The tag line in the town where I live is "Lowell - a lot to like." Around the old mill buildings, converted to so-so loft apartments, the banners of "a lot to like" have started to fade from the sun and rain and maybe winter. I moved here in July, so I don't know when they were placed on the lamp posts, as if by looking up at them I won't see the smashed jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce, spattered over the side walk in shards of glass and puddles that look like blood. A lot to like but not the person who had neither will nor initiative to clean up the mess they created.
And yet, as I walked across the rain damp street so I could get a better look at the massive Queen Anne brick building that was the First Congregational Church, I thought, there's still a lot to like here. As I gaze at the building with its massive point-arched windows and slate roof, I see the red square with the white x in it. Behind me, also stunning in its scale is the Lowell Public Library, of which I will soon be a member. I think the red/white sign means demolition but I hope not. That amazing Victorian brick building needs a new life, an investment so that it lasts another hundred years, creates a new history for a new century. I don't know what the red/white sign indicates, so I turn into the library.
"Are they demolishing the building across the street," I ask the librarian, behind her plexi-glass shield.
"Oh I hope not," she responds. Clearly as upset as I am that a building as magnificent as the old church would come down.
"I don't know," I said. "It has that funny sign. The red square with the big white x. Isn't that a demolition sign?" I am heartened that she is as emotional about that splendid edifice as I am, even as she works in a splendid edifice that has clearly been lovingly saved.
"I hope I'm wrong," I say as I gaze at the heavy oak shelves holding thousands of books. "Can I walk round?"
"Oh yes, we're open until 9. I'm going to call someone. He'll be able to tell me what the sign means."
I don't see her again as I wonder and wander around this granite Richardsonian Romanesque building fulfilling its purpose as a center of erudition. Only after I'm home, and I start writing this blog, do I go online and learn the red/white x sign means: "structural or interior hazards exist to a degree that consideration should be given to limit fire fighting to exterior operations only."
I hope it never comes to that. I hope the librarian was able to find the person who could tell her that, 'no, the building isn't going to be knocked down.' And I hope someone comes to save it.