, Salem, MA

August 29, 2013

Letter: Mack Park house needs more than just a caretaker

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

The city of Salem has made an interesting proposition: cheap rent in exchange for repairing a neglected stone house and maintaining its grounds. The possibilities are tremendous. With such an opportunity, my imagination went toward utilizing such a space for an arts and culture endeavor that involves the community, crafts people and educational components.

But, then, I went to the open house and realized that the building’s needs were something entirely different from surface maintenance.

Dr. Mack’s former summer house is looking for unconditional love. It comes complete with a basement plagued with black mold, asbestos-wrapped pipes and a leaky oil furnace. Lead paint peels from rotted window frames. Views of the sky can be seen from holes in the slate roof.

And this is all that my untrained eye noticed upon walking through Dr. Mack’s home during the public open house on Friday the 16th.

The house certainly needs care, attention and a skilled, knowledgeable contractor to deal with the major issues that are slowly compromising its structure.

With the current issues the house faces, I don’t see how it could be habitable. It requires more than just surface cleaning.

Mack Park requires imagination, determination and community involvement.

The city has a neglected treasure on its hands and may be short on resources to do anything about it at the moment. As a result, it is reaching out to the community for ideas. This approach is in the right spirit.

Nevertheless, in order to truly revitalize this space so that the community can benefit from it, the process of rehabbing it should be community-driven. The current economic times are ripe for such a joint collaboration across lines.

One example would be to create a hands-on mentoring program by bringing together skilled contractors/crafts people/landscape architects with young adults interested in pursuing such careers. Together they would rehab the Mack Park building to its former elegance and strengthen the community along the way.

Such an approach takes time to develop. What the house does not need is short-term thinking, rushed ideas and Band-Aids.

Perry Hallinan


Note: Perry Hallinan shot a video as he toured the Mack Park home during the open house. Click here to see the video.