Monday, February 04, 2013

A Town With(out) A View

Over the past couple of decades I've seen a lot of breathtakingly beautiful, and previously public, viewscapes in Chatham disappear.  Most are, not surprisingly, along the water -- primarily Chatham Harbor.  The huge house built just south of Water Street, where Clint Hammond's modest home once stood, comes to mind.  Where once the public strolling along Shore Road could see the a wide view of the water both before and after the older house, the new structure stretched across almost the entire parcel. There are other examples of locations where once the public could glimpse the harbor, ocean or Nantucket Sound from a public way, only to have selfish property owner with no sense of community build a monstrosity that blocks the viewscape.

The new view from Barcliff Avenue looking toward Chatham Harbor.
It's happening again.  A few months ago a house that stood for centuries overlooking Aunt Lydia's Cove was moved to West Chatham and a new house is now under construction on the site.  Just before construction began, a fence went up along Shore Road -- not a see-through chainlink fence, but a canvas-covered barrier.  While this sort of thing might be commonplace in the city or suburbs, it's pretty unusual here.  There are no doubt safety, security and insurance reasons, but it turned out to be the first shot across the bow of the public's view at this location.

The house now under construction,  even in its skeletal form, sits smack in the middle of the view the public previously enjoyed from Barcliff Avenue.  The final product will likely be another Polhemus Savery DaSilva behemoth, a Frankensteinian hodgepodge of architectural styles and pretentiousness that's out of sync with its natural and man-made environment.  I know nothing of architecture or the firm's process in developing projects like this; I do know that in my view, most of their buildings are ostentatious and look as much like Cape Cod as a 20-story steel-and-glass office tower.

I run by the spot multiple times a week and I've watched the house go up.  As I head up Barcliff, away from the water, I always look back to see how much of the harbor and outer beach still remains visible.   It looks like a sliver may remain open, depending upon the final landscaping and ornamentation on the McMansion.  But nothing like the panorama at the end of Water Street or Seaview Street.

Another piece of Chatham is being removed from the public.  What will be the next disappearing view?

Disclaimer: The opinions in this blog post are those of the author and do not reflect the newspaper he works for, his publisher, editorial staff or the office cat.


Susan Williams said...

I always find it interesting that the biggest houses are used the least and the smallest are used year round.

Shannon Griscom said...

A fine essay, and indeed, all-too-true. Chatham is getting loved to death, and the influx of this kind of money isn't helping when such monster houses are the result. Houses that block the view, cut off the access to the beach, and lock out the locals are not good for the town or the health of the homeowner or the town.

Anonymous said...

Thank god all this construction ends at the water eh? Oh wait, those windmills on Nantucket sound.

Must be nice to grow up with a view of the ocean your entire life and have it wiped away in the time it takes to frame a "summer getaway".

Georg said...

Tim, you hit the nail on the head with this essay. The "Center of the Universe" people don't want to share their
view. Well, I can only hope Mother Nature will give us back the view in my lifetime !

Rosemarie Denn said...

We still have a Sam Vokey postcard of the view that used to be on the curve on Champlain Rd. Another on bites the dust....

Anonymous said...

What about those bushes between the houses? I think more water views are disappearing because of overly restrictive rules regarding vista pruning along the shoreline so that the rest of us driving along can enjoy the ocean and bay views. Think of all of the wonderful water views that have disappeared over the last 30 years due to the overgrowth. A two story house replacing a two story house in the same footprint isn't the culprit as much as you might think.