Hello NY Times Interpreter! You asked in your article The Past Is Never Dead, “Which monuments are missing in your town? Which deaths have not been memorialized? Which past figures haven’t been immortalized in bronze? What past events continue to shape your family’s present reality? And what would they look like on a plinth?” Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our historic river town, New Hope PA came of age as a magnet for creatives and LGBT people in the 1940s. It drew less for the storied stone buildings where George Washington slept or Revolutionary War battle sites and more for the beautiful countryside, river recreation, and falling down farmhouses that could be had for a steal. By the 1970’s it was a bustling tourist town and celebrated the “Spirit of 76′.” It was a strangely retrograde festival considering the town was, by that time, filled with hippies, gays, and artists (some were all three) who were forward-looking, carving out spots for living out and mixed, opening gay clubs, restaurants, and galleries, some in those same historic settings.
Places were established like the Cartwheel which hosted LGBT dance nights in an old stone farmhouse. The Prelude had drag shows several nights a week. Its owner drove a big purple Cadillac around town which no one could miss. Januaries was a dance club in a giant barn on a random country road outside downtown. The Raven had great food, a bacchanalian pool club, and motel, drag shows also and a famous transgender waitress, Mother Cavallucci (famous locally and noted by Andy Warhol in one of his books) who walked up the highway to work each day with his teased platinum beehive, patent leather purse, and capris. Everyone loved Mother and had a story about him, especially since he “got married” every summer for years, as a woman, to a different young hot guy in a publicly staged wedding at the Raven. I could go on. There were other places too. Suffice to say, New Hope was one visual and cultural anachronism after another from the ‘60s through the ‘90s. It was revolutionary, without the war (that happened elsewhere for LGBT people, as we know).
Then, somewhere along the way, it all started changing, those vital LGBT landmarks disappeared. The Prelude was turned into a bank. The Cartwheel burned down. And the Raven just recently was sold, allegedly for remodeling but the new owners bulldozed the entire resort to create parking for a new downtown mega-spa/hotel. What we are left with are memories and subdivisions, parking lots, and banks.
Yet the Revolutionary War cannon in the center of town still stands, perfectly maintained. Spots on the map are still named for old battles and founding fathers like Washington’s Crossing (both a town and a bridge). Roads and even new developments have names hearkening back to Revolutionary Wartime or “Estates” of yore. Even the historical society works to preserve these times and the accompanying power and privilege of its leaders with a historic mansion in the center of town, the Parry Mansion. All of this leaves aside our local Lenni-Lenape Indians in the 17th century whose land this was before King Charles II of England decided to give it to William Penn – yet another person many places and statues are named after Penn’s Landing, Pennsylvania, on and on.
So, to answer your question Which monuments are missing in your town?…: How about a life-sized bronze statue of Mother Cavallucci sitting atop that Revolutionary War cannon in the center of town, in full wedding regalia (rhinestones and all), waving to all who pass by? How about renaming that stretch of Route 202 from town up to the former Raven, “Mother’s Crossing”? What if we had a single purple Cadillac parked permanently outside that bank, in memory of the Prelude? One that played disco at the press of a button with a single spot reserved right next to it for dancing anytime? And last but not least, how about a sign at the entrance to the town, “Welcome to New Hope: looted from the Lenni-Lenape Indians in 1681”?
Thanks for considering this.
Sincerely, Sara Scully