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NH's past: Just leave it to Hollywood

If only more Granite Staters cared as much as Hollywood does about preserving our architectural heritage.

At this month's town election, Kingston voters rejected a proposal to spend $150,000 to save the 179-year-old, publicly owned Grace Daley house on Main Street. Rather than spend the money, they voted for demolition. The house is a goner, but its pieces might be given renewed life by a California actor turned preservationist.

Bronson Pinchot, most famous for playing the character Balki in the 1980s TV show "Perfect Strangers" and Serge in the Beverly Hills Cop movies, has a cable TV show in which he salvages pre-1840s buildings. When a fan brought the Grace Daley house to his attention, he contacted the town about using it for his show.

Pinchot carefully disassembles old buildings and reuses their parts. As he said in an interview with the Union Leader last week, "you admire the workmanship and you honor it."

That is something done less and less in New Hampshire. There are numerous examples. To cite only a few, in 2006 Manchester razed its oldest standing firehouse. In 2011, the State Employees Association bought a beautiful Concord home built in 1802 and tore it down. In January, the owners of the Balsams Grand Resort, having no use for one of the original buildings, burned it down.

The attitude expressed by SEA president Diana Lacey in 2011 is more prevalent than it should be. "We're interested in the property. We're not interested in the building," she told Concord's Demolition Review Committee.

Who really is interested in old buildings these days? They're so... old. All that creaky wood and warped glass, those narrow stairwells and drafty doorways. Modern is the way to go. And it is the way New Hampshire is going. Without looking back. Just light the match and walk away, looking ever forward, ever forward.


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