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BUS SCHEDULE IS ATROCIOUS
I'm listening to Illinois Times on the radio (the reading service at WUIS/WIPA), and on comes the story about the bus service here in Springfield [Todd Spivak, "Transit fix," July 22]. You guys rock! I hope that the story of the need for buses just continues in the conversations of the community, and finally something will be done! This city's bus schedule is atrocious. Ending service at 6 p.m. would be unheard of in any other city that wants to encourage growth. I hope your writing about the problem will make others take notice, and something will change!
ARE YOU REALLY THAT DESPERATE?
I couldn't help but laugh at the irony of Grace Smith's description of meetings in her latest column ["Moving and shaking," July 22]. She describes meetings as "listening to somebody drone on and on about trivial minutiae, tedious boringness for all of eternity, that forces me to run screaming from the room."
Isn't that a perfect description for her column that appears in your paper every week? It doesn't force me to run screaming from the room, but it certainly makes me think twice about picking up one of your papers and definitely makes me question the relevance of a publication that would bother to print such "trivial minutiae, tedious boringness" on a weekly basis. Are you really that desperate to fill out the pages?
I know, the standard answer to a letter like this is "If you don't like it, you don't have to read it." Thank God.
CRITICAL THINKING BACK IN VOGUE
Regarding GKC Theatre's refusal to show Fahrenheit 9/11, Beth Kerasotes states she "was raised to show unwavering support for your troops and leaders" [John K. Wilson, "Kerasotes 9/11, July 22]. Vietnam was a mistake; should we have stayed there forever just to show support for our troops? So let's just turn off our ability to think when our president makes a deadly mistake.
The most important issue here is that support of the troops is being used as emotional blackmail on the American people just so our president can avoid criticism. It is clear now, and it was clear then, that Bush was not thinking when he invaded Iraq. During the time we began bombing Iraq, the news media, the American public, and our Congress did not have the courage or the concern to stop Bush and his team.
We became a nation of sheep, blindly trusting our president. George W. Bush is a politician, and when someone becomes president he does not automatically become more intelligent or righteous. If that were true, we would not be trying to dig ourselves out of Iraq right now.
Michael Moore's movie evoked controversy, but most of all he has challenged the American people to think. I am so relieved that he was able to pull this movie off and that the public has been interested enough to go see it. Here's to the courage of the owners of the Normal Theater for showing it. Critical thought has finally been given some glamour. Let's hope it continues.
AS I WAS SAYING . . .
In a July 15 article, "Revisionist history," Todd Spivak reported that archeologists Paul Shackel and Christopher Fennell "contend their research is sound." Yet, despite historical fact, they insist that New Philadelphia, founded in 1836 by Francis "Free Frank" McWorter, was incorporated. New Philadelphia was the first American town founded and legally platted by a black man, but it was not incorporated. The Illinois Town Incorporation Law of 1830 stipulated that only white men could incorporate a town and that incorporated towns needed 150 people. Free Frank died in 1854. In 1855, New Philadelphia's population had grown to 68 people. See my book, Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier, for information on Illinois Town Incorporation.
Incredibly, too, they persist in claims that New Philadelphia was a racial utopia. For this "revisionist history," the archeologists "hope" to place New Philadelphia's site on the National Register of Historic Places. Interestingly, they fail to note that I had Free Frank's grave site placed on the National Register of Historic Places or that my hope is to re-create the town as it existed during Free Frank's lifetime.
Finally, in pursuing their hostile takeover of antebellum black history, they claim that I, Free Frank's great-great-granddaughter, "declined offers to join their project." I was never asked! I've never met Shackel or received any correspondence from him, written or otherwise. Is this an example of Bill Cosby's Black History: Lost, Stolen, or Strayed?
Dr. Juliet E. K. Walker
Professor, Department of History
University of Texas at Austin
S.O.S. FOR THE STRATTON
Thanks for the articles on the Stratton Building [July 15]. Considering its architectural significance as described by noted architectural historian Ed Russo and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, and the significant economy of rehabilitating rather than destroying and rebuilding it, we strongly support its preservation.
Save Old Springfield
GIVE THAT CHURCH A PLAQUE
When should a location within the city of Springfield be sanctioned as a historic area? Illinois Times got me to think about this issue when writer Bob Cavanagh raised the point, "the Pasfield House Historic District might just as aptly be called Old St. Agnes" ["The Stratton Building's midlife crisis," July 15]. Though it was the largest estate within the city boundaries at the turn of the 20th century, the Pasfield property does not take in the block where old St. Agnes Church and School once stood. The former 40-acre residence, however, was part of the parish boundaries that probably encompassed the entire west end of the city at the time. As for my mission, there weren't any exact rules on how to go about my task of landmarking a historic area, but with the guidance of Ald. Bruce Strom and some good people who work for Mayor Tim Davlin, I accomplished the feat at no cost to the taxpayers.
In recognizing the Pasfield House Historic Area, I reviewed historic boundaries relating to property ownership. The property is visible on several historic maps of the city of Springfield, including the 1859 and 1867 maps and the recently restored 1876 map. We also found several plat maps and deeds sectioning off areas of the Pasfield Estate. The properties in existence today that were part of the Pasfield Estate, including the Springfield High School track and field (sold to the school district by George Pasfield Jr.), are all visible from various plat maps on file in Sangamon County. My research clearly was grounded on historically legal boundaries first determined more than 160 years ago.
When someone is researching an honorary designation, however, I believe one should mirror specific property boundaries where historically individual properties were owned, platted, annexed, developed, or commonly grouped. Neighborhood school boundaries unfortunately fluctuate with periodic redistricting changes, which make it almost impossible to accurately designate. For that reason alone, St. Agnes Church and School may be best remembered with a plaque or stone where they once stood. I, for one, would be honored to join others in landmarking "Old St. Agnes," the church where I was baptized and the grade school where my father and his sisters graduated.
As for the Pasfield House Historic Area designation, well, it is what it is: a historical significant landmark where an original, more-than-100-year-old structure stands today. Let me thank Bob Cavanagh for his kind remarks about my renovation of the Pasfield House to its original beauty. In responding, this is a great opportunity to raise the consciousness of Springfield on the proper designation of historic areas. The Pasfields were one of Springfield's great families who contributed to make our city a welcoming beacon for early settlers and later immigrant families such as my own. I've gotten a great deal of satisfaction out of researching Springfield's past and have discovered some very interesting facts. I encourage others to take on a project like mine and preserve the legacy of early Springfield.