Oxford, my current home, is changing. Since I graduated in 2012, our movie theater has been torn down and rebuilt as student apartments, the old vacant Walmart building was flattened into an apartment complex, library, and store complex, my high school building I graduated from has been bulldozed and turned into a parking lot, crime rates has inched up, the increasing student body in town has pushed actual residents to the west side of town, and the campus itself has grown by nearly 1/3 of it’s own size and growing. All in just 5 years. This subject came up while at work one day with my co worker who expressed her disappointment with how much this town tears down old buildings that have been around for 50+ years, buildings that have been here since before she was born to put new ones on their graves. My response, was “Good”, for most. Im not happy about the student housing situation but more on that another time.
Before moved to Oxford, Ohio, I lived in Scranton, PA. Many of you may know Scranton from the popular TV show, The Office.
The reason for my response to Oxford’s development practice is because of what I know what happens when you don’t keep forward momentum thanks to Scranton. The city of Scranton is a old city. Not as old as Oxford, but still old. It found it’s boom during the industrial revolution due to coal and steel production. Once that wave faded, Scranton settled. The city was comfortably resting after it’s revolution and basking in it’s success. As the town aged and it’s people with it, locals started becoming attached to architecture because it reminded them of the history the city holds. To put this short, if you disturb a building, you disturb the memory of the people. Unfortunately, this leads to what I call “stagnate water” in the city. New business and new residence are unable to move into town because of the plethora of 100+ year old empty buildings and houses are are unable to be used due to neglect but wont be removed because the community and committees deem them historical landmarks. No new people, no new business, no money. No money means the city flails it arms out to every sort of income like higher property taxes. Higher taxes mean increased cost of living. But you can’t bring in enough money to live in the area all because the people can’t move forward.
After typing that, I realize it wasn’t short. But it’s how I felt up until I moved here, about Scranton. Maybe my cause and affect is off but it’s really how I felt about the town and why I was so adamant about leaving ASAP. It’s something I don’t want to happen to Oxford so I cheer on progress. New buildings promote living and new jobs. Because of Oxford’s ability to change with the tides, it has seen a massive amount of new business move in, including where I and my co worker are now. If it wasn’t for the old colorful but vacant building being removed, we wouldn’t have the place we work now.
Now this isn’t to say Oxford just dumps it’s 200+ year old history in the trash. This town memorializes it’s history by keeping small artifacts from past historical structures and implementing them into the new. The old theater’s famous arch is being restored and installed onto the new building that was built in it’s image, the old Stewart High School’s arch was kept and implemented into the square inside the now shopping center, and the University continues to build and rebuild it’s most historic buildings, keeping them updated while preserving their image.
You can move forward while honoring your past, just don’t cling to it. If you’re not moving forward, then you are falling behind. As long as you don’t forget your past then your past will never leave you.