Residents Mourn Ending of Drive to Save Lawn
'What's to say? I'm Sorry'
reprinted from the Manchester Herald, September 7, 1983

Reaction to the decision on Tuesday to drop the Great Lawn fund drive ranged from sadness to resignation. Nobody contacted was particularly surprised or angry that the drive to save the central portion of the historic Great Lawn of the Cheney families failed to materialize.

Hear are some of the reactions.

Eleanor Coltman, chairman of the Cheney Hall Board of Commissioners: "I knew it would be difficult to do but I thought it was possible -- that they had enough people involved. I'm sorry to hear it."

Lillian T. Segar, co-chairman, Cheney Homestead Commission: "I'm very surprised at the news. I'm sure I speak for everyone on the commission when I say we're all very disappointed. It was a project we felt would be supported and should be supported. We had high hopes for it. We thought there were enough concerned citizens in town.

John Sutherland, director of the Institute of Local History, Manchester Community College: "What's to say? I'm sorry. I suspect what the Great Lawn ran into was the fact that this town is enjoying a surplus of fund raising drives -- the Center for the Performing Arts, the Cheney Hall, to name a few. Maybe this was just one too many. The Great Lawn was a latecomer. Obviously, there's a limit."

Jon Harrison, president of the Manchester Historical Society, a member of the Cheney National Historic District Commission: "I'm disappointed. I think the Great Lawn was an asset to the town that ought to be saved. On the other hand, I never sensed a good deal of enthusiasm for the job of saving the Great Lawn." Why no enthusiasm? "It's not as tangible as something like a buiding. But it is an open space. And open space has its own value. That particular space has value to Manchester."

Attorney Robert H. Bletchman, co-chairman, Cheney Hall fund raising committee, also member Little Theater of Manchester: "It's a sorry day that this will be irrevocably lost to what the developers want. The owners want to do what's in their best interest and that's only natural. But all I know is when you pass it, it's pretty. It's likely that what will come won't be as pretty. I'm sure if the whales disappeared off the face of the planet, that would be more important. But this has its significance."

Nathan Agostinelli, former mayor of Manchester, president of Manchester State Bank: "It comes down to basically what the people want. Obviously the majority of the people in Manchester don't seem to care if the Great Lawn is preserved or not. ... I think now that this has fallen by the wayside, we should concentrate our efforts on Cheney Hall."

Joseph H. Garman, president Manchester Chamber of Commerce: "To be perfectly blunt, speaking as an individual, not for the Chamber, I think it's kind of sad that they're going to turn it over into housing of any kind. The fact that there was no response was indicative of a lot of people's feeling that it was a lost cause to begin with. This is the word I got up and down the street, 'These people own it and they can do with it what they want.' I hate to see it happen, but they bought it; they own it. There's not an awful lot you can do."

Allen M Ward, 18 Keeney St., who pledged $500 to the fund drive: "I'm disappointed. I'm afraid there wasn't enough time, there were several other things going on at the same time. A lot of people don't realize if it gets buit up it will be an entirely different site. They're just not making land these days, at least not in Manchester."

Webmaster's Note: Ultimately, it turned out that the person who was going to develop the Great Lawn into condominiums failed to get zoning approval of his plan. Although the grassroots fund drive ended, the Town itself, with Open Space funds, did buy nine acres of the Great Lawn, thus saving it.