03 November 2009

thinking about upstate cities

Ithaca has changed a lot since I moved from there to Providence in 1989. When I left, there were way fewer stores on Route 13 as you came into town. Several car dealers, a big grocery store, Manos Diner. There are now oodles and oodles of big box stores, a couple multi-floor hotels, just lots more buildings. Meanwhile, the Commons seems to be looking shabbier and shabbier. Even the Rosebud (diner) is gone, replaced by, what was it, a sushi place. I'm not sure I like these transitions but at least, overall, Ithaca seems to be thriving.

Arnot Art Museum

On the way home from a recent weekend trip to Ithaca to have supper with Margaret, Jim and Jo, I drove home through Elmira to stop at the Arnot Art Museum. The museum is a lovely Greek Revival building but, alas, wasn't open on Sundays. But it is surrounded by several lovely buildings: the county courthouse in a mix of Gothic and Greek, a church in castellated Gothic, and a Beaux Arts city hall. I know I should give you the fuller information but I haven't looked it up. It wasn't an especially inspiring day but the area looked pretty bleak. How can we have done such a nasty job on our cities?

Chemung County Court House, Elmira, NY

And these thoughts are coming on top of a fire in Alfred last week that destroyed one of the five buildings in the main business block. In addition to the businesses and apartments that were obliterated, it means that about 10% of our business spaces are gone. Hopefully, the gap will be filled in with a decent looking building. The wine store was one of the businesses burned out. The Collegiate Restaurant, aka The Jet, is currently closed because of smoke and fire damage but there was a professional cleaner van out front this afternoon as I walked home from the library. That's promising. Alfred without the Jet is a very different place.

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