Confucius said, “Study the past if you would define the future.” Learning from the past helps us plan the future. This is something that needs to be remembered as we all work to move Manchester forward.
During our most recent visit to Manchester we drove around the city on a sort of self-guided history tour. Manchester has a pretty cool history. It has had its share of ups and downs, but no matter what happened, no matter what natural disaster or economic crisis faced it, the people led it back. I often think of Manchester as “the city that won’t die.”
One of my favorite local writers — and one who knows more about MHT than anyone I know of John Clayton, often writes of the historical aspects of the city. I really enjoy how John ties the history of Manchester with the city that exists today. I believe that tying our history to the present is a very good thing because it helps us remember where we have been, the struggles and celebrations — and it helps us see the progression of the city as well as the triumphs and blunders. It is important to learn from our history. What did we do right? What did we do wrong? How can we do better? These are questions that need to be answered in order to help Manchester become an even greater place to live, play, and work.
It is said that history repeats itself. I find this to be true, but believe it’s because we often repeat our actions. We sometimes don’t learn from our history; we sometimes don’t take the past into consideration when planning for the future. But I don’t believe that just understanding history is enough. We need to honor our history. We need to look at what has been done in the past and find ways to improve on what we did. We shouldn’t be all about getting rid of things from the past in the name of progress. We do not need to — nor should we — eradicate history to move forward. We can build for our future while honoring our past.
, city decision makers have made some blunders when it comes to some city landmarks, such as destroying the Notre Dame Bridge, Union Station, and the canals as well as leveling neighborhoods and replacing them with sterile strip malls in the name of progress, (e.g. McGregorville and Granite Square). But city decision makers have also made some great moves such as making it possible to keep most of our cherished mills so that they could be preserved, restored, and repurposed. (I certainly don’t fault the city for tearing down mills that were dangerous and unhealthy, such as those found to contain Anthrax).
One of the great things about history is that we can learn from it — if we have the desire to. A city like Manchester allows us the tremendous opportunity to preserve and learn from our history because we are surrounded by it. We just need to take the time to look at the historical aspects of things and ask ourselves what we can learn from them; we need to ask what we can learn about the past so that we can improve our future.
So many cherished buildings and sites have been destroyed in Manchester. Some needed to be destroyed, but others were taken from us in the name of progress. Instead of automatically looking to the wrecking ball, we need to first consider if they can be somehow repurposed or if we can include or honor them with a new design.
Regardless of our good intentions, it is sometimes necessary to replace the old, and while I believe that it’s important to look at the historical value of things recognize that sometimes they are beyond repair or restoration. Even in these cases, we still need to consider how their existence and history can be honored as part of any development.
I have been told that my thoughts are simply nostalgia and that Manchester just needs to move forward — even at the expense of its history. I strongly disagree with this assessment and would remind those who feel this way that destroying our past is just covering it up; it is denying who we are and letting go of our identity. Our history is documented fact, so we need to honor and learn from it as well as embrace the identity that it has given us.
The real challenge is two-fold. We first need to appreciate and honor Manchester’s history. We then need to work at finding creative and innovative ways to repurpose historical buildings as well as design, build and maintain historical monuments and sites; we need to honor our history with our actions.
Manchester’s history is tied to its identity and is something that we need to honor so that we can always be reminded of what has made our city what it is today…the city that won’t die.
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About the author: Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980 at the age of 8. He attended Gossler Park Elementary, Parkside and Southside Junior High, and West High, from which he graduated in 1990. After attending Notre Dame College in Manchester, Brian completed his undergraduate degree at Rhode Island College in Providence. Brian and his wife Jackie then came to Manchester in 2004 and were involved in various outreach organizations. Their two boys were born in Manchester during this time. After his position was eliminated in 2009, Brian and his family returned to Rhode Island. They have been living in Providence since 2010. Brian and his family love Manchester and are planning on returning within the next few months. Brian is currently working at helping the city move forward by connecting with other stakeholders and becoming involved with like-minded groups. Brian is also laying the foundation for an organization that will help strengthen the city and help it move forward.
Brian holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and a Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Canyon University. Brian currently works at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also founder of a Facebook Group, Manchester Forward. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.