The Wenham Historical District Commission was not sure when it met on Thursday about what the process will be for approving a war memorial for the town. But the members appeared to be unanimous in their criticism of the design being proposed by the War Memorial Committee.
“I am totally unclear what is going to happen or what the process is,” Historical District Commission chairman James Howard said.
The war memorial commission, meeting for more than three years about constructing a memorial to Wenham veterans of four wars, that is similar to the lost sailors' memorial in Gloucester. The proposed design, which memorial committee chairman Bruce Blanchard called “nearly unique,” would be different than “all the other memorial statues you see around the country.” It would be constructed of granite with a base eight to 10 feet long and stand two to three feet tall with a five-sided pyramid and a globe on top.
Landscape architect Kim Ahearn has proposed a taller, thinner memorial, more like the Civil War statue in front of Wenham Town Hall.
Howard told his commission that at some point he expects the design of the memorial to be presented for the historical district commission's final approval – probably by the Board of Selectmen. He and other members of the commission said they would like for the town to vote on what design it wants.
“If we turn down their (the war memorial committee's) design, there will be a battle,” Howard said, noting that the war memorial committee has strong feelings about the design it has developed.
The war memorial committee met last week and voted not to present a design to the on May 7. It will ask the Town Meeting only to authorize the location of a memorial at the old car barn lot.
That will mean that the two Town Meeting warrant articles related to the war memorial - Articles 14 and 15 - will be consolidated into just Article 14, according to Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren. The War Memorial Committee will simply ask voters to designate the car barn lot at Main and Arbor streets as "a perpetual war memorial park."
Most members of the Historical District Commission favored turning the car barn lot into a memorial park, although member Tom Zempell said he would like for the new memorial to be nearer the Civil War memorial so “we can all say prayers together in one place.”
Wenham Building Committee chairman John Darling last week opposed any presentation to Town Meeting this year. He proposed that members of the building committee, the war memorial committee and other groups work together to develop a design that could be supported by the whole town.
Howard and member Don Bannon, who also sit on the building committee, said they were unclear if the building committee had jurisdiction over the car barn lot.