Recently, I read in the paper about an expansion plan for more classrooms (or smaller meeting rooms) for the 1912 Center in Moscow.
I’m no historian, so my understanding of the demand for, and success of, the 1912 Center is centered around my increasingly fallible memory, as well as newspaper articles from the online Moscow-Pullman Daily News archives.
Let me relate my personal experience first. Since the remodeling of the building, I have seen constant and chronic increase in use.
This should thrill every single person in the Moscow community.
Why? In a world where fragmentation is driving everything and everyone to outright warfare, the idea that a place exists where citizens can come together, regardless of political persuasion, and meet, should be priceless.
Instead, I think, after some 18 years (I’m basing this off articles posted in year 2001) the fact that people are still quibbling about finishing the rest of the building indicates that the supposedly intelligent people making these kinds of comments either a.) have no sense whatsoever on what builds a community, or b.) are actively engaged in keeping their power group in power.
When the building started being truly open for business, parking was a nonissue. Now, every event I attend has a parking issue.
I am utterly exultant in this problem. Why? Because it means that Moscow, as a community, is thriving.
The fact that I may have to walk the length of a Walmart parking lot to get to a particular meeting I’m interested in makes me ecstatic.
It means people in Moscow are getting together, sharing information, and working in their own way to effect the world we live in.
There is no way out of the larger problems we face in Moscow, or the world, without people talking to each other outside the boundaries of traditional groups.
The 1912 Building is fulfilling that purpose.
Scanning the archives in the Daily News, I am reminded about the bitter fighting over the idea of public money being used for remodeling the various floors.
Initially, the Great Hall, along with a kitchen, were the first spaces to be fixed. These tasks were accomplished through private donations.
On October 27, 2001, these rooms were dedicated and opened to public use. But the carping didn’t stop.
There is long history of the constant criticism of the whole idea of having an elegant community center.
It wasn’t always this way in our nation’s history. One can look to the legacy of Prairie Populist courthouses that dot the landscape, from Indiana, to Montana and even Dayton, Wash., to realize the power of a noble public architecture.
We have to identify with our public space in order to have a public conscience.
I honestly hope we’re past it all, and we can work within the context of private fundraising and appropriate public money to finish off the rest of the building.
I find it embarrassing for a space that now is used at full capacity to see any delay in fixing the rest of it up.
I’m also hoping that we can get more incisive in the debate on the deeper ‘why’ anyone would want to oppose finishing the building. We’ve been swimming in a sea of relational disruption, really for the last 20 years.
It’s pretty much brought our great nation to its knees.
When I hear people arguing against such a modest use of public resources for venues that bring people in the community together, bile literally rises in my throat.
It’s time to start calling those voices out. If we want a united community, we have to have a place where that community can form.
Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical and materials engineering at Washington State University.