We Try to Preserve the Best of Vermont, But What About the Rest of It?

Vanishing traces of our history

We Vermonters spend a lot of time and energy safeguarding our state against the onslaught of modern life. In community after community, like-minded residents band together to fight against so-called “improvements” and to preserve the best of our beloved Vermont. But the best is not the only thing that warrants preservation. The derelict buildings, distressed roadways, junk-filled lawns, and the glorious suburban blight of Williston Road also contribute to making Vermont such a special place, They bring life and complexity to what might otherwise be a sterile two-dimensional cartoon.

That’s where we come in, my friends. We are Montpelierites Organized for the Preservation of Eyesores, or MOPE for short. We’re not here to support the Statehouse or Hubbard Park. Other people do that. We’re here to fight for the more mundane aspects of our beloved capital city. Think of us as the slightly better-organized equivalent of those people in Burlington who file lawsuits against anything and everything. Thanks in part to them, The Pit continues to be a familiar blight in the heart of the Queen City.

MOPE came into being after the tragic removal of a long-established junkyard on Barre Street. It was a familiar part of our city’s landscape, a small reminder of our gritty industrial heritage. And then, suddenly, after only a few decades of battle, it was gone. We’ll never get it back.

Take a gander at the street scene above. Those faint orange patches are the remnants of the BLACK LIVES MATTER motto painted on State Street in 2020, when the killing of George Floyd galvanized a nationwide movement. The paint has faded over time, but what remains is a testament to that most Vermontish of pastimes: the empty gesture. If another winter goes by, there may be noting left at all. We must act now to save these precious smudges!

And no, we don’t want it repainted. We want it as is.

Many other such treasures are under threat, due to the well-meaning plans of property owners and bureaucrats and other meddlers who don’t understand the importance of saving Montpelier exactly how it is right now.

When it comes to change in the capital city, MOPE says NOPE!

Here’s a rundown of our current projects. If you agree, please consider becoming a fellow MOPEr.

— The congested intersection of Main and Barre Streets. The city plans to install a traffic signal to bring order into the current disorder. But c’mon, what would a city be without a bit of disorder? The intersection everybody dreads is part and parcel of city life. Next time you’re stuck behind someone fruitlessly trying to turn left onto Main, don’t smack your steering wheel in frustration. Rather, take a moment to enjoy a rare bit of chaos in our normally placid downtown.

We oppose any additional traffic-control measures. In fact, we would also remove the new pedestrian crosswalk on Main just south of Barre Street. And we are considering a petition drive to get rid of the only extant traffic signal in the downtown area — at Main and State Streets. Let’s return to a time when the innate politeness of Vermonters triumphed over vehicular mayhem. Let’s restore a bit of adventure to the process of walking across the street.

— The former location of La Brioche in the City Center building. Well, the entire City Center is a blight on the landscape, but it’s not going anywhere. But the vacant bakery/cafe space on the corner could be occupied by a new, unfamiliar tenant at any moment.

La Brioche was a cherished meeting place for many area residents, and it’s a tangible reminder of the dearly departed New England Culinary Institute. Take down that “for rent” sign and replace it with a historic plaque! Keep the interior vacant. Add some tables and chairs and a display counter. Put in some mood lighting. Instead of allowing it to become yet another office space or cellphone store or tattoo parlor, give people the chance to remember the beloved fixture that used to occupy that space.

— Speaking of NECI, we confront the existential threat to its former home on College Hill. The Vermont College of Fine Arts is no more. It seems unlikely that another educational institution will take its place, given the decline in liberal arts and specialty colleges.

The college green and the surrounding buildings have been a mainstay of the College Hill neighborhood, not to mention a buffer against new construction. Keep it vacant. Preserve it, metaphorically, in amber. The lost property value is more than compensated for by a timeless reminder of Montpelier’s educational past.

— The pothole-strewn pavement of lower North Street. It’s practically a testament to Vermonters’ need for robust transportation. Think of it as a shrine to the Subaru. Plus, all those bumps and dips force drivers to keep well below the speed limit, thus enhancing the safety of one of Montpelier’s friendlier neighborhoods. Think of the scarred pavement as a naturally-installed set of speed bumps.

— The chaotic parking lots behind Main Street retailers including Rabble Rouser Chocolate, Aubuchon’s, Capitol Stationers, and Bear Pond Books. Every corner is a fender-bender waiting to happen. The pavement is delightfully rutted and decayed. It’s only a matter of time before some alleged improvement is proposed. Let’s act now to nip any such notion in the bud.

It’s too late for the Barre Street junkyard. It’s too late for the delightfully trashy bottle redemption store next to Shaw’s. It’s not too late to save the remaining eyesores of Montpelier.

Your participation strengthens our movement and helps us prevent any and all change to our precious city. Repeat after me: MOPE says NOPE!

2 thoughts on “We Try to Preserve the Best of Vermont, But What About the Rest of It?

  1. Empty Gestures

    “… but what remains is a testament to that most Vermontish of pastimes: the empty gesture.”

    An apt and accurate definition for Vermont and Vermonters. The State may wish to consider that a suitable slogan for its license plate.

    Reply

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