Destroy to Make

I do not like throwing things away.  Don't get me wrong - there is something cathartic about decluttering, about purging the extraneous flotsam that lives naturally accumulate over months and years.  But to determine that a thing may no longer exist, to intervene in the natural state of stasis, to dictate that a thing will meet its ultimate demise at your determination and will - that is an act, a decision not taken lightly.  And so I save twist-ties and plastic bags, I have cans of random screws and nails out of the suspicion that, surely, if I discard something today, I will most certainly need it tomorrow. Waste not, want not. And so, founded in this compulsion, we sweated and toiled to salvage whatever we could from these shotgun houses on York, all in a row, we hauling thousands of brick, pulling any and all wood that was not necessary to keep the building from falling on us, salvaging flooring for us and others, pulling electrical panels and doors and windows and doorknobs - anything that could have another life, another reincarnation of use, to save it from that most lavish of privileges - the landfill.  

But today, it was the proverbial end of the line for 3 shotgun houses, and tomorrow it will be 3 more. And it was remarkable how easily they each collapsed when nudged by the yellow excavator that grappled and clawed at the slunken heap of splintered wood - these structures that stood in defiance of every structural engineer that told me they should not be standing, so easily toppled once acted upon. It seemed almost disrespectful, as I stood there and watched, but it was also exhilarating. And yet it was the only option, the only path was to clear the way for a new batch of houses, well-built, energy-efficient, and beyond their predecessors' benchmark, they will strive to be inspiring of the individual(s) that will live here, to take on and themselves be inspired by the forms of their predecessors, to remember those who built these homes a century ago, and what they built out of so little.

History is not easily discarded, in my mind - it is something like sacred, like time gathered up and collected like currency. It has an inertia all its own, to be, a will to persist and remain, and this must be considered, if not honored, and to obliterate that history requires that it be done with good and valid reasons. So I did my homework. I asked everyone I could find, in all trades and pursuits and fields of expertise, what the tipping point was for renovating versus tearing down when it came to structures like these. And, based on what I heard, we were beyond that point with these shotguns.  So, the discarding of that history, well, that is on me, and I know we will do all we can to do it justice.

The past is just the aggregation of all of the presents collapsed and doled out to the distant horizon, and there is nothing saying that there was anything remarkable about these places, other than that they were, that they existed, and provided shelter and fostered family and home for so many.  And it probably wasn't all positive, either.  But it was. And so we do our best to honor that, as we tear down to build up, as we reiterate a row of shotgun houses to be what we feel this place needs, here, now.

[KMN]