THE FIGHT for NEWTON CORNER
In the spring of 1980, a developer purchased property beside the Massachusetts Turnpike at Newton Corner and announced plans to demolish five turn-of-the-century buildings. In their place was proposed a high-rise development that would include offices, retail businesses, and a combinbation of market-rate and subsidized apartments. Commonly known as the Nonantum Block, the old buildings were home to a small but tightly knit neighborhood of 125 people and 21 corner stores.
Set in the midst of affluent Newton, the community at Newton Corner seemed like a relic from a bygone era, and the clash of values and lifestyle with the larger city around it became a public fight, fueled by the prospect of development. In the end, the community's failure to address its differences resulted in the downfall of both the proposed development and the Nonantum Block.
Here are the personal accounts of people torn between tradition and change, between old neighborhood ties and a city's need for revenue and affordable housing. If the sentiments strike a familiar chord, it is because they express enduring, still unresolved divisions in American cities. Newton Corner is only a small part of the greater Boston area, but its story of development and conflict is being repeated in metropolitan communities across the country.
The following photos and text are excerpted from the book The Fight for Newton Corner by Jon Chase. Originally funded by a grant from the Mass. Foundation for the Humanities, the book subsequently won the author a Mass. Artists Foundation Fellowship.
Several people made valuable contributions to the book: Louise Dunlap, lecturer in writing at Tufts University; John Grady, Professor of Sociology at Wheaton College; Robert Hollister, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy at Tufts University; Roz Gerstein, designer and photo editor; and Kent Jacobson, Mass. Foundation for the Humanities.
The Fight for Newton Corner has been included in the curriculum at both of Newton's high schools as well as in the Sociology Department at Wheaton College. Copies may be purchased by contacting the author.