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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Glasnost, Amherst College Style

 Clark House Fence(l.)                President's House (r.)

“The fence is inconsistent with the way the college is; we don’t have a fence between ourselves and the community,” Amherst College’s director of design and construction Tom Davies recently told the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Director Davies was explaining the college’s principal decision to take down the 80-year-old, 310 foot-long wooden fence around the Clark House, a former private residence alongside Route 9 in the heart of the campus. Built in the mid-1800s, the Greek Revival building currently houses classes and offices for political science and several other departments.

The Amherst Historical Commission Protests. On Monday night, the Amherst Historical Commission, citing the town’s demolition delay bylaw, voted 3 to 1 with one abstention to commute the fence’s capital sentence for a year. This blog’s readers can judge the aesthetic merits of the fence from the above photo or on their own field trip to the site at the corner of Rt. 9 and Seelye Street. But they should do so sooner rather than later: the fence’s ongoing deterioration, including rot and decay—and facilitated by neglect from the college—increasingly serves the naysayers’ case. While Director Davies cites philosophical reasons as paramount, he also points out that the college would need to fork over $15,000 to paint and repair the fence.

And if he were so inclined, Director Davies might remind us that up by the college’s War Memorial sits the fenceless outdoor sculpture of favorite son Robert "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors" Frost. Still, inconsistencies remain. The college president’s residence, pictured above, is mindfully sequestered behind soaring arbor vitae and other greenery. If ubermenchen still roamed the earth, they might call it a fortress of solitude.

Good Fences? Good Neighbors?

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