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We rejected a “Beacon Village” behind St. Margaret’s in ’67

Garden apartments behind St. Margaret's
Garden Apartments proposal. Notice the access road through the power lines to Cambridge Street. Everyone in the region would have used this neighborhood as a shortcut!

Keans Road, Rolling Lane, Hearthstone Dr. neighborhood

The neighborhood behind St. Margaret’s and Memorial School was a mere fallback plan for developer Everett Tingley. He didn’t want stand-alone homes at all. He really wanted to create a “garden-style apartment” complex. Town Meeting rejected the whole thing in the fall of 1967, with a 204-85 vote.

The arguments for and against the proposal give us a good look at Burlington’s overall mental state in the late 1960s, when the town found itself changing into a “city” and didn’t know how to slow down.

Burlington, a city? It seemed that way, since the town’s agriculture was fast-evaporating due to the impact of Route 128, Northwest Park, the upcoming Burlington Mall. Apartments represented city life, an unsettling thought for some.

“Effect of Garden Apartments,” by Estelle Shanley, Lowell Sun, Aug. 25, 1967

BURLINGTON — On September 18, Burlington citizens will be asked to attend a special town meeting and vote on rezoning a parcel of land adjacent to St. Margaret’s Church. This land, the proponents of the rezoning article hope, will be rezoned to allow construction of garden-type apartments. It’s ironic that the “winds of change” so prevalent in the world today should see our society moving rapidly toward urbanization, apartment dwelling, and that most crass distortion of man’s desire to town land, the “garden type” apartment.

In Burlington, a one-time farming community and one-time residential suburb, we now hear the proposal that the “garden-type apartments” be allowed to be constructed. What can the garden type apartment offer its occupants but a chance to live in temporary high-style until such time as the vogue passes and the architecture, reasonably permanent because of the huge investment and rental income, becomes a white elephant or worse, a futuristic slum?

Home ownership has long been a standard of our United States — the shining dream of the young and the mark of attainment of the old. The homeowner has a real investment in his community and intends to maintain his position. 

By nature, the apartment dweller is transient, here while the lease runs, gone tomorrow. He has no need for trees that will grow to maturity in five or ten years. He has no requirement for long-range educational programs. Proponents will quickly tell you to look at the tax income for the town. Following that strain of logic, one must conclude that the ideal tax-based community consists of 20 or more multi-million dollar skyscrapers casting their long shadows over what’s left of the individual and independent homeowner. How much strength will your voice carry in the halls of government when the many-dollar taxpayer corporation has a special interest in legislation while you and your home represent a paltry thousand dollar per annum tax payment?

And what of town meetings? If the apartment-dwellers were to attend town meeting (and that is doubtful), would their vision be the same as yours? Would they care that much what their corporate owners of their apartment buildings pay in taxes?

Look at Boston or any city where the slum has become the reality. The individual homes are the last in the city to deteriorate. There are today, in Roxbury, individual homes that are spotlessly cleaned, painted and well-maintained, but they are few, and always surrounded by the multiple-dwellings that have gone to rot through the combined neglect of owners and occupants. The owners, when infrequently identified, are loath to make improvements for numerous reasons. Most buildings of this type eventually fall into ruin, are set on fire, or are condemned to the city tax foreclosed files.

Perhaps the garden type apartments that have been proposed for Burlington will not end up as slums, but does the town need the tremendously increased auto traffic, fire and police protection requirements and additional sewerage cost? Why did you or your parents move to Burlington? Did you want a replica of the city or a community of homes and families?

“What’s Wrong With Apartments?” by Paul. A. Girardin, Lowell Sun, Aug. 30, 1967

BURLINGTON — A distinguished colleague of mine who has some very definite opinions of the ills of our society, blasted apartment dwellers and the owners of such edifices in a recent column in this space. It behooves me to refuse Mrs. Shanley’s arguments against the erection of garden-type apartments, not only in Burlington, but in any community.

Mrs. Shanley predicts there is a possibility that these buildings will become a “futuristic slum.” That is neither an accurate nor a responsible proposition. The garden-type apartment is quite different from those towers of luxury usually found downtown centers. It is designed with the suburbs in mind to provide small families, such as young couples with one or two, if any, children, with a dwelling place.

She notes that we are seeing our society “moving rapidly towards urbanization, apartment dwelling, and the most crass distortion of man’s desire to own land, the garden-type apartment.” While it may be true that we are moving toward urbanization, it is not true, as the implies, that we are dissipating man’s desire to own land. With the population growing as it is, and more and more land is taken for residential expansion, the end result has to be a form of urbanization which, in itself, I cannot see as an evil. But to say the desire to own land is being ruined by the garden type apartment is irresponsible.

That statement illustrates the writer’s bias in disregarding the wishes of young couples, her contemporaries, who are victims of the electronic revolution and who, until settled in a permanent position, find themselves shuttled between one branch office and another throughout the country. They desire to own land and their own home, sure, bu they (1) either don’t have the need for one, or (2) cannot afford the luxury while climbing the ladder to success. What they do want, however, is accommodation in a pleasant environment and in close proximity to their place of employment.

In saying, “Look at Boston or any city where the slum is a reality,” the reader is assaulted with the mental picture of festering slums building out of once-pleasant two-story buildings complete with landscaping. This view is not quite accurate. The slums which I have known have grown principally out of brownstone townhouses, once the glory of the Victorian era and later divided into apartments. They also grew from the ugly three and six-family homes built at the turn of the century, and which have deteriorated into tenements of the worst order.

I have been in many apartment houses, some nearly 50 years old, in Chicago, Boston, Los Angles and New York which are still very pleasant dwellings. I also must take issue with the fact that apartment dwellers are transients, as Mrs. Shanley says. Some of my acquaintances are “transients” who have resided in the same apartment for 20 years. Perhaps Mrs. Shanley is taking issue with the famous slum landlords, but in attacking garden-type apartments, she isn’t accomplishing this aim. She tries to explain the sociopolitical effect on the community by having transient dwellers residing in the town. She wonders, and perhaps rightly, what interest will they have in the welfare of the town since they are not homeowners or taxpayers. However, a certain amount of reach renter’s dollar is spent by the landlord in taxes. Therefore it can be said that while not property owners, at least the apartment dweller would be a taxpayer in the community and entitled, as all citizens are in this country, to have a voice in both community affairs as well as state and national affairs. Even Hubert Humphrey was an apartment dweller.

The funny thing is, just a year after rejecting Everett Tingley’s bid, Burlington approved Norman Stafford’s similar plan right across the street, before the town’s new Apartment Zone Committee had even issued any guidelines. Thus, Crawford Farm became Beacon Village. Immediately afterward, Lord Baron and Hallmark Gardens also won approval. Tingley died in 1976 at age 63.

Here’s a group of Jefferson Ave. residents protesting apartments in their neighborhood, off Terrace Hall Ave. Notice the apartment foundations in the background.

Hallmark Gardens protest Burlington MA, July 1969

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