Friday, June 22, 2012

Hare Salon Is More Than Just Another Art Gallery

By Christina Georgiou

Timothy Hare shows a visitor around his
new salon on Spring Garden Street.
Local architect and artist Timothy Hare's new gallery is a bit different from most--he doesn't expect to sell much art.

Now retired after a long, successful career, he instead hopes his new Downtown space will be host to thoughtful exchange of ideas and conversation, in addition to his books and art.

Originally a surrealist and pen-and-ink artist, in addition to his architectural work, Hare's most recent works are bold abstracts, and grace the back room of the gallery space.

Two of the books containing Hare's
pen-and-ink illustrations of Easton
The front room greets visitors with the artifacts of Easton's struggle with urban renewal in the 1960s and 70s and Hare's past work, including two books of his pen-and-ink illustrations of Easton.

In the 1970s, jet-lagged and just back from Australia, Hare landed in Easton by chance, he said, just as wrecking balls were about to destroy what is now the city's historic district. Their work had already begun years earlier, and whole blocks of the city's unique antique architecture had already been removed.

The citizens of Easton had protested vigorously against their eviction and the destruction of their homes, to no avail. When Hare arrived, a demolition crane was set up next to the building that houses the Quadrant Coffee House and Book Mart, slated to be the next victim of elimination two weeks hence.

The front room greets visitors with the artifacts of
Easton's struggle with urban renewal in the 1960s and 70s,
along with a collection of hares.
 By that point, though he didn't know it, whole chunks of the city were already lost to the federal government's plan to "renew" urban areas by replacing them with parking and squat light industrial buildings, forcing the relocation of residents to the suburbs. No new residential housing was allowed as part of the plan.

Although Easton was still thriving and bustling with commerce, despite what had already been lost, most of Downtown was being declared "blighted" which paved the way for the ill-conceived destruction of heart of the city.

Despite his fatigue, Hare went to that evening's city council meeting to ask what was going on and why, he said. Not receiving satisfactory answers, he refused to leave until city officials showed him the plans and explained what was going on.

A map of Easton's Downtown
district, showing in black what
buildings had been razed
between 1945 and 1960.

This map shows Easton's Downtown,
with black areas depicting buildings
demolished between 1945 and 1993.
Most were razed in the
1960s and1970s.

Deeply disturbed by the ultimate answer, that Downtown Easton was being flattened and residents forcibly removed from their homes, despite ownership, he decided to do something about it. Having worked in Australia on historic preservation and in America with government contracts, he knew what to do.

Not owning a car, Hare decided to take a bus to Washington DC the next day to attempt to get an injuction against the construction project, of which the demolition was the first phase. He believed from seeing the plans the night before that the city officials had not crossed T's and dotted I's when it came to federal permissions to enact the construction plan, which they were in charge of having been enticed by the millions of federal dollars the city was granted for agreeing to it.

He knew if he was successful the demolitions would be halted, and the city not only would be forced to return the unspent portion of the funding, but wouldn't be granted more, due to their failure to spend it on the project in time.
Three paintings done by Timothy Hare
that depict Easton's various
City Halls through time.

Hare never made it to the bus station, he said. Before he could leave his house, which he had just rented, a woman who had heard about his "making trouble" at the previous evening's meeting knocked on the door and offered her help. She was incidentally the relative of a person of some importance in the federal capitol, who she called upon to help find a skillful presentation lawyer, which sped up the process of Hare getting through the proper doors to file the right paperwork for the injunction.

His efforts were successful, where the protests of 12,000 City of Easton residents had failed, though not before more than half the city's Downtown buildings were gone.

Up until fairly recently, the reasons behind the federal push for urban renewal projects across the nation were a classified secret of the Department of Defense, which had pushed for cities being vacated after World War II, ostensibly to protect them from becoming targets in the event of nuclear war.

Hare's master thesis based
on research into the
reasons for Easton's
ill-conceived urban renewal
attempt, the effects of which
the city still suffers from today.
Hare did his master's thesis on that subject, and a copy of the thesis also resides in his new gallery, housed in a graceful Federal-period building on Spring Garden Street--one of the ones saved by his efforts now nearly four decades ago.
"When I think about it now, if I'd known what I was really up against, I don't think I would have done it," Hare said. "But I'm very glad I did."
Already, it seems, despite officially opening only earlier this week, the salon is a success, not only for being the home to Hare's art, much of which reflects the struggle Easton faced, but for already fulfilling the mission of thoughtful exchange of ideas and historical information, too.

Hare Salon, located at 229 Spring Garden St., is generally open Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m., with other times by chance or by appointment.

To contact the salon, email Or just stop by some time.

Update, July 2, 2012: Summer hours for Hare Salon are by chance or by appointment.

1 comment:

  1. love the story love the man and wow what an inspiration to all that come in contact with him