At the top of the harbor entrance in Point Judith, R.I., just where the ferry rolls through the swells to and from Block Island, there is a new house going up. The rows of houses that line the front of the bay have been there for seemingly ever and form a tight-knit grouping of yards, drives, fences and views. The buildings seem to cooperate among each other to allow the other rows to preserve their views. Ahh, the good old days when things like neighborhoods mattered.
But no longer. A huge house now rises in front of the group in a tiny lot as close to the water as can be legal. The views of almost all the others have been obliterated or crowded out. One house has decided it can rule the roost, so it has. The other houses seem to do a slow burn from behind its shadows. It’s like the wide guy who moves right in front of you at the museum while you’re looking at a painting, from the front row.
Back on Rocky Neck, are we are headed in the same direction? A “new addition” to the neighborhood has also created a large impediment to views of just about everyone up there. The third house in from the Paint Factory had just sold to a new owner in the recent past. But there was a lot split off from the property slightly down the hill from the house. Whatever is going in there now, a resort, a hotel, a restaurant, a country club, a casino, a supermarket — it’s huge — especially when seen from the water side. It couldn’t be a house, could it? Could one family really take away that many views of its neighbors and expect to actually live there?
The main side of the house faces back to City Hall. There will be a lot of glass on that side, one can tell. But the south side of the house is even longer, runs back up the hill, its garage blocking neighbors even back down the street to the north with the angle. The house is still rising. So far, three floors of windows but the roof is still to come. There’s talk of a widow’s walk on the top which is great because in case there’s not enough view from the house, it’s something they will need, for sure.
And like Point Judith, the houses that were there before all seemed to fit around each others views and space. Sometimes I even get the impression that people from Rocky Neck actually like each other. Maybe that’s why — because they have to get along, all squished together in a little piece of heaven.
But no more. There is a new king of the neighborhood, a new “me” or rather a new “ME!” that will now be the subject of every predicate. Remember, every view out has a view back and this house or hotel or club will be at the center when Gloucester looks over to its favorite downtown view of the Paint Factory. In the Age of Trump, only a weak loser might have built a big house that fit with the other big houses on the Neck but this was an opportunity to dominate and dominate it shall, lengthwise, width-wise and height-wise. Woo hoo, the perfect trifecta!
Gloucester is in the midst of a mini-building boom. The Mall site, the Fuller site, the Coast Guard site, the Back Shore site, the Niles Beach site, but now we have a new poster child for the Bigger is Better model. Soon every neighborhood might have a “Rocky Neck” rising in their midst. As the painted lady in New Orleans says: If something’s worth doing, then it’s worth overdoing! Let’s all agree to that.
And if you can take over a neighborhood, then that’s even better. Perhaps it will shrink as it ages, like the rest of us.
So welcome, folks, to Gloucester.
Obviously, we’re going to be seeing a lot of you.
Gloucester resident Gordon Baird is an actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine and producer of “The Chicken Shack” community access TV show.