Published 1:12 pm Sunday, November 30, 2008
Nearly everyone wants the DeMille Building to be Old City Hall. Let’s make it so.
All we need is some elbow grease, a modest amount of organization and the resolve to quit griping and do something about it.
We know the building’s name is an issue many people care about because of the outcry we heard after we tripped over this improbably delicate subject.
That’s right. Not so terribly long ago, many ladies in this town were aghast at the actions of one of our reporters.
Did this brute call them ugly names? Print unspeakable vulgarities? Endorse the commission of heinous crimes?
But he did have the temerity to refer to that large, purplish structure roughly across from City Hall as the DeMille building.
You know the one. The one with “DeMille” written on the front in large, black letters. The one with the nice, pretty historical marker that uses the name “DeMille” three times sprouting from the sidewalk right in front of it. The one that was renamed the DeMille Building.
That’s the building on which our writer committed his atrocity.
The outraged ladies were of two camps. (No men seemed offended, though we’re not sure why, given the uncouthness of the writer’s actions.) Some of the ladies thought the reporter was lazy and inattentive. The rest figured he was just stupid, or presumed he had recently undergone a lobotomy.
We agree, Old City Hall would probably be a better name for that structure. In fact, our reporter noted high in his story that that is what many people call the structure.
But until the name is dealt with, our city is left with two embarrassing options:
We could simply start calling the dilapidated hulk the DeMille building.
Of course, we are told that it was renamed in a failed attempt to cajole the DeMille family into giving us a nice, charitable donation. Since our call for alms was rebuffed, the name seems to stick in many proud craws. Of course, we’re not sure it’s actually an honor to the DeMille family to have an old, largely empty and heavily damaged building named after its most famous son.
But many feel that accepting the name would be a bit humiliating, and we’re willing to concede there’s no real reason to name the building for the family.
Our other option, as things stand now, is to keep referring to the building as Old City Hall.
That seems palatable, until we realize that every time we call that building Old City Hall, anyone who isn’t already familiar with the quirk of nomenclature will be thoroughly baffled.
Then we’ll have to keep saying “Yes, that one that’s labeled DeMille, that’s what we mean when we say Old City Hall.”
Frankly, we’re not sure that’s any less embarrassing. Certainly, it’s not a very elegant solution.
But there is a way out of our difficulty: If we want that building to be called Old City Hall, let’s name it Old City Hall.
The county owns the building. The historical society should start by approaching the county and asking that an official renaming ceremony be held. Change the name, for all to see, to Old City Hall.
Then — and this is the key step — get some paint and a ladder. We’re sure funds could be raised for materials, given how many people have shown they care about this issue. We suspect the labor could be had by a simple call for volunteers.
Get up there, obliterate “DeMille” and write in big, clear letters “City Hall.” (We imagine the “Old” is implied by the presence of a large, functioning city hall right across Market Street.)
Then take care of that pesky historical sign. It tells us Cecil B. DeMille and his father, a playwright, lived during DeMille’s boyhood in a house five blocks west of the sign.
Putting a sign five blocks from the site it marks is a little ridiculous, but we figure it was probably part of the push for charity.
Let’s relocate it further west. We aren’t particular about where it goes, but lots of people do stop for all those lights on U.S. Highway 17 through Washington. We’re sure they’d love a few sentences to read as they pass through our town.
Of course, the name is only the beginning of the question when it comes to that building. It should be wholeheartedly rehabilitated, and a more productive use for such prime, historical real estate should be found.
But we think the first step is getting its name all sorted out.