Thursday, October 13, 2011


It's part of my morning routine now to check in at Facebook and read my
friends' updates as I eat breakfast. I have a diverse group of relatives, former
fellow employees, high school classmates and fellow genealogists on my
Friends List so there's always something interesting to read.  This morning
there were three u pdates though, that have me in a high dudgeon.

The first two were links from Marian Pierre-Louis to a pair of stories about
historic houses slated for demolition. The first is the century old Tappan
House in Attleboro that is going to be torn down now that plans to move it
have fallen through. The hospital that owns the property may use it as, yes,
as the song says, a parking lot.

The second doomed house is a 275 year old building with historic importance
to the African American community of Paramus NJ. A lawsuit to block its
destruction was dismissed by a judge and developers plan to destroy the
house in order to construct two new buildings on the property.

It always dismays me to see local historical landmarks bulldozed in the name
of "progress". Let's be honest here, progress has nothing to do with it.It's a
matter of convenience and money. It's convenient not to spend money to move
a building to preserve it. Destroying a house to put up two more in its place
means someone is going to make more money.

As the Church Lady might say, "Well, isn't that convenient?"

It was the third update that really got me riled up, though. Heather Wilkinson
Rojo posted a link to a commentary  by conservative talk-show host Michael
Graham about the "rebranding" of the Munroe Family Tavern at Lexington Green
in Lexington, Ma. The Tavern recently underwent a major renovation and has
reopened as The Munroe Tavern: Museum of the British Redcoats and Munroe
Family Home and Mr Graham objects to it. Now anyone who reads my Facebook
feed knows I'm a liberal Democrat, but Lord help me, I'm in agreement with
Mr Graham. I'm also in agreement with Heather, who is a Munroe family descendant
and is dismayed at what thisd renovation has doen to her ancestors' home.

Looking at that new name given the building by the Lexington Historical Society
might give you a hint at what has happened: the Munroe Tavern has been turned into
a museum centered on the British Redcoats. The Munroe family now takes second
billing in their own home, the home owned by their family right up until 1911 when
it was donated to the Lexington Historical Society. Up until now it has been devoted
to  exhibiting 18th century family life using Muroe family artifacts and heirlooms in
the exhibits.

Now the emphasis is to tell the story of the British Redcoats, the very same men
who killed the caretaker of the Tavern and then tried to burn it to the ground.
The family items are now in storage.

As a historian and genealogist, this angers me.  One has to wonder how the Munroe
family might feel today to see how the house they donated is now devoted to the
men who tried to destroy it? Not only that, they now are given second billing on the
sign outside the building, an afterthought to the main attraction.

Yes, I said attraction, because that's what the Munroe Tavern now is, a tourist
attraction. Let's face it, a museum about the British Redcoats is much more
attractive to tourists than one about some family (and that should be read
with the sarcasm with which I would say it aloud.) I don't know if they've set
up a gift shop in it yet but I'm sure there will eventually be one selling Redcoat
hats and plastic swords and other doodads. As in the case of the two buildings
that are going to be destroyed, money will be made

Now you might say that isn't as bad a the two other buildings, and you are
right on one level. But on another, history is being destroyed here by the
"rebranding" of it by the Society The cynic in me questions the objectivity
of the rebranding when one of the past presidents of the Society is a member
of a Redcoat recreation  group. It also wonders at where the matching private
donations came from for it,.

I'm a historian, and a genealogist, and I'm glad to see old buildings renovated
instead of  destroyed.

But I'm pretty sure that my Revolutionary War ancestors would be disappointed
in me if I didn't stand up and say that this rebranding of the Munroe Tavern is
just wrong! A better balance could have been struck here.

You can express your opinion to the Lexington Historical Society by visiting
this site:

Heather Wilkinson Rojo's reaction to the changes at her ancestors' home can
be read here at Nutfield Genealogy

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