So one person said this: "I'll give you $50 this week, and $50 next, is that okay?"
Another said "I'll pledge $100, that's all I can do." Still another: "I'm working on a college account, but is $100 okay?"
These are the people of Sherburne.
I grew up in this town. I spent many hours at the Sherburne Inn, either at dinner, or at wedding receptions, or at the bar having a glass of wine. Everybody has a story, people who married there, or worked there, or had times there like I did, social gatherings where people met and talked and got to know each other a little better. The Inn, in its current incarnation, was built in the early 1900s, opened in 1915 (or by some accounts, 1917). Prior to that it was called The Sherburne House, a glorious wood building that burned twice, and was finally rebuilt of brick. The ghosts of the Sherburne Inn are many, spirits of people who lived and died in this town, who made money and who didn't; residents of a village that many of us call charming, a small place that breeds extraordinary people. Sherburne is a generous town, an historical town. And now, if progress has its way, Sherburne will lose The Sherburne Inn. If this happens it will not be a shame. It will be a tragedy, one that once the bulldozers hit ground, can never be reversed.
Forces are at work. The current owner has held onto this building, and the adjacent one -- a former grocery store -- for awhile. He is due the return on his investment. God bless. But does that mean that in place of historic structures we are left with a convenience store and gas station? Must we of this town be submitted to the blight of other small towns here and elsewhere, where gas stations and stale donuts in paper bags are the hallmark of our community? Must we become another crossroads where travelers fill their tanks and move on? If the forces have their way, that's exactly what will happen.
There are people who launched from this town about whom we can be proud. Clarence Gaines, horse man and dogfood entrepreneur. John Gaines, Clarence's son, founder of The Breeders' Cup. Charlie Palmer, premiere restauranteur. Mark Perrin, biotechnology CEO. Jim Hoefler, college professor. The Ulatowskis, the McDaniels, the Carriers. The list is endless and impressive. Lucille Ball visited the Sherburne Inn, as did Peter Falk. Richard Gere as a boy walked our streets when he visited his aunt and uncle. This town is historic. Our people are fine, giving, visionary. And yet now here we are, at the 11th hour, desperate to save yet another historic building and property from destruction. Desperate to save our town from the ultimate failing. To put a convenience store and gas pumps in the center is tantamount to giving up. Our municipality has caved. Yes, it will bring tax revenue. And until midnight, every night, we will see the glaring bulbs of a place where kids on bikes will toss cigarette butts, where passersby will fill their tanks and move on to villages that care about their downtown.
I have a dream. To see an historic building on a corner full of light, full of people dining and talking and believing that something better is possible. A Cheers-type bar on the lower level, where once there was a barber shop featuring men who built our community. A place of a few beautiful suites furnished by local artisans. A restaurant featuring local organic food. Another floor where events are held...weddings and class reunions, sweet 16s, church socials, Sunday sundaes, Christmas balls, gatherings where people leave cell phones at home and go back to a time when folks dressed in their finery and came together away from glowing anonymous screens and Facebook. Do we have nothing left? Will we all now do nothing but fill our cars for no reason because we have no where to go, fill our tanks at ruined corner spots taken over by corporations and then stay home, watching mindless television? Wondering why the telephone doesn't ring?
Maybe I'm old. Maybe I'm wrong. But my god, is there anyone out there who feels like I do, that when history and fine old buildings are gone, when the history of our towns is gone, we are lost?
I can't give up yet. I have faith. But that faith is waning, and now I wonder: should I just sell my house and rent a condo in Florida until that town, too, falls to waste in a country that seems no longer to care?
Pledge to Save The Sherburne Inn. We need your help. Pledge at this email address and make a difference. Nothing may ever have been more important for our community. firstname.lastname@example.org.