Epitaph For An American Landmark


At Manchester the alternative of making something of the Amoskeag mills, something inspired, such as a riverside cultural center (which might include a museum of New England’s illustrious industrial history), or even something as plainly needed by the community as a branch of the state university, has been rejected for the short-term gain of parking space for a few modern industrial plants. The result will be a large contribution to the very chaos that is destroying the city’s identity and sense of community. “Even with extensive improvements and upgrading, the millyard will never be an asset from an aesthetic point of view,” the planners of Arthur D. Little proclaimed; and that was that, even though it was abundant nonsense.

The modern American noncity with its freeway sprawl and its tasteless subdivision monotony is advancing rapidly across the land, and one readily identifiable community after another is being carved up, paved over, and obliterated.

At Manchester the nation has suffered just such a loss. Of course, by some people’s standards the loss has been only a lot of old factories, and since the aesthetic value of anything is always a subjective matter, there is no easy way to refute this view. But that Amoskeag has long been a place of considerable historic importance, that the complex of mills, housing, and canals represented far more advanced urban planning and a more human environment than what it is being replaced by, and that the city of Manchester has lost an immensely fascinating and, to some, powerfully beautiful part of its heritage there is no doubt whatsoever.

—David G. McCullough