Monday, August 2, 2010

Those Blasted Overhead Wires

If it weren’t for overhead lines I believe the demise of many structures would not have been imminent locally and nationally.

I am VERY grateful for electricity and all the other utilities we enjoy, especially the air conditioning as we endure an incredibly hot and humid summer. But boy do I wish someone had had the foresight to bury those wires and cables from the start.

Until the late 1960s, house moving (and many other structure types) was an incredibly common phenomenon. Buildings were moved all over neighborhoods, and even across bodies of water and states, without batting an eyelash, some of them many times. If you were to have proposed knocking it down, people would have assumed you were joking. It is so frustrating that this is no longer the case.

Nowadays moving a structure is rarely even an afterthought. We even hear stories that owners are actually advised by real estate professionals to “tear it down and pay the fine.” So sad.

And overhead lines don’t just prevent the longevity of perfectly viable buildings (“There’s nothing greener than an existing building.”). They are also often too close to pools and spas and need to be raised for safe clearance. Wouldn’t be too relaxing lounging in your pool with a live wire 16 feet overhead would it?

There have even been cases when those attempting to raise an overhead line for one reason or another have made the unfortunate decision to use a metal ladder! ZAP!

Farmers too have been annoyed by this modern amenity. Have a look at this entertaining booklet:

A new friend proposed to me not long ago, that we embark upon rallying the community to bury the overhead lines in the Village of Southampton starting with the main routes and going from there. What a wonderful idea to dream about. And I thought I had lofty goals!

I was recently writing the history of the Beebe windmill in Bridgehampton: it was moved four times! Then I wrote about a house that was on Little Plains Road: it had been moved three times. Recently I posted about a house on First Neck Lane that was moved from Main Street in 1916, and not too long ago I wrote about the convent and rectory of the Catholic Church on Hill Street both of which were moved in the late 1960s. But do you hear about it much these days? Only in the extraordinary cases where either they are being moved very nearby, or when money is no option. Mostly though, you hear about them being demolished.

p.s. Some people today are using the word “remove” instead of “tear down” or “demolish.” It may sound friendlier (like to the ARB), but it’s not the same. “Remove” means, historically, “to relocate,” not to demolish.

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