This picture appeared on Facebook on January 3rd.  It was part of an advertisement for employment opportunities at one of the businesses on Court Street, but the picture reveals a great deal more.
This pic­ture appeared on Facebook on January 3rd.  It was part of an adver­tise­ment for employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties at one of the busi­ness­es on Court Street, but the pic­ture reveals a great deal more.

The cen­tral build­ing in the image to the right is the Fraternal Building, built in 1908. One of the icon­ic struc­tures of down­town Winchester, it dis­plays a cer­tain majesty of its peri­od with clas­si­cal detail­ing and mass­ing, despite lat­er mod­i­fi­ca­tions which changed its char­ac­ter some­what at the street level.

It also shows the inge­nious ways that were used to accom­mo­date the slope of the site as it drops to the west.

What the pho­to also clear­ly illus­trates is what beau­ty resides down­town if one just looks up.  We are all so affixed on what is at street lev­el that so few of us ever raise our eyes to see how won­der­ful­ly this town is blessed with its vari­ety of upper sto­ries and the dec­o­ra­tions which abide there.  The minia­ture arch­es, the ter­ra cot­ta dec­o­ra­tions, even two small cir­cu­lar win­dows at the very top which, while adding to the archi­tec­ture can be bare­ly noticed from street lev­el, all con­tribute to the beau­ty of this building.

Unfortunately, this pho­to illus­trates some dis­as­trous short­com­ings of Court Street which par­tial­ly negate the beau­ty of the build­ings. And these short­com­ings are per­haps more odi­ous on Court Street than on any oth­er street down­town (although the north side of East Broadway springs to mind).

Look close­ly at the pho­to. (If you click on the image, you will see a larg­er ver­sion.) Notice the not-quite-ver­ti­cal pow­er pole with its qua­si-cobra head light and the pletho­ra of over­head pow­er lines that block the façade.

Even though the street lights that once so majes­ti­cal­ly adorned Main Street have replaced the ugly sodi­um vapor lights, those same mul­ti-globe fix­tures prob­a­bly nev­er were present on these side streets. And even though the nar­row­ness of the side­walk on Court Street would seem to obvi­ate against plac­ing there the same fix­tures that occur on Main Street, sure­ly some sem­blance of them could be installed here and the need for over­head pow­er lines dis­pensed with.

Even more pro­nounced are the pow­er lines that loop toward the adja­cent build­ing, the old Citizens National Bank Building where once was housed a Subway sand­wich shop, and the hideous arrange­ment of con­duits and meter box­es affixed to the side of that build­ing which obvi­ous­ly could use a good dose of pow­er washing.

Then there is the white down­spout which snakes its way down the side of the build­ing, prob­a­bly neces­si­tat­ed by the removal of the upper lev­el of the build­ing many years ago.

Those who walk on this side of Court Street know quite well the imped­i­ments to walk­ing as trash cans are fre­quent­ly left on the side­walk and cre­ate a very nar­row path­way mak­ing it impos­si­ble for two peo­ple to pass one another.

One addi­tion­al note.  It would be nice if the build­ing own­ers would pro­vide some con­sis­tent win­dow treat­ment for the win­dows on the upper two floors.

It’s real­ly sad that such a beau­ti­ful com­bi­na­tion of impor­tant and his­toric build­ings is reduced to ugli­ness by the accou­ter­ments that sur­round and are affixed to them, but this pic­ture clear­ly shows some of the fac­tors that need to be addressed in order to make down­town a more invit­ing place, one that may even encour­age pedes­tri­ans to “look up.”

Thanks to Harry Enoch for pro­vid­ing some his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion on the Fraternity Building.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.