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In Response: Duluth's communities of color callously neglected, too

Neglected properties near the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in Duluth disrespectfully degrade the site’s historic significance, advocates for the memorial recently have said. Those neglected properties include the former Carter Hotel, at the left of the photo at left, and the red-brick Pastoret Terrace in the background behind Terry Brown of Duluth and his son Timothy, as they attended the the annual Day of Remembrance at the memorial in 2013. 2012 file / News Tribune1 / 2
Neglected properties near the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in Duluth disrespectfully degrade the site’s historic significance, advocates for the memorial recently have said. Those neglected properties include the former Carter Hotel, at the left of the photo at left, and the red-brick Pastoret Terrace in the background behind Terry Brown of Duluth and his son Timothy, as they attended the the annual Day of Remembrance at the memorial in 2013. 2013 file / News Tribune2 / 2

As stewards of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, we as board members of Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Inc. are very aware of a longstanding problem with the area between the former pawn shop building and the memorial due to the unsightly and neglected machinery and demolition debris there. The city also is very aware of the problem per our regular pointed reminders that this area needs cleaning up by those responsible. The absentee landlord/pawn shop owner in concert with the city are the responsible parties for this easement. (This is in response to the July 7 story, "Founder: Memorial neglect 'disrespectful'.")

We agree this easement is a problem area that has been neglected. We have communicated to the city and police department the need for that area to be cleared for several years now, with no results.

It should be noted that the machinery there is because of former longstanding requests to complete painting of the pawn shop building facade. We are grateful this project was completed and have been vexed by the incomplete removal of the materials left behind.

We also believe, as a board with interest in the historic viewshed around the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, that the Pastoret Terrace across the street and the neighboring former Carter Hotel are blighted properties that should be saved by whatever means possible. Their neglect — both deliberate and circumstantial by their various owners — is unconscionable. To gentrify and thereby remove those buildings for their owners' own ends, however "logical" those ends might be, would be a slap in the face of the neighborhood, its residents, and Duluthians as a whole. That's because this is an area of great historic importance.

We support the preservation of that viewshed because it matters as a site of historical wealth. Pastoret Terrace, especially, is an important historic property that Duluth should preserve rather than tear down to create yet another high-priced but nondescript apartment complex. In the same way, history matters regarding personal lineage; it reflects heritage in the public sector, and tearing it down would be a mistake that could not be rectified once completed.

We promote and hold the idea that Duluth and its citizens should recognize there is value in Old Downtown and in the buildings that have been there for a century or more. The ideal usage of either the Pastoret Terrace building or the former pawn shop property would be as infrastructure dedicated to the communities of color that so far have been callously neglected in our community over generations.

Heidi Bakk-Hansen is secretary of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Board.

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