Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reflections In Downtown Utica

I was walking back to my car after a less than satisfying lunch at an oriental restaurant. The taste of cheap Bancha tea still in my taste buds. When the dark reflection in the dark store window a few doors down caught me by surprise. The reflection looked like a stranger. Someone else, not me. Someone who was much older than me. I looked once, then twice, and even a third time, ultimately confirming the "older" man was not someone hiding behind me it was me. I glanced back at the dark abyss one last time, and then headed towards my car parked just past the gold-domed bank.

I looked around as I started up my car. I looked around and thought that this was an older and different Utica than the one I remembered seeing for the first time in
1972. Much has changed. No more vibrancy or bustling activity as shoppers came and went from the Boston Store, Woolworths or Neisners. I drive past the "busy corner" where the buildings which housed Ball's and Mellos and several other thriving businesses, was torn down and replaced with an empty park and a curious liberty bell replica. A fading sunrise is painted and peeling on the adjoining brick building.
Next door the architecturally and historically important entrance to downtown Utica; the Devereaux Bldg was torn down and replaced with another small park.

Uticans decided that it was important to give up their past and to look ahead to a bright "new" future. The past was the past. Heritage and history had become a chapter in the history books for our children to learn about in school, and for old people to reminisce about as they sit around the senior centers or historical society meetings. Utica and it's suburbs are pockmarked with attempts to hide and disguise the past. Old was ugly, so we tore down the old city hall designed by famous architect Francis Upjohn and build a "beautiful new" Sheraton. Main Street and Utica was hacked into quarters and left isolated and devoid of character as a massive bridge was built on Genesee Street. Baggs Tavern and the Children's Museum sit in the shadow of this attempt to cover up and to start anew because of the "old" was bad, new is good syndrome. Beautiful old churches deteriorate and decay. Old Main sits vacant, and the buildings and neighborhoods around her are weathered by neglect... more to come

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