Preserve history by protecting Wharf

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, May 08, 2005

It is said a city is judged by how it honors its history. How odd it seems that permission to build more tourist shops along South Franklin (aka Schlockville) and erect yet another of the dubiously named "hotels" by the bridge seems to be no problem.

The Merchants Wharf building, however, one of the oldest reminders of Juneau's aviation history and current home to various thriving businesses, is slated to be destroyed in the name of enhancing the waterfront.

I must cite again the destruction of the century-old Odd Fellows Hall on North Franklin and its replacement by a parking lot so restricted it's usually nearly empty as a prime example of the vision of this city.

The destruction of two blocks of Seward Street and its sidewalks as well as the same program along a block of Second Street each way may be necessary to modernize the downtown, but couldn't the city have held off on the block between Second and Third until next year, or done the minimum work necessary?

It has been difficult enough for the businesses along Seward, but with the opening of the tourist season within a week, the projected completion date of August means a terrible financial hardship for the businesses along that block. One business has already closed its doors, citing the street work as responsible.

The removal of the visitors center on Seward and its replacement with scraggly grass and a very large fuel tank has done enough damage. When the log cabin was there, all the small stores along Seward benefited. Now it's at Centennial Hall and benefits no businesses at all, as there are none around. Yes, the cabin was rotten, but it had been replaced before.

If Juneau wants to turn its historic center into a collection of tourist shops boarded all over winter, it can, of course. This should cheer those who consider old buildings and useful year-round stores a nuisance. Those who want to honor their town's history can deplore, but why should the visionaries pay attention?

One last thought, if the town really wants to help, consider patronizing the shops along Seward Street between Front and Third as much as possible.

Dee Longenbaugh


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