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Forum, Oct. 17: Sununu celebrates the destruction of a piece of West Lebanon history

Published: 10/16/2021 10:00:10 PM
Modified: 10/16/2021 10:00:11 PM
Sununu celebrates the destruction of a piece of West Lebanon history

When we moved to Lebanon in the summer of 2000 and soon after joined the Lebanon Historical Society, the society’s members, led by City Historian Robert Leavitt, were trying to save the sandhouse at the Westboro Rail Yard, the last remaining example of a sandhouse in the New England.

The structure needed some new siding and shingles, but was solid and stable. But every effort to preserve the sandhouse came to nothing because of state resistance.

The property was under the control of the state Department of Transportation and leased to one or another railroad company. Both the state and the companies refused to let concerned citizens onto the property to do any of the work to preserve and restore the sandhouse.

The bunkhouse, where generations of rail workers slept, was accidentally set on fire by a group of teenagers a couple of decades earlier and has remained a ruin ever since. The roundhouse adjacent to the sandhouse was substantially altered as a storage facility for the railroad yard and, aside from the footprint, virtually nothing historically significant remained of this structure, which allowed railroad cars to be stored in covered bays.

Now we read that New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu cheered as the last remnants of the old rail yard were demolished (“Rail yard hits tipping point,” Oct. 13). Both he and his father’s administrations refused to allow preservation work on the structure, and now they celebrate the demise of this last remaining example of part of West Lebanon’s history.

Many of us who value the history of Lebanon and West Lebanon wanted to preserve the sandhouse as a centerpiece around which the rail yard could be redeveloped as a park and recreation complex. But Sununu and the DOT wanted to destroy this unique piece of history. They have finally succeeded.

Though it is better that the dangerous structure that the sandhouse had become was removed for safety’s sake, Sununu and his ilk are the reason why the structure had deteriorated so much in the past two decades.



The writer is the former chair of the Lebanon Heritage Commission (2006-2020) and the former curator of the Lebanon Historical Society.

Mask mandates motivated by fear

I want to discuss the issue of mandatory masking here in the Upper Valley. It is my opinion that, no matter how loudly public health experts scream, masking does more harm than good. My observation of people on the street is that they are more fearful when wearing a mask. I believe these mask mandates are motivated by one thing: irrational fear. Many people are afraid that if they catch this disease they will surely die.

This is no way for us to live, even in a pandemic. While mandatory masking might have made sense in the early days of the pandemic, we now have vaccines and effective medications to treat the sick.

In addition, there is no consideration for people in the Upper Valley who have medical conditions that make it difficult to briskly walk or speak wearing a mask. Worse, some people find that masks exacerbate other health problems.

And yet, the Lebanon City Council and Hanover Selectboard are denying us the right to say “no” for legitimate medical reasons.

It’s time to take action. From the beginning of these coercive mandates, I decided my best course of action is refusing to buy anything in Lebanon, no matter how small, so long as the mask mandate remains in place. If you live in Lebanon, there’s something else you can do: Vote. Tell your city counselors that if they don’t repeal the mask mandate, you will vote them out of office.

Money and power are the only languages politicians understand.


White River Junction

A new season is underway

A warm, golden fog rests heavy on the Vermont landscape this October. The summer’s shades of emerald have softened to a mossy green. The ridgeline highlights the leaves in hues of yellow ochre, burnt orange and alizarin kissed with raspberry during early morning runs. The sky a clear cobalt blue as the morning gives way to the new day.

On a recent Wednesday in Woodstock, I found myself visiting the market on the green. Stately brick and stone buildings surround the common space. Tents displayed in an organic uniformity. Local produce, spirits, jewelry and art punctuate each tent. A taste of Vermont living. Couples stroll with cups and cones of ice cream and maple creemees sold just a country block away. The Middle Bridge is crossed by visitors busily photographing what they imagine Vermont to be.

Tour buses, leaf peepers and out-of-state license plates fill every available parking spot. Local residents mingle, but with a more defined mission.

The soft green grass offers the perfect blanket to sit on as I watch and listen to the hum of activity. White cowboy boots shimmer to my right as they catch the subtly waning sunlight. Three performers with matching white Stetsons step up to the microphones. A local musical director is on keyboard. The Honky Tonk Angels show will be opening at the Grange Theater in the upcoming days. Songs by Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn began to fill the festive air. A couple dance — a quickstep spontaneously on display. A woman stops to record the happenings, but her feet stay in motion.

I took my time returning to the car. Strolled instead of rushed. Relaxed instead of worried. My pandemic-weary eyes felt refreshed. Renewed. My spirit too.

As Henry David Thoreau wrote: “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”


South Pomfret

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