Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Westfield's Park Square Gets a(n) (Extreme) Makeover

Elm Street, Westfield, Mass.
For better or worse, the familiar landscape of downtown Westfield is being altered in a dramatic and permanent way. A new, second bridge over the Westfield River now links the North and South sides of the city via Elm Street and Union Avenue, a modern truss twin to the original Great River Bridge, which is currently being refurbished. The railroad bridge over Main Street is coming down soon, its tracks ribbons of rust polished by nary a passing steel wheel for long years now. Water pipes that have saved many a home from flaming peril and quenched countless hot afternoon thirsts are being excavated and replaced. Traffic lanes are being widened and modified.

Perhaps the most radical and indeed, emotional, change to the center of the city, though, is the clear-cutting of all trees on the green at Park Square and the removal of decorative embellishments, including the landmark fountain. It is a circle of soil now. A blank palette on which to create the civic space of the future.

And tho' it may seem the heart and essence of the old town common may be torn asunder for good, there is a method to the marring: A plan, according to the Mayor and the powers that be. That plan and the decade-old study that led up to it can be found on the City of Westfield website here: http://www.cityofwestfield.org/detpages/departments1607.html.

The Westfield Business Improvement District website is also a great source of information, with weekly downtown traffic updates, handy for anyone planning a trip to the center. Here's the link: http://www.thedistrictwestfield.com/category/main-street-broad-street-project/.

The following photographs illustrate some of the changes that have taken place over the past two years in the Park Square area, the "before" images shot in June, 2008, the snapshots of the current state of affairs captured this past Sunday, August 1, 2010.

Looking north on Elm Street, Westfield, Mass.

Looking south on Elm St. toward Green, Westfield, Mass.

26 - 36 Elm Street, Westfield, Mass.

Corner of Elm & Main Streets, Westfield, Mass.

Corner of Elm & Main Streets, Westfield, Mass.

The Green from the corner of Elm & School Streets, Westfield, Mass.

Corner of Main & Broad Streets, Westfield, Mass.

First Congregational Church, Broad St., Westfield, Mass.

Park Square from Broad St. looking west, Westfield, Mass.

Broad Street looking south, Westfield, Mass.

The Green looking toward Westfield Atheneum, Westfield, Mass.

Old Post Office (now The Tavern restaurant), corner Main & Broad Streets, Westfield, Mass.

Main Street & railroad bridge, Westfield, Mass.

The Town Green, as it was around 1841, Westfield, Mass.

The above etching of 19th century Westfield's common area comes from the 1919 publication, 'Westfield's Quarter Millennial Anniversary Official Souvenir,' found at the Internet Archive website here: http://www.archive.org/details/westfieldsquarte00plum.

For more on the history of Westfield's Park Square, including vintage postcards, check out the previous EWM post, 'Postcards: The Green, Westfield, Massachusetts.'

For a look at the layout of 1800s Westfield from a bird's-eye point of view, visit EWM post, 'Map: Bird's-eye View of Westfield, Massachusetts, 1875.'

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.



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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I HAVE ONLY BEEN HERE 6 YEARS, BUT I HATE THE CHANGES TO THE GREEN. WHEN I WAS HOMELESS I USED PUT PENNIES IN THE FOUNTAIN. MY WISHES CAME TRUE. I LIVE IN A APT NOW. REALLY LIKE WESTFIELD. I AM FROM CHICOPEE/HOLYOKE. I HATE THE WAY THEY ARE DESTROYING THE DOWNTOWN.

Anonymous said...

I lived in the downtown area of Westfield for more than 50 years, and am more than familiar with the area. I seems that Park Square keeps on getting smaller and smaller. It was called Park Square for a reason.

I do not believe that the taxpayers of Westfield, should be footing the bill for a year round gazebo for the "green", that apparently will be for the use of city government and some few other organizations, especially when there are roof problems at the city hall, police and fire departments buildings, and the public works garage.

Not only that, I believe that the gazebo will obstruct the view of traffic on the green.

Has anyone who wants this gazebo been a pedestrian for any length of time in Westfield and have you actually tried to walk to the "green", and I do not mean for special events only.

What will become of Westfield's historic fountain?

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Westfield since 1967. I've seen the downtown turn into a ghost of its former self. I am so happy that we now have city officials who look to the future and who are interested in bringing life back into the city. There is no reason that a city of 42 000 can't have a vibrant, attractive downtown. We, the residents of Westfield, need a little patience. Our fourth century will be better than the previous three.