[The following guest editorial is courtesy of “Freedom Crossroads”]
Freedom — October 13, 2008 — By the time this article is printed, the first “Stroll Through Time”, sponsored by the Freedom Historical Society will have already taken place. It is hoped that it was successful in reminding those of us who are connected to Freedom in some way, that its inhabitants of yore contributed in a variety of ways in making it a rather prosperous and self sufficient village.
Whether they were millers, blacksmiths, selectmen, cooks or morticians, each of them was a vital thread in the fabric of everyday life. They helped the village to exist independently at a time when centers of population were so much more isolated from one another. Prior to the industrial, transportation and informational revolutions that would come one after the other through the passage of time, Freedom needed its inhabitants in order to flourish. The local businesses and enterprises not only provided work, products, and services, but also stimulated its economy.
Isn’t it ironic then, that today, in 2008, Freedom village is but a specter of the dynamic hub it once was? Yes, Freedom has always been a rural oasis, and that is what for many of us makes it still so beguiling. However, despite its bucolic charms, it was once a community that had a much more stimulating center. What with its several stores, including an eatery, Freedomites were much better able to obtain provisions without having to travel miles out of town.
Social anthropologists know that what makes a town a real community is the interaction amongst its inhabitants. Today villagers can connect, albeit unexpectedly and on a limited basis, at the post office. There is no real gathering place where neighbors can visit with one another over a cup of tea or a meal. There are some eateries nearby, but they necessitate that one have a car in order to drive the distance to reach them.
There is also a lack of small business and cottage industry in the village. Wouldn’t it be grand is Freedom could become a bit more of a destination? Only by encouraging local entrepreneurs and artisans to sell their wares and offer their services, perhaps, right from some of their homes, would Freedom be alluring to those visiting the region.
How often I have heard my own guests at the B&B and customers in my antique shop lament the lack of a place to grab a meal in our beautiful village! They’d like to stay a spell, but there is no incentive to neither linger nor spend some more money in our town. It goes without saying that we don’t want unbridled growth that would ruin the beauty and serenity of our village. However, we need to be more creative and flexible with our zoning policies.
Look at villages nearby. Both Tamworth and Center Ossipee are in the process of preserving, beautifying and, at the same time, stimulating their downtowns. Why couldn’t we follow their lead? Even small Eaton has established a cooperative eatery that is very successful.
Freedom needs to recognize that its inhabitants today could still benefit from local business. Yes, we are a much less isolated world. And, yes, transportation is more readily accessible. However, at what cost? We all know that the price of gas continues to increase. We also know that if a town’s inhabitants are able to successfully make a living or supplement income, then they are able to invest that money back into the infrastructure.
Freedom’s beautiful architecture needs constant upkeep. If homeowners don’t have the means to maintain and heat their homes, then all of us suffer. How apropos the name of this newsletter then! We are at a “crossroads.” Do we look back to our predecessors, following their lead and encouraging a prosperous future or do we sit on our hands to stagnate and atrophy? The choice is ours.
Patrick Miele is the owner of the Freedom B&B