By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Sharon Lawrence McDonald and Daniel E. Silverman were both appointed to the Historic Preservation Commission at Monday night’s Selectmen’s meeting, filling two of the three vacancies on that board.
McDonald, recently retired from the Bedford Library where she was Children’s Librarian for close to 40 years, has long been known as an authority on the Bedford Flag that is housed on the third floor of the library. Her book, “The Bedford Flag Unfurled,” published in 2000, is recognized as the definitive resource on Bedford’s most treasured artifact.
McDonald is also the curator of the Job Lane historic house on North Road and a member of the Bedford Minutemen, a re-enactment group that brings colonial and Revolutionary War times alive for modern audiences.
“I’ve been working in history for the forty years I’ve been in town,” McDonald said. “I think so much of the people on [the Historic Preservation Commission.] Don Corey is astonishing and Bob Slechta was just an amazing, amazing man. I’m so sorry he is gone. And Lee Yates…The people that I work with [in the history realm] are really doing good stuff. I want to be there and be able to do that, too—to keep Bedford not just a little sister in the history of Concord and Lexington. We have our own [reasons to be proud]: the Wilson Mill site that was just restored, [for example].
“The responsibility of keeping the history of Bedford safe and vibrant…I really want to do that.” McDonald concluded.
Daniel Silverman is also a recent retiree who has lived in Bedford since 1975. The main reason Silverman applied to become a member of the Historic Preservation Commission is that he sees Bedford as being vulnerable to the “McMansionization” that is taking place all over eastern Massachusetts.
“Every small, older, affordable home is being torn down,” Silverman lamented. “Sometimes those [big, new houses] are not really in keeping with whatever neighborhood it is. Since the fall, I’ve seen four perfectly livable houses here in town get torn down, the latest just last week. I’m hoping that perhaps I can do a little something there to stem that in some way. I don’t want to see the waste of livable, affordable housing—even if it is old—get torn down.”
The Historic Preservation Commission does have leverage—called “demolition delay”-to slow down the destruction of houses built in 1943 or earlier.
“There is a law that says if the house is older than 1943, there has to be a hearing if it’s deemed that the house is historically significant,” Selectmen Chair Cathy Cordes related.
Selectman Bill Moonan added, “The thought behind it is that by delaying the demolition there can be found ways to encourage a different solution other than tearing it down. With interest and time, [the Commission] can actually work with the developers to find alternatives, like picking up the whole house and moving it somewhere else or saving the façade but changing everything behind it. It depends on the age of the building and a whole bunch of other issues but there’s a lot than can be done.”
Moonan added that although the Commission’s budget is only $1,400, a lot can be done with grant money—as in the case of the preservation of the old burial ground on Springs Road, near the intersection with The Great Road—or with Community Preservation funds.
Silverman also indicated his interest in joining the Transportation Advisory Committee as transportation is his field of expertise and the career from which he has just recently retired. There is no prohibition against serving on two Town committees simultaneously.
Before the vote, Selectman Mike Rosenberg added how thrilled he was with the level of interest exhibited by these two applicants.
“I’m just really glad to see two people come at these positions from two, different perspectives,” Rosenberg said. “It provides some degree of balance among the membership, which is great.”