Excerpts from a talk given by Edward Lyon, Jr. at 2010's Housing Forum
In 1889 one of my great-grandfathers James Krause purchased the H.B. Packer farm for $100,000. His goal was to create a housing development on the 418 acres north of Rural Ave. between Market Street and Fifth Ave. One of his partners was another of my GG Grandfathers J. Henry Cochran. Their plan was to develop homes, which were on an elevated plane above the floodwaters of the Susquehanna, which ravaged Williamsport in 1865 and 1889. Krause wanted to develop an appealing neighborhood with strict zoning to prohibit slaughterhouses as well as pigsties.
Large lots were intermingled with small lots to create diversity. The large lots were near the Trolley stop for easy access to the downtown. The small lots were within walking distance to the downtown. On the southern border was "The Home For The Friendless" - to house the less fortunate residents. All the residents were treated to wide - tree lined streets -
The development had a park where residents could take their families - the park housed a pavilion with a bandstand and a restaurant, a merry go round, a skating rink and 9-hole golf course.
Krause and Cochran saw recreation areas as an essential part of a successful neighborhood community. Residents of the community described it as "a peaceful, wholesome, family-oriented neighborhood with attractive, unique homes."
The community was a Latin derivative for valley and mountain. The year is 1890 - The community, Vallamont, exists today - the city is not New York, or Chicago, or Boston - it's Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The visions of our forefathers are the catch phrase of today.
1) Quality of Life
2) Diverse neighborhoods
3) Proximity to the center city
4) Ease of transportation
It would seem appropriate that a perfect quote to the home of Little League baseball be from the movie "Field of Dreams." Build It They Will Come - however; If you destroy it, they will leave.
My grandfather represented the fourth generation of physicians to practice medicine in Lycoming County. Beginning with Thomas Lyon who was born in 1812 - they all had offices on West Fourth Street.
I asked my grandfather once when I was 18 - "Why Williamsport?" He answered, "Because I'm happy here." Now, my picture of happiness when I was a freshman at Penn State looked a lot different than living in Williamsport, PA. I then proceeded to spend the next twenty years of my life trying to find it. You could say I was searching for my "Field of Dreams." A place where I could walk with my family in the footsteps of generations past. Not to play baseball, but to encompass the ideals of great men who cared about the same things that I care about. Quality of Life. Our lives and our families' lives.
Last August my wife and I bought a home on Fourth Street. I am awestruck daily at the unique architecture and surrounding beauty Williamsport has to offer. We feel privileged to have the opportunity to make a difference in a community that is such a great part of what we are.
The reason we're here tonight and Thursday night is not to try and create a utopian world - a dreamland where problems don't exist - and society's ills are diminished by the rhetoric of a chosen few.
This is not about politics or policies or programs or initiatives - It is about people and how they interact and learn from one another.
Every person here has the ability to make a difference. The proof is all around us.
Janice Pepperman suggested I use a quote. She mentioned she writes down quotes from time to time from various sources that were poignant excerpts reflective of her ideals. By the way, I left many a 2010 meeting carrying my own list of Janice Pepperman quotes. I thought it appropriate to quote the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Marquez eloquently describes a Mexican society in his book "One Hundred Years of Solitude."
Garcia depicts the fear of the unknown where no man dared to stray far from his home - and therefore barricaded himself from inventions, ideas, and most important of all - change. Garcia writes:
Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city or mirrors would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when (he) would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time im-memorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.
Before I moved to Williamsport I spent the best part of five years in Mexico - witness to a society besieged by its own inability to communicate.
We cannot keep our ideas to ourselves because we are afraid or think no one will listen.
On Thursday night, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gaps that isolate our ideas and break through the haze of solitude.
Thursday we will identify issues that are important to us as individuals - and mold them into a cohesive, coherent and decisive plan that will catapult us well into the next century.