Letter to the Editor: Town Greens and the Brewer-Young Mansion

Town Greens are a cherished part of the New England townscape. Whether viewed from the lens of an older resident with a special memory of an event that took place years ago or a newcomer, who fell in love with Longmeadow upon driving into town on Route 5, we all share a connection to our beautiful, historic Town Green. It holds a memory of a different time and is a testament to the reason so many of us have chosen to live in this area of western Massachusetts: a sense of community and history, and a commitment to fine schools, library, children and families.

Longmeadow’s pristine Town Green, as we know and love it, is no fluke of history! On the contrary, it represents a gift from our forefathers and stands as the earliest example of “Community Planning” in the state of Massachusetts and quite possibly the country:

“Beginning in 1898, the historical interests of local residents led to the “restoration” of the Green to its Colonial character. Buildings – industrial, commercial and residential – which had been constructed on the Green, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were demolished or relocated to recreate an open, green expanse in the center of the village.” Longmeadow’s Nomination Form – National Register of Historic Places, 9-28-1982.

From the Post-Revolutionary period and throughout much of the nineteenth century, most of Longmeadow’s commercial establishments were located on the Green. In 1898 they were purposefully removed as part of this remarkable effort to return the Green to its “Colonial appearance”. The only commercial building allowed to remain on the perimeter of the Green was Calvin Burt and Stephen Cooley’s “Old Country Store” (currently The Spa on the Green). Erected in 1805, this approx. 2,500 square foot building at 776 Longmeadow Street, served as Longmeadow’s general store for 100 of its 200+ year history.

We are at a crossroads – a unique time in our town’s history – when this bold vision of our forefathers to realize such an extraordinary feat of community planning and historic preservation, is being threatened! After 119 years, we are being pressed by a group of investors, masquerading as preservationists, to either convert one of the most beautiful homes on the Green ~ the Brewer –Young Mansion ~ to a 10,900 sq. ft. office building via zone change (more than quadrupling the amount of commercial/office space on the Green) or, in their words: “tear it down.”

Thankfully, the law is on our side! The proposed zone-change, from a residential to a professional office use, represents a clear-cut case of “Spot Zoning,” which is illegal in the state of Massachusetts. We are confident that this will be affirmed at the local and state level… However this may not preclude the investors from taking the issue to a Town Meeting.

Should this issue come before the town in the coming months we urge you to join us in preserving our history by keeping the Green free of commercial/office development and voting NO on any proposed zone change.

For more information on related issues, please check out our Facebook page @saveourgreenlongmeadow. Like it! Share it!

Sincerely yours,
Ed Carroll
Longmeadow Resident