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The Destruction of Benny Farm
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This article has been viewed 15392 times in the last 5 years
jack: 2nd Mar 2008 - 15:21 GMT
yes evil, sorry to say, but the old must give way to the new, this is life, all things pass away, as i've always said to my children, "things change".
Elicar: 3rd Mar 2008 - 04:06 GMT
EvilG, please explain why it would be a "destruction". Wouldn't be more appropriate to use "restoration", "resurrection". "refurbishment", etc.? In my mind, destruction is putting something out of commission, making something unusable. This is just the opposite, making something uninhabitable, habitable again.
daz my 2 cents worth.
EvilGentleman: 3rd Mar 2008 - 16:50 GMT
Well Elicar, my previous article on this particular location has become something of an online focal point for those who lived there during its heyday, much like Corsatki's Cabrini Green articles.
Thus, this page is intended for the audience of former Benny Farm residents first and foremost. And from their perspective, this is the end of the world that they grew up in and loved.
Being a former military brat myself, I can attest to the feelings of loss that are incurred when a place that you have so many memories of undergoes these sort of changes. I am continually saddened when I go on Facebook and see the pictures posted of the bases where I used to live, and how they are now being decommissioned and sold to the civilian population as retirement homes or being demolished outright. As I reconnect online with old classmates, our old schools are boarded up and awaiting the wrecking ball, the military housing we grew up in no longer what it was.
The community is no more. It has been replaced by a different one. It is this sense of loss and displacement that I feel when I see the Benny Farm area. I never lived here, but I know all too well how it feels to be cut off from some of your roots in such a way.
The fact that the land is being recycled for different housing is meaningless. It is just land, and land is everywhere. It is the structures themselves that are the heart and soul of the human experience. I feel each structure is an organism unto itself. We all hear people say, "If these walls could only talk..."
Well, these walls will talk no more.
This article is about part of the destruction of Benny Farm. True enough, all buildings have a lifespan, and change is an eternal part of the human experience, but replacing Benny Farm with Benny Square is like building condo towers in Cabrini Green.
Many people look at the CN Tower in Toronto, and they see the massive spire climbing into the sky high above the skyline, and feel awed by the incredible height of the tallest structure in the new world. I see that too. But when I get closer, I look down more than I look up. I look at the concrete and grass surrounding its base, and get sad. I wonder what became of the ducks who used to live in the pond at its base, and what became of the paddleboat my mother and I paddled through that pond. I wanted to show my children, but now I can never do that.
Elicar, you are very talented when it comes to seeing the beauty of both nature and the urban form. You are often able to blend the two with a skill that I cannot. But I cannot help but feel that you have a very different perspective of history than what I do.
I suspect you have the beautiful ability to see a city as a single giant living organism, always in flux, always ready to display new wonders as it rises like a phoenix from its own ashes as it constantly renews itself with new vibrant life.
I see a city as a collection of closely-knit communities within communities, all in close proximity to one another. I view the world from a village level, and a city to me is just an agglomeration of villages, each one unique and special.
This is the death knell of one of those villages. It will be replaced, but it will never be what it once was. That is not to say that the new village will not achieve the same happiness and harmony as the old one did, but it is just... different somehow.
When I first encountered Benny Farm, it was just a collection of old abandoned ramshackle apartment buildings that happened to catch my interest. It is the heart and soul that so many of its former residents poured onto my first article's comments section that brought it back to life for me.
I feel their loss, and I will do what I can to record it for them, so they can one day show their children the process of change. Hopefully one of them will copy these articles and save them, to be reposted elsewhere should citynoise not live forever.
And then we will all be somewhere else, lamenting about citynoise and the loss of our vibrant little community on the web.
Elicar: 3rd Mar 2008 - 19:34 GMT
If something is dear to you, take care of it.
Nobody cared ENOUGH for Benny Farms. Otherwise, it would not be in such a state of disrepair.
Would you rather be sentimental and let the mosntrosity of urban decay be and waste a valuable large piece of real estate?
I am practical as I am sentimental. The destruction happened long time ago. The restoration just began.
Change for the better is always good.
EvilGentleman: 4th Mar 2008 - 01:42 GMT
El, since they were government-funded homes originally intended for the families of veterans returning from WWII, it is most unfortunate that the government decided to stop funding them.
If you look at the comments in the original article, it is immediately clear how much love and effort went into maintaining these homes, but the government giveth and the government taketh away.
I would not call what is happening a restoration, since to restore means to put back what was there before.
Obviously, once the funding was cut and the buildings fell into disuse, there was no choice but to do something and build anew.
But I hope this will be a lesson to future governments about the costs of cutbacks, both financially and emotionally. They could have opted to renovate all the existing buildings, like they are doing with the Cavendish Street section of the Farms. The buildings are still structurally sound.
I agree that the buildings could not be left to stand as abandoned sentinels of the past, but I would not say that the changes are all for the better, nor are they all good.
But the current redevelopment project is very ambitious, and hopefully some good will come of it. I agree it is a valuable piece of real estate, but my definition of valuable has nothing to do with $$$. We are at one with the land, and its value can only be seen in the context of the symbiotic relationship it has with the creatures living upon it. I am thankful that at least the gardens in the center of the Benny Farm area have been preserved.
This is not to say that financial considerations should be completely ignored, but integrating the past with the future while maintaining a properly functioning relationship with the character of an area will go a great way towards making everything a win-win situation for all.
The condos may yet work out fine. I just happen to have a personal bias against condos, which I view as part of the same process as the one where big box stores and corporate franchises take over a neighbourhood and turn it into a carbon copy of all the neighbourhoods around it.
I have nightmarish visions of Montreal turning into a clone city of every other North American city, with all the same box stores and franchise outlets, the same condos in endless row upon row, all populated by the human version of the Stepford Wives (and husbands).
The recent "advances" in urban planning often ignore the greatest achievement of every city: Its soul.
I welcome the new, so long as the new understands that it is there to complement what is already there, not to replace it.
I see entire older sections of cities being torn down to make way for new development. Why not design new developments so that they can integrate with the existing neighbourhoods? Get the locals to give some input about what they find dear to their hearts, and embrace it.
Anything would be better than the current trend of building "pretty" functional buildings that are designed solely for aesthetic and financial reasons. To me, they are just pretty capitalistic versions of the concrete drab buildings that blighted the Soviet Union from end to end. No soul or originality whatsoever.
Montreal is a vibrant cosmopolitan city with a proud history, and its history is different on every city block. I hope this project will succeed in integrating past present and future for the Benny Farm area. But I somehow doubt it, because we would feel it if that were so. I do not know how else to explain it. It's just so... cold.
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