A few scattered burn marks from crack pipes remind one of the darkest days in her provenance, now an interesting detail to relate to visitors. This old gal stands as a flagship of the vision and hard work of the folks who rehabbed and restored her four years ago - long before the current Ward 4 councilor came upon the scene and into this neighborhood. If he had only seen it before the turnaround efforts began his mindset might have been far more positive.
From a cozy spot I look out on a panorama many don't realize exists here - the view begins at the South, and from here one can see the city on the South and countryside to the West . The former high school, now Academy, was built during the WPA days, what a blessing those work projects were to unemployed skilled craftsmen, and what a legacy they gave us in return. I am reminded by this tremendous stonework and masonry that Fitchburg has seen tough times before, and like then, she will rise again to shine as only this unique, diverse city can.
The historic churches with green tarnished steeples that have married and buried friends, loved ones and ancestors ... the hustle and bustle of downtown... It must have been something to see the first motorcars sharing the streets with the trolleys ... To the Southwest and due West are Laurel Hill, Rollstone Hill, Mount Wachusett in the distance, and finally the long straight ridge of Alpine Hill that seems to go on forever until it's out of my view.
The twinkling lights of the radio towers on Alpine Hill bring a rush of memories of my first days in New England, pulling transmitter duty babysitting and maintaining the huge AM and FM transmitters that were not just a primary source of entertainment, but of vital news, fire alerts so dreaded in those days when the mills and factories were in full operation, neighbors swapping personal goods long before Craig's List was a concept or possibility. Those towers and keeping those transmitters on the air - that was our lifeline in those days. Watergate and Hank Aaron, Gene LaVerne. Funny the memories that can be triggered by blinking red lights.
It's after 11 PM and other than an occasional car driving by and the ticking of the mantle clock, there isn't a sound.
Some days I hear kids laughing and talking when they sit on the stone wall out front, and in the melodic tinkle of their laughter I return briefly to those twelve year old days with Rosemary, giggling while discussing schoolgirl (and boy) "crushes", and I smile, comforted that life is indeed a circle, L'dor V'dor - generation to generation.
Some Saturdays or Sundays there is loud music for a couple of hours, and it's rhythmic, melodious, and musical ... not the foul obscene offensive racket that came from the cars in the FSC neighborhood. Accompanying the music are laughter and happy shouts of loud, demonstrative families celebrating another birthday or just celebrating the day. It smells and sounds delicious, this blending of cultures.
There are brown people in this neighborhood, and tan ones, and pale ones like me. There are languages I do not understand, and languages I speak. Color and flavor, scent and music, and the joy of living each day to its fullest ... that's all present up here in Ward 4.
What I haven't heard is a gunshot or a fight or obscene boom boom "music." What I haven't seen are drug deals or hookers or anything or anyone that has made me feel threatened or uncomfortable.
This neighborhood stands as a testament - an example of what happens when one person at a time takes on the challenge of revitalization and rehabilitation. And it stands as a testament to the turnaround that's possible with the cooperation of residents and a caring police department.
Chief Cronin should come visit sometime just to share the view from the top of Ward 4. It's a good place with lots of promise and potential. The turnaround has already begun. The time to tear down has ended. The time to build is at hand.
Labels: Cronin, DeSalvatore, Fitchburg, Ward 4