Adding to a center of gravity downtown

The new Orpheum as seen through a pocket parking lot on Central Avenue. It was mostly more parking, of a private sort, and a warehouse.

Although Dover is a third larger than Portsmouth only 12 miles downstream, its downtown has never had the same heft. Rather than clustering around the harbor like Portsmouth, Dover’s has fronted a spine along Central Avenue, with Washington Street as the only major crossing – one that until recently ended abruptly at the loop in the river.

Now that’s changing, a result of the scale of the new Orpheum complex a block to the west.

While the new multi-use building can look overpowering, it’s actually tucked in very nicely with the existing surroundings. It complements the height of the former Masonic hall to the east, rather than rising above it, and touches on a hardware store, the post office, a bank, district court, former high school now turned into a community center, public library, and city hall – mostly in what had been a parking lot, which did nothing to hold the elements together, at least for regular people on foot.

I’m not enthralled with its façade, but I’ll acknowledge the desire to fit in, something I saw impressively in Baltimore’s modest row house neighborhoods. What I do admire is the way this promises to function in a vibrant community.

For one thing, it tries to look like several buildings rather than one, to avoid an overpowering monotony. For me, the result looks somewhat hectic, but we’ll see how it actually plays out.

The arch window, by the way, pays homage to the appearance of the old Orpheum movie house that sat on one corner.

The corner of Washington and Locust streets, facing the old Masonic temple.


As seen from the back of the post office and Citizens Bank.


Now, one more new book cover

At a recent online writers’ conference, I was convinced to bite the bullet and release my novels at goliath Amazon in addition to the alternative ebook retailers where they’re already available. As I began pondering the new hurdles and strategies, I looked at Hometown News as a first offering.

A few years ago I had replaced the original cover, which sought to convey a sense of an idyllic small town where children could grow up safely, at least at the onset, with another of more urgency, reflecting the broader sense of the ultimately dystopian novel.

The new photographic image, though, was problematic.

The flames coming out of the residential window had the emotional message I wanted to convey, but they kept eating up the title and author credit, no matter which color I tried.

So I came up with this, trying to employ a trendy design element:

Returning to it now, though, I still felt an unease. The solution, in the end, was to make the artwork a bit smaller to give it more impact. Got that? It doesn’t make sense, but here’s how I’ve gone:

By the way, it’s now also available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon, as well as at Smashwords and affiliated ebook retailers.

What’s your take on the new design?

Yes, some men are from Mars

The kernel of this passage is insightful, but it got reworked and retold in a much more humorous vein in my novel What’s Left.

Well, he had every reason to feel out of place, I suppose. He might as well have been a Tibetan or a man from Mars dropped down in the middle of America. But reincarnation would assume that Iowa was the right place for him to be growing up, that he’d found the right set of parents and right surroundings, and that would mean I’ve been overlooking a lot.


Well, the alienated individual is one complex issue to take up. Just look at Kafka. Cassia’s having her own struggles, so let’s concentrate on those, especially as she’s becoming aware of surroundings that work in her favor, unlike those of her father’s youth.

Perhaps nobody’s in a perfectly right or wrong place. We usually make do, as best we can, although I’ve lived some places where that could be challenging.

What’s been “right” for you where you are? Or, if you’d rather, what’s felt “wrong”?


In my novel, the renovated restaurant could have looked like this. The pizza oven at Little Creatures, Fremantle, Western Australia. Photo by Gnangarra via Wikimedia Commons.



Two views from the Chestnut Street bridge

While Dover’s downtown has traditionally run along the north-south spine of Central Avenue and its historic mill complex, new construction is giving more emphasis to the Chestnut-Locust street route a block to the west. Here’s how the view is changing.

There’s new housing north of the river before the street splices into Central Avenue.


Looking south, the new Orpheum fills in a skyline between the post office, new police station and parking garage, and two public housing units along the river itself.

In what was St. Charles’ parking lot

The architectural design is pretty basic, but it blends well.

When St. Charles Roman Catholic Church on Central Avenue was razed and replaced by the new Bradley Commons, I wondered what would happen to the part of its trashy parking lot fronting Park Street. It was a vacuous hole, especially for pedestrians. No longer. Here’s what the Community Action Partners have put up in its place, with a large open garage at its back.

Building out at sidewalk fits the traditional siting of much of the neighborhood while buffering the remaining parking lot.