In the mid 1920s, my grandmother and many other residents of Highland Park laid a brick in the front exterior wall of the John S. Bradfield Elementary School.
It was her way of saying that part of our new city will stand here. She served in the cafeteria line as a volunteer. My mother — a Golden Scot — and my uncle both graduated from Bradfield. My wife taught there. One of our children attended Bradfield.
There are many stories like ours and there are many families with much deeper roots than ours.
The local schools and the continuity they represent contribute to a very special sense of place, and form part of the experience of living in the Park Cities.
Treasuring the history embodied by these places, the school board decided to obliterate it and a thin majority of the voting population agreed. It is done and it’s too bad, really.
I have no doubt the school board is filled with earnest, smart people who believe they have the best interests of the city in mind, except the history of the city as interpreted by our historical architecture, a subject not even mentioned in the PowerPoint. Over time, I would guess, we will be treated to grand new visions, beautiful renderings, and tales of how our city marched boldly into the future.
All this reminds me of a line from “Big Yellow Taxi” — “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
The new buildings certainly won’t be a parking lot, but they will be a big dose of faux history with maybe a dusty exhibit with old pictures that everyone will scurry past. The architects will call this a “reference to history” as if somehow that makes up for the loss of real historical places that will be flattened by James Earl Jones’ famous army of steamrollers.
Taking too much real history away will mean that eventually, other than the high school, the only place the Scots of today and yesterday will have in common with the Scots of tomorrow will be a zip code. The high school of my youth was repurposed as a middle school, while a brand new high school was built elsewhere. I’ve never seen the new one, because it doesn’t seem like it’s mine.
As Joni Mitchell also wrote, “They took all the trees put ’em in a tree museum. And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em.”
This will all cost a lot more than a dollar and a half ,and some believe it will be more than the projections. Some of the costs, however, will not be on a spreadsheet or on a tax bill or in a PowerPoint, but they will be more profound.
David A. Gravelle