Preservationists rush to save Charles Ives’s endangered Connecticut house.
Over the past two years, the familiar rallying cry that has surrounded the sale of Charles Ives’s residence in Redding has given way to a happy resolution of sorts. The new owners have pledged to safeguard the house owing to its historic significance; In an equally exciting development, the Academy of Arts and Letters opened Ives’s Redding studio as a permanent exhibition at its headquarters in New York City (NY Times review HERE). Scholars, preservationists, and music lovers should congratulate themselves for their vigorous (and successful) public advocacy on behalf of Ives and his music. But they would do well to remember there was—and still is—another embattled Charles Ives house in dire need of preservation.
Ives himself struggled to reconcile his visits to Danbury with the memories of his childhood. In Vivian Perlis’s Charles Ives Remembered: An Oral History (University of Illinois Press, 2002), his nephew Bigelow Ives says:
I remember very late in his life . . . Uncle Charlie spent the night there and wandered through the old house and spoke very feelingly about the north parlor, and recalled how changed it all was. I went out walking with him late that evening, and we went up as far as the Civil War monument in the City Hall Square. That was only about half a block from the old house. He actually moaned aloud when he got up there and saw how it had all changed from his recollection of it. There were no longer any elms, and there were strange new buildings not very compatible with his vision of the old town. He leaned up against a sandbox which was on the corner by the curb, and he buried his hands and moaned. “I’m going back,” he said, “You can’t recall the past.” And he turned around and went back to the old house and said he was sorry he had gone out at all. From that I had an inkling of how deep his love was for a bygone way of life that he apparently had nurtured ever since having left Danbury as a boy (pp. 81-82).Reviving Ives’s “old house” is an expensive proposition, but saving such a vital connection to the past is surely an undertaking worth the financial and emotional investment. So it is good to know that a plan to rehabilitate the Charles Ives House is currently being formulated by the Danbury Museum and Historical Society. Through an announcement on its website, the Society has announced its intention to “begin the process of making the Charles Ives Birthplace whole again.” Please take a minute to preserve Charles Ives’s other embattled house by sending a letter of support for the project to firstname.lastname@example.org. Paypal donations are currently being accepted through the Society’s website.