Wilmington To Decide Fate Of Pergola

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(Host) On Town Meeting Day, voters in Wilmington will attempt to settle the fate of a decorative structure that’s become a flash point in town.

It’s called the "pergola."  And some people in Wilmington want get rid of it.

VPR’s Susan Keese has the story.

(Keese) On Easter Sunday, 2007, the old bank building at Wilmington’s main intersection was destroyed by fire.

A retaining wall also burned and part of the corner lot fell into the Deerfield River, which runs through town.

The people who owned the building weren’t able to replace it. So the town bought the property.

The plan was to stabilize the bank and create a small park there, at the intersection of Routes 9 and 100.

(Cincotti) "There was no spot in downtown Wilmington to enjoy the river."

(Keese) Joseph Cincotti, a local architect, submitted the design that was chosen.

It uses an old stone wall to shore up the riverbank.

And it features a tall wooden arbor or trellis, which is topped with slats that stretch over a wooden boardwalk. It winds through a tiny downtown park.

During the controversy that began almost as soon as it started going up, someone called it a pergola, and the name stuck.

Cincotti says a pergola is an open roofed structure that supports vines. He’s planted wisteria around this one, but says it’ll take some years to fill in.

(Cincotti) " Our vision is that it’s truly an organic shading device to make sitting by the river a comfortable pleasing thing."

(Keese) But from the time it started going up, some people were not pleased. The fact that the project has since won a couple of awards hasn’t seemed to change that.

Wilmington artist Skip Morrow says the Pergola is too contemporary-looking for the town’s historic district.

(Morrow) "Many people feel that it doesn’t compliment the town so much as stands apart from the current architecture that we’re trying to protect. And a lot of people feel that it doesn’t represent them. And they want the opportunity to weigh in officially."

(Keese) Morrow is part of a group called Citizens for Citizens. They’ve fought successfully to bring the issue of the pergola to a vote by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day.

Morrow says changes were made in construction that were never approved by the town selectboard. Those include the posts supporting the pergola.

In the original design they were regular milled timbers.  But instead Cincotti incorporated an American elm he found leaning over the river at the site.  Other residents volunteered matching elm wood posts from their own property.

Opponents object to the naturally contoured tree trunk posts, but Cincotti says the elm is perfect.

(Cincotti) "You know it’s solid as a rock.,. It’s wonderful material. The memory of what was here is actually preserved forever."

(Keese) That is, if the town votes "no" on Tuesday to the article asking if the pergola should be removed.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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