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Letters: Mega-mansions and the Like

To the Editor:

It was a lovely spring day—one of those brisk, cloudless turquoise skies in the heavens above, and tender green dotted with the blossoms of spring—white, pink, lavender and mauve down at the earth below. My friend and I decided to go for a drive around our Great Falls “village” and enjoy the sights.

Alas, what I saw of our manmade structures was less than uplifting. So many faux Tudor manors, wannabe Victorian mansions, gargantuan Georgian chateaux and oversized colonial “cottages,” all set about on their beautifully “Architect Digest” prompted landscaped properties. As we drove by them, I could almost hear them announce, if buildings could speak, “Look at us, we are great, we are grand and we are moneyed!”

When my family and I moved here 36 years ago, Great Falls was on the verge of being “discovered” by the commuter set, and the building industry curve was on the rise and taking off. In retrospect, I feel we missed out on a great opportunity to put Great Falls on the map as a destination, an enclave of unique, contemporary and even real colonial homes designed by the plethora of talented local (ie tri-state) architects.

Instead we see building after building go up in the faux European, especially English, styles—perhaps we did not really become independent of our conquerors after all. No matter how one looks at those mega-mansions, box-mansions, whatever you want to call them, they all look as if they were picked out of a catalogue.

I was/am constantly surprised and amazed, thus leading me into utter incomprehension, that if one has so much money to spare, why not build the most beautiful and unique home possible for yourself? One that makes you smile as you return, after a grueling drive home, from the office, one that always surprises, one that “warms the cockles of your heart” every time you pull onto your driveway?

I am no architect and I realize such opinions are totally subjective, because there must be some who actually like and prefer to live in one of those vast houses. Often I ask friends, “With all that money, why not think out of the box and do something different?” I often get the same reply: “Ah, the rich may have money but not necessarily taste!”

How sad, please prove me wrong. Fortunately there are a few wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright inspired homes, and some old cottages lovingly and beautifully renovated and updated, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Give us more.

But all is not lost, it is not too late, there are still “empty” tracts of land here and there, and still a few small old houses left on Georgetown Pike and on the other more remote areas of Great Falls. These are waiting to be built on or replaced—hopefully, by interesting, surprising, unusual, elegant homes, and even sweet small ones—houses that reflect the modernity, the courage to be different, the original thinking of our still young country.

Pu-Chin Waide

Great Falls