Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 24, 2016

A Bermudian View of Duxbury.

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From: david mittell <> [Edit Address Book]
To: sargb <>
Subject: Fwd: A Bermudian Look At Duxbury [Polticus #1,409]
Date: Jul 17, 2016 11:15 PM
This is a two-fer, ‘Coast and Sea’ as S.E. Morison described it, to be published 7/20, follows, below.
Delighted to see you have a new book out. Guess I read about it in Dexter-Southfield bulletin.
Best, D.A.M, Jr.]]
[For release 12:59 P.M. 7/12/16]

A Bermudian Look At Duxbury

By David A. Mittell, Jr.

As I go through the vast archives of my father’s 97-year life I find treasures. The most recent was the September, 1999, issue of The Bermudian, in which writer Sylvia Shorto wonders about the future of Bermuda’s unique historic architecture in a new millennium in which many corporations have set up shop in Bermuda to avoid the regulatory and tax policies in the United States.

(Why they continue to do so 17 years-on is for another column. Succinctly, Congress would rather have a divisive issue to rant about than all the money that could be repatriated with the right incentives.)

In describing 400 years of Bermudian architecture the writer could have been writing about Duxbury. She describes how penurious people ingeniously wrought shelter from the materials available to them, and how houses were enlarged from a single room (in Duxbury, sometimes from a cellar) as life improved.

She quotes the stated goals of the Bermuda Historical Monuments Trust when it was formed in 1937: “….the preservation and restoration of places of historical interest or beauty in these islands, and objects of the arts and handicrafts of the early inhabitants.”

Could this, which in 1937 the authors modestly called their “aim” possibly be better-said? Nowadays our nonprofits sometimes fuss with lengthy “mission statements” in trying to “re-brand” themselves. I think we do well when we remember that historic preservation isn’t complicated.

In the Bermuda of 1999, Ms. Shorto wrote, “architecture finds itself jeopardized … by parody and destruction. Land is becoming scarce. Instead of siting houses with regard to the contours of the land, the trend is to flatten a lot and then fill it with the largest house the law will allow. … You could call this … capitalism in its birthday suit … you are what you own.”

That only needs an exclamation point to make it a rant. But there is none, and the author then looks at the future dispassionately. “How do you preserve the architecture of the past without putting a stranglehold on creativity in the future? The responsibility for good building is in the hands of architects and their clients.” She concludes, “….if privately-owned buildings are not protected, it will suggest that the majority of us don’t care about our built environment at all.”

My father loved Bermuda and loved Duxbury. I will guess he saved this Bermudian because he thought it had as much to say to the latter as the former. I certainly think it does — especially in decrying the “trend to flatten a lot and then fill it….”

We fill ancient glacial kettle-hole hollows with thousands of yards of something from somewhere, without knowing the real effect on the nearby topography. But our descendants will. The question is, as Sylvia Shorto put it about Bermuda, is it true “that the majority of us don’t care….”?


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