Having lived in concord for nearly 30 years, i’ve somehow become one of the old-timers who can say, “I remember when …”
But I’ve got nothing on Cedric Dustin who, along with hundreds of his neighbors, was watching from a seat in the Concord Auditorium as they chiseled open the time capsule that had been buried for 50 years under the plaza of the Statehouse. Dustin was 40 and on hand back when the capsule was interred by the good citizens of the Capital City as a message to, well, us.
The event was just one in a long series of celebratory occasions marking the 250th anniversary of the City of Concord. I attended out of civic pride and curiosity, but I have to admit my first impression was that 50 years doesn’t seem that long for a time capsule to be buried. Heck, I’ve probably got stuff hanging in my closet from 1965.
The contents of the capsule (now on display at the Concord Public Library) may have been a bit of a letdown for the assembled crowd. Wooden nickels, a Concord Monitor newspaper (headline: “Rusk Sees Little Indication Reds Are Ready for Peace”) and some lists of members of the various organizations and societies of the day can’t really hold the attention of people who can watch realistic 3D dinosaurs leap off a movie screen. The plan is to take another crack at the process of “time talk” in November when they refill and replace the capsule to slumber for another half century. Chances are, whatever items they put in, they will be a bit boring to the folks of 2065 too.
Oftentimes, it’s not what we save for later that says the most about a generation, it’s what we throw away. Just a few blocks from the Audi, near the Merrimack River, once stood a magnificent Boston & Maine railroad station. It was built of granite, four stories tall, and known to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the entire state. It was torn down just five years before the capsule was buried in order to make space for a shopping center.
It’s hard for an old-timer (well, not THAT old) not to think of that redevelopment miscalculation while Concord’s Main Street and sidewalks are undergoing a major renovation. The plan is to reduce a four-lane Main Street to two lanes with a center turning lane. Along with numerous beautifications, there will be a new colored-light-and-water feature in front of the Statehouse, space for more outdoor dining and a calming effect on traffic. As if to mark the occasion as the turning point that it is, one of the city’s premier events, Market Days, took place in June on a divided strip of downtown. Construction work is being done on the east side of the street first, so revelers were able to peer past the vendors and food stands on either side and see a glimpse of both the past and the future.
Of course, in the case of Concord’s train station, something of grace and beauty was being destroyed. In this case, something of grace and beauty is being revealed.
In the decades I’ve raised a family in what is arguably the best place in the universe to do just that, I’ve never tired of seeing wonderful architecture and ornamental details that hang like works of public art along the downtown strip. I still find surprises and curiosities on my walks. And Concord’s downtown is famously alive with shops and cafés.
The purpose of a redesigned streetscape for downtown Concord is to make it even more inviting for even more people to come and appreciate all it has to offer. If it works, and I think it will, it will be a true time capsule: a gift to the future from the citizens of today.