Old vs. New: Extreme Edition

Originally built in 1651 and last enlarged around 1850, Medfield’s Dwight-Derby House is one of the oldest intact houses in the U.S.

Built in 2005 for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, this home features a miniature replica of Fenway Park’s “green monster” in the back yard.

I guess we’ve gotten better at garages over the past three and a half centuries.

8 Responses to “Old vs. New: Extreme Edition”

  1. jarred

    Ok, I just have to say it. Who gives a flying f*ck about Medfield?! Let’s move on, shall we?

  2. dan bertolet

    Dear jarred, rbj, and all the rest of you who want Medfield to die:

    It’s over.

    And believe me, I am more weary of Medfield than you could ever be.

    I’m gonna go eat a brown sugar cinnamon Poptart for the road and get on an airplane…

  3. eldan

    For what it’s worth, I found the Medfield entries worthwhile. I am looking forward to you getting back to Seattle and writing about things that are directly relevant, but I did enjoy the change of pace for a while.

    now, back to lurking for me.

  4. Yule Heibel

    “Who gives a flying f*ck about Medfield?”

    You must be kidding!

    This is your history, it’s the bones of how your country came together.

    To ask who gives a f*ck about Medfield because you don’t like suburbs or low-density development is like asking, “who gives a flying f*ck about Heaven’s Gate” (the movie) just because you don’t like Westerns. But if you want to understand the West, you have to watch Heaven’s Gate (imo — and I hate Westerns).

    You want to understand the *ideals* that *underwrite* the ideals of American liberal democracy, which is why you have to understand classic New England towns like Medfield — and what happened to them, why their “main streets” look like crap (and the buildings on those streets have Italian names!), and how come public space got hijacked.

    I lived for over a decade in another classic New England town (city, actually), on the other side of Boston — on the North Shore. Beverly, Massachusetts — which has a split personality, born of social developments. I’m amazed at the difference between Medfield and Beverly — Medfield is more like Wenham or Hamilton than Beverly, which has a dense downtown core full of functioning shops. That downtown constitutes Beverly’s “working class” roots, and there, too, there’s the Italian connection.

    At the end of the 19th century, Beverly imported workers from Italy to build “The Shoe,” the first reinforced concrete “daylight” factory — a factory that made the machines that made the lasts for the shoe industry. The factory, called the United Shoe Machinery Corporation, was finished around 1905, engineered by a guy called Ransome. He also built reinforced concrete bridges in the San Francisco area. The Italians were the main labor pool, as they were skilled in working with concrete. After the factory was built, they stayed, settling in Beverly, Salem, and Lynn and elsewhere — and made shoes, using the lasts that the factory produced.

    But that was Beverly’s “modern” history. Beverly’s earlier claim to fame was its connection to the Salem witch trials (Salem, Beverly, and Danvers were one), and before that it was the birthplace of the US Navy (George Washington launched a ship here.)

    The accretion of history is stunning.

    But travel up a mile or two, north of downtown Beverly, and you get into Pride’s Crossing, Beverly, and then into Beverly Farms, both of which are much more upscale and “suburban,” like Medfield perhaps, except hugging the ocean front. The kind of places that are full of “cottages” once used by people from New York, and yet here, too, the founding history is Jeffersonian, and before that, Puritan: people staking out their turf on land, and living by the rules of their chosen community.

    If the community didn’t suit at some point, if there was a religious disagreement, the expectation was that the dissident would uproot and put down stakes elsewhere. That was the Puritan (or was it Pilgrim?) ethic (I get the two mixed up, but it’s basic to American history: if you didn’t like it, you were free to move on.)

    What places like Medfield — and Beverly, with its proto-immigrant history — can teach us is how this used to work, how it started to stall, and why it doesn’t work as a model for today.

    Not only is it increasingly impossible to pull up stakes and start over elsewhere (on a new frontier) from a practical point of view (you run out of frontier eventually), but it’s also impractical from the p.o.v. of what it is we want these days.

    It requires a tremendous sacrifice to “emigrate,” to search out “Heaven’s Gate” and move on to the next frontier, or to be a dissident. I don’t want to do it, and practically no one I know does either.

    We’re learning about having to fit in — but with integrity.

    Medfield and every other place has to teach us how to stay put, and what that means — also in terms of growth. Is it going to be a process of accretion (like the Dwight-Derby house) or via a tabula rasa (like the new 05 Extreme Makeover house?

    What nearly two decades of life in New England taught me is that slow accretion ain’t a bad thing at all. It’s organic, it’s not so Puritan (or Pilgrim, whatever) as pulling up stakes and starting over, and it’s flexible.

    Well, whatever.

    FWIW, I enjoyed these entries about Medfield. It’s the kind of town I often passed through, was thankful I didn’t live in, but am very familiar with. There’s a lot to learn from places like this.

  5. Sabina Pade

    Personally, I’m hoping that Dan will move on to Boston, and relate from there some examples of contemporary urbanism that would be worth emulating in Seattle.

    Dan could offer us a posting dedicated to blank concrete – the Christian Science Center would be an interesting example for study; Brutalist architecture – the City Hall is a renowned, much-emulated product of it; and handsomely reflective plate glass – Pei Cobb Freed’s wedge on Copley Square is memorable, a highpoint of the 1970’s seldom equalled since.

    Too, there are thousands and thousands of glorious townhouses in Boston. Dan could perhaps begin with those on… Beacon Hill! And he could document for us in Seattle the merits of an extensive, dedicated-right-of-way transit system. Boston, revolutionary, made the leap very early on.

  6. rbj

    I was actually enjoying your time in Medfield (pun intended) but you were beginning to sound kind of depressed toward and I was starting to worry about you.

  7. dorian gray

    I really enjoyed the venture out east. I feel alot of the same emotions when I travel back to the midwest. I’m in the midst of watching the John Adam’s HBO and love the NE connection.

  8. SA

    that garage is better?

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