Obici House deserves protection

Published 10:53 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2009

For years, the Obici House — standing regally at the end of a challenging 18th hole — was the only real Suffolk that many non-residents knew. Whether they were playing the course themselves or just driving to the city to watch the Ladies Professional Golf Association play its annual Crestar Classic tournament, the sight of the big white house with the red metal roof was an iconic part of their Suffolk experience.

Now, though, there are troublesome rumors flying around Suffolk that the City Council might be considering a plan that would result in the old home being moved — or even demolished — as part of a plan for getting a private company to lease or buy the golf course.

Predictably, those who see it as their calling to protect local landmarks and other historic locations from the pressures of wanton development have organized themselves to fight the rumored plan. Almost as predictably, the city has refused to share with its citizens the specifics of the plans under consideration in advance of a June 3 public hearing on the lease proposal.

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Considering the hornet’s nest the issue is likely to become amongst Suffolk residents, especially those with any sense of the city’s history, it is perhaps not surprising that Suffolk officials have sought to play their cards so close to the vest in this matter.

But Suffolk citizens have a right to know what the plans are for this building that once was the home of Amadeo Obici and his wife, whose love for the city resulted in a philanthropy that made possible some of Suffolk’s dearest features, including the original hospital that bore Louise Obici’s name.

Citizens have a right, for instance, to know why the request for proposals is very specific in stipulating that the golf course must remain a golf course under any proposed plan but does not make a similar stipulation about the continued existence of the Obici House. Wouldn’t doing so have demonstrated a commitment to Suffolk’s heritage? Doesn���t the fact that such a statement was left out of the RFP also convey a message, both to citizens and to those who might have responded to the RFP?

Sleepy Hole Golf Course is a jewel in need of a competent steward. The same is true of the Obici House. Suffolk should take the appropriate steps to protect that jewel and not let it be lost at the expense of shining up the other one.