My old friend Tom is a hard man to keep up with, definitely a moving target, but I did recently check in with the latest developments at EMRCA headquarters at Heritage Park in North Adams. While our conversation was off-the-record, I think it’s fair to hint that major developments are underway.
In particular, I saw detailed plans and illustrations for two components of the overall attraction that Tom is developing for Heritage Park, a showplace distillery and a “Museum of Time.”
I myself wouldn’t be a patron of the distillery, but from some other successful locations that Tom showed me, I can understand the pull of such a destination. And I can see the shared design aesthetic, and the historic craft connection, with the Museum of Time.
To describe the latter as a collection of 19th-century industrial clocks does not begin to describe its appeal. These are beautiful objects, masterpieces of engineering and design, essentially large-scale, gleaming metallic sculptures, which are fully functional. And their history is intimately interwoven with the development of railroads, and thus a perfectly coordinated attraction with the model train museum.
One aspect of EMRCA (that name and acronym has got to be changed, in my opinion, but my suspicion is that Tom is just saving the exact appellation as a bargaining chip somewhere down the road) that struck me most graphically on this visit was the dimension and appeal of the architecture component, which is extensive, educational, and museum-worthy.
And while global, the collection of detailed architectural models is not just contemporary (despite the name). Besides Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and other historic landmarks, I noticed a potential section devoted to City Beautiful architecture and design from Buffalo circa 1900.
Anyway, mum’s the word, officially speaking, but I have to say that while I approached the latest expansion of Tom’s plans with some skepticism, I was soon won over by the force of his conception. And reminded of how he has always worked, not in the abstract but in response to concrete situations and opportunities.
Like the circumstances in which he finds himself, Tom is always changing, responding adventitiously to the situation on the ground. At the intersection of economics, politics, and culture, there are openings to development, but also roadblocks and derailings.
Though everything came together for him most notably in Bilbao, there are fascinating stories behind the obstacles he ultimately faced in Rio, or Taiwan, or Abu Dhabi, or China. All I can say is that North Adams is very lucky to have become the focus of his imagination, and of the grandeur and grace he brings to each of his endeavors.
Whether the Tunnel City is ready for its trainsformation, well, we’ll just have to wait and see. The initial plans for Heritage Park were announced just a year ago; the next year will tell the tale, one way or another.