This week we saw the passing of another Belleville landmark: "The Hole," may it rest in peace.
The Hole was initially just an eyesore. Yes, we were among its detractors, we are now ashamed to say. We just didn't have the long view, the perspective that Belleville, the "beautiful city," could and should also celebrate its warts.
After a fire early on May 26, 2010, that destroyed two downtown businesses at 205 E. Main St., Belleville city leaders decided the burned shells posed too much of a hazard to allow them to stand. The buildings were razed, the owners objected and the ensuing legal battle smoldered for years as the sides squabbled over asbestos, demolition costs and responsibility for filling The Hole.
Seasons changed. Art on the Square turned to Chili Cook-off turned to Gingerbread Walk, yet The Hole endured. And something magical happened.
Trees grew up in the hole. It became a haven for small furry mammals, a greenspace in our old city. We joked about The Hole serving as the new Belleville swimming pool. It became part of us.
So now we lament its passing and ask our civic friends: Where was the "Save The Hole" campaign? Where were the long-view folks who could see its potential beyond the weed-infested divot wrapped in orange plastic fencing, blue barrels and yellow barricades?
The Hole is gone, and we feel an emptiness inside.