This November our community will vote to decide whether or not to approve additional bonding to renovate and improve our historic Town Hall on Boston Neck Road. The vote will reflect both qualitatively and quantitatively how we value our tax dollars. More importantly, it will reflect how we citizens see ourselves as a community — past, present and into the future. In other words, how do we value our heritage? Our culture? Our sense of society and governance? Our collective aspirations?

Among several options that have been debated, one in particular stands out. It is being presented to the voters in special referendum. The architect-inspired plan is to renovate the historic 1888 Town Hall, demolishing some ugly additions to it, and adding substantial new space with compatible windows, roofing and other features. It will again become the seat of our local government, with its original town council chamber restored. The Veterans Memorial Park monuments will be re-situated to join our Civil War commemorative statue on the same side of the road. The building is designed to be fully handicap-accessible.

If there is to be any serious debate about this proposal, consider this: What does our current scattered and substandard town offices arrangement say about how we see and value our community?

Across the millennia communities of human beings have designed and built structures in which to conduct their activities; whether spiritual, governmental, mercantile or domestic in nature. Architects and historians teach us that buildings are a reflection of society — its beliefs, values, heritage and aspirations. Buildings are a visual measure of how a community views itself. In other words, what is really, durably, important to us here in North Kingstown? After all, our history, architecture, harbors, recreational opportunities and genuine sense of place attract not only visitors from around the globe but also new residents who invest their families and their dollars in this town. The Town Hall proposal adds greatly to this community’s value proposition and, likely, to the value of all our homes and businesses.

Finally, architects and sociologists know that buildings are not only a reflection of community values – buildings themselves also can have a powerful influence on the society in which they are placed. Consider for a moment a single example selected from many choices. Picture in your mind our nation’s Lincoln Memorial and its influence on us all the day Dr. Martin Luther King asked this country to share his dream. Buildings — the right buildings — matter. They display our dreams in solid form. Let’s do this right.

Please vote and vote in favor of our common local heritage and aspirations.

James T. Murphy

North Kingstown

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