Monday, October 24, 2011

When do you need really good coffee?

Day 4, Mt Morris Consultation

Today was the fourth and last day of the consultation in Mt. Morris, NY. The morning started with a really good cappuccino at the Rainy Day Bakery and Cafe, at the intersection of State and Main. Fired with caffeine, Ron and Yvette Shiffman and I drove around, connecting the dots. We went up to Murray Hill where the Art Center is located, to Letchworth State Park, and back to Main Street over a bridge that is temporarily reduced to one lane from two. With all that good caffeine humming around in my head, I saw the duck, if I may make allusion to that game in which you connect the dots to see the outline of an animal.

One member of our group had noted that almost all the stores on Mt. Morris' Main Street were closed on Sunday afternoon. The Rainy Day Bakery and Cafe closes at 3, but opened up in response to her plea for an afternoon cup of coffee. "What if I were leaving Letchworth State Park and getting ready to drive 5 hours back to New York? I'd need a cup of coffee," she pointed out. And with a great cappuccino from Rainy Day, you wouldn't even need gas!

Which easily leads to the idea that the shopkeepers on Main Street should stay open longer hours to give coffee to the tourists and make the whole restoration a success. But I was reminded of a classic drawing by James Marston Fitch, in his book "American Building." It shows a man in a house, and indicates how the weight of the environment is lifted off his shoulders by the building. This is the promise of urbanism: that we can organize the space to carry the load, while we run around in the state park, oohing and ahhing at the beautiful gorge.

But what, we think next, is the environmental intervention that would make Mt. Morris zing? I was really impressed with Ron Shiffman's idea about a fountain topped by an eagle which used to be in the middle of the road. There is a similar one in the middle of Main Street in Geneseo and it works beautifully to tame and shape the space of Main Street. Such a move, I thought, would slow traffic enough that passersby would slow, be captivated, stop, enjoy, and this increase in local traffic would tip the scales in favor of the village's future.

In leaving today, I cast my vote: Put the Eagle Back on Main!

The End of the Mt. Morris Consultation

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