Heritage Opposes Proposal to Rotate Civil War Monument at Common

The Londonderry Heritage Commission will review a proposal for revamping the Town Common, the center of community life, though members already know one thing they don’t want.

At the Sept. 22 Heritage meeting, the Commission discussed a proposal for “enhancement’ of the Common commissioned by the town to the Arnett Group.

Chairman Martin Srugis brought up the issue, which was highlighted as part of the town Master Plan.

Arnett’s staff wrote, “The Common is one of the Town’s most hallowed spaces. It is important that an enhancement plan focus on reestablishing its hierarchy in the community open space system, symbolically as well as aesthetically.”

The plan calls for keeping the Civil War monument where it is, but rotating it on its axis to align it with the intersection of Mammoth and Pillsbury roads. This, they wrote, would establish a primary axis and a strong connection with the main entrance of the Common, which is located at the intersection.

“Why are we moving it?” member Janet Cichocki said.

“It should stay where it is,” Vice-Chair Pauline Caron agreed.

John Vogl, Geographic Information Systems manager and the staff member assigned to Heritage, observed that previous ideas for the Common also met with distaste, including one to ring the area with small businesses. “That one was DOA,” he reminded the group.

“The plan is to formalize the area, create symmetry and reorganize some of the features,” Vogl said.

But member and Planning Board chair Art Rugg said, “It looks like a baseball diamond.”

Srugis said the Master Plan surveys had clearly shown “this is the town center for people. We want to enhance it, but not go into overkill,” he said.

Srugis has recently acquired a book, “Town Commons in New England,” which details the styles found across the six states, “everything from a simple cow pasture to an ornate design.”

Other plans call for a central plaza and seating area with trees, shrubs and perennials. Rugg said, ‘We need to have a plan for what trees, what bushes.” If someone wanted to donate six trees to the town, it would be helpful to be able to tell them what kind, Rugg said.

Arnett’s concept also calls for a sidewalk around the perimeter, enhanced with street trees and “period” pedestrian lamps. A board fence with granite posts, or a low stone wall, would define the area and limit opportunity for random access and egress, and also improve pedestrian safety by allowing access only at crosswalks.

The pavilion would remain intact, with an open lawn in front to accommodate picnickers and concert-goers.

The proposal was scheduled to be discussed at the Master Plan Implementation Meeting Sept. 28.