The view from the sixth floor

 ... all about our town, churches, taxes, pre-history -- whatever. 

with Bill Jodrey and Don Norris

It's what a crow sees of our town -- at least it's what he sees from the sixth floor of the Cochrane House on Grove Street, looking north from Bill Jodrey's living room.

Bill has been taken by the gadgetry of cameras, and has gone about the city taking pictures on the wide-screen setting of his 35mm point and shoot. The result is startling, for this view is only seen by a handful of our 28,000 residents -- until we put it in The Mirror.

No question, he's got the eye.

About this photo: The center of Melrose is just to the left, and Main Street runs north-south in front of the century old YMCA complex -- the tall red brick building at the left, with its windowed swimming pool closer. We are looking due north in this view.

To the right of the 'Y' is the tower of City Hall, which was considerably taller and much more glorious in its previous incarnation before the great fire of 1937. In those days, City Hall was a magnificent example of Victorian architecture, but its subsequent re-construction resulted in a non-descript structure that at best is utilitarian -- but a mere shadow of its one-time splendor.

To the right of City Hall is the faint image of the First Baptist Church, a beautiful yellow stone structure, while next to that is the old Coolidge School, the yellow brick building with green roof, now in its third incarnation. The first was as the city's high school in the early part of the 20th century. The second was its demotion to grammar school level when a new high school was built in 1933. And finally, as our population peaked and reversed, the city fathers found no need for such an ungainly structure, and sold it to a developer who made condominiums with very high ceilings.

Immediately behind the Coolidge, slightly to the left is the bell tower of the Methodist Church -- another very attractive building of stone, built at a time when skilled labor was affordable.

Beyond the Methodist Church is the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital complex, which has been expanding during the past few decades. It is now associated with several other hospitals in nearby communities -- an act of economic preservation.

At the lower right is the new addition and the Temple Beth Shalom, situated on East Foster Street. The building at one time was a community center where dances and weddings were held. They still are.

You can see the century-old homes of downtown Melrose, along East Foster Street. They still look their age, although they are well cared for, and quite functional. Some 20 years ago, one local businessman, Hugo Porcaro, bought an old, old wooden warehouse on Eastman Place, and made a modern office complex from those old beams. That's it, the brick-front building just left of center, on the next street over. It houses a dozen local, successful businesses.

Off to the right in the distance, the land rises to the ridge that forms the east geological border, making Melrose a community in a valley. We are, in geologic terms, an offshoot of the Boston Basin, surrounded on three sides by basalt rock millions of years old.

Ten or twelve thousand years ago, this place was under a mile-thick sheet of ice. When that ice melted, the Indians arrived. And in AD 1600, the Europeans arrived. But take note: Scientists have recently discovered that numerous mumified cadavers found on the North and South American continents are of European stock, with the implication that they (through carbon dating) were the first arrivals on this continent.

Two miles walk from our perch on the sixth floor -- Bill's living room -- and you would be in another town -- Malden, Medford, Stoneham, Wakefield or Saugus. We are only six square miles big.

There are some 10,000 living units in our city, mostly single family homes. There is some minor industry, but the primary tax source is from the dwellings. There is a strong movement today to redistrict the strip along the railroad line, which bisects the city along its north-south axis, and to develop more industry and high rise living units.

Latest news in the weekly newspaper, the Melrose Free Press, indicates (their study shows) it would be better, financially, to establish high-rise living units -- rather than attracting industry. Thus such new living units would produce far more tax dollars while requiring far fewer services from city coffers.

Well, we are known as a bedroom community.

January 5, 2001



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