Malden Advocate | May 4, 2018 | by Barbara Taormina
The great-great-grandson of the city’s first mayor and benefactor extraordinaire, Elisha Converse, was in Malden this week to show support for the proposal to preserve the Malden Hospital site for community projects and open space. Peter Converse made the trip from his home in Jamestown, R.I., for a presentation by the Friends of Fellsmere Heights to the City Council on the group’s 16+2 proposal, which would preserve 16 acres of the 18-acre site for the public with the remaining land being used for some type of development. The Friends have developed their plan as an alternative to the Fellsmere Housing Group’s proposal to build a residential complex of 214 condos, 18 townhouses and 18 single-family homes on the site.
Converse told councillors that he was speaking on behalf of 25 members of the Converse family who support the Friends’ plan to conserve the hospital land, which was donated to the city, in part, by Elisha Converse and his wife, Mary.
“We believe that, were they alive today, they would both endorse the Friends of Fellsmere Heights, so in a sense, we are speaking for them as well as ourselves,” he said.
Converse said that his family’s gift of the hospital land was rooted in his great-great-grandmother’s intuitive understanding that “open air, trees, water, grassland and flowers” were essential to healing and health. He also noted that among other cities and towns in the region, Malden has one of the smallest amounts of open space. “To give up any of the open space left to the city we would think would be a crime, and certainly detrimental to the physical, mental and spiritual health of the city,” he said.
Converse said his family agreed with the majority of Malden citizens who want to see the hospital site preserved for the community. “We believe to give up this land to developers for what sounds like pretty dense housing makes no sense; whereas the proposal by the Friends of Fellsmere Heights is much preferred,” he said.
The redevelopment of the hospital site is a complicated matter, and future generations of Malden residents will have to live with the outcome far longer than any of the appointed or elected officials who may end up cast deciding votes. Converse asked councillors to consider the past when deciding the future of the site. “Please let’s hold on to these priceless gifts given to us by our forefathers,” he said.