Chandler House Vigil: Which side of history will you be on?

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Jessica Goff, left, and Chloe Lacasse standing witness on the corner of Lowell & Union Street, Manchester NH. Photo|Keith Spiro

MANCHESTER, NH – Each day we choose with our time, our attention and our money that which is important to us.  The people rallying to save the Chandler house are distinctive in their respectful, visible approach but make no mistake, this is a protest against the destruction of a historic building. Though these people stand in vigil and bear witness to the choice the Diocese can make, it will be the future citizens of Manchester and the unforgiving world of Google search that will tell the story of the Chandler House.

Well known and widely published Manchester natives John Clayton and Gary Samson at the vigil on the corner of Lowell and Union streets, Manchester NH. Photo|Keith Spiro

Gary Sampson and John Clayton are two individuals with some of the strongest, deepest and most visible eyes to the stories of the city of Manchester. Each in their own way have documented the human and structural aspects of this great City. Their presence at this vigil and their bearing witness to the decision on the table is a powerful statement.  Do a Google search on either of them and in less than half a second, Gary Samson shows up with 11 million results; John Clayton 1.5 million results. They are not the only ones standing vigil and making comments. There are many others including 4, 221 people who have signed the petition to save the Chandler House at the moment this was published.

What does a “Chandler House” search reveal?

“Please consider signing this petition to save a very important historical building in Manchester, NH. I am especially asking my friends, former students and anyone who values Community culture and history to help with this effort.”

Gary Samson, Manchester Native, former president of NH Society of Photographic Artists and the 7th Artist Laureate of NH at New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.

“This 9000 square foot architectural gem would be a great addition to the Currier’s campus. Please help convince the Diocese of Manchester to change their decision to demolish it for a parking lot.”

John Clayton, Manchester Native, current Executive Director Manchester Historic Association, well-known speaker and columnist and formerly NH Crossroads show host.

Whether or not the space becomes a parking lot, the internet will always remember this searchable comment and the articles in the Manchester Ink Link and other print, TV and digital media. It is the way of the world we live in. Right here. Right now.

The most Reverend Peter A. Libasci has the opportunity, right now – today – to write the future history of this piece of the Manchester Diocese in a very positive way. A strong, responsive-to-community and good communications way without the term or insinuation of “underlings interfering” showing up in search. The ability to change the decision away from demolition is now purely his.

Yesterday, July 1, some two dozen people met on the corner of Union and Lowell Street covering all four corners near Joseph’s Cathedral and across from the Boys & Girls Club. They stood for more than an hour with posters and they rang small bells quietly to bring attention to the question that’s on the table right now. Both the Boys & Girls Club and the church are there to minister to the needs of the local community.

The group then moved on to stand on both sides of River Road where the Bishop’s residence looks out onto Stark Park. Here again, some two dozen community-minded individuals stood in a respectful vigil softly ringing small bells and increasing the frequency and fervor as cars whose drivers honked their horns twice in support gave further witness to their cause.

The Diocese rectory on River Road in Manchester. Photo|Keith Spiro

Those in attendance at the vigil talked with great worry that the only thread maintaining the Chandler house today is an awaited for electrical report “OK” to begin demolition of the building. This makes Bishop Libasci the person with the ultimate power to change the course of business and bring this issue to closure with a real public relations coup for the Diocese of Manchester.

In these difficult times, with a COVID-19 pandemic dominating headlines, activists and social media has brought witness to behaviors both good and bad.  Manchester citizens and friends of Save the Chandler House have shown civility in how community communications and negotiations should take place.

As a business strategist who has worked with disruptive startups in commercial enterprises, I see here the opportunity for long-term goodwill and positive communications that will benefit the Diocese. Just ask “The Google” as it will write the next or final chapter whether we like it or not. Bishop Libasci and the Diocese have the opportunity to create a major positive public relations event by simply withdrawing the demolition permit.

Every day we choose with our time,  our attention and our money that which is important to us. Today the future of the Chandler House is on the table. What action will you take?

Click here to see my #communicast interview with John Clayton.