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Reporter’s Notebook: A second chance to learn local history

This week, the Ravenswood community said goodbye to a historic motel that was once the pride and joy of a local family.

I spoke to Linda Nichols whose mother and father, Jack and Sharon Yencha, owned and ran the Washington Motel from around 1980 to 2005. She said after the new and current owner took over, Nichols watched the building decline and many in the community believed it turned into an eyesore.

After a fire this past March, the building was deemed a total loss, which led to its demolition last week. Many of the members of the community are glad to see the building torn down but it got me thinking about the importance of saving history and looking for different perspectives other than your own.

What was recently a place with a bad reputation was once the home of several fond memories of Nichols and her brother and sister. While the family did not live there full time, they spent a lot of their time at the Washington Motel.

Nichols said it’s emotional for her to see the building demolished and said if she had the money, she would have bought the motel and maintained the business. Not a lot of people in the community seem to have that perspective or even realize that the motel was significant to some.

I wouldn’t disagree that the building needed to come down — city officials appear to have made the right decision. But as a general rule, any time a piece of history is torn down, people should take the time to learn about the structure before jumping to conclusions.

For Nichols and her family, the motel was a product of her parents’ hard work and love for the community. Although the physical structure is gone, Nichols is passionate about keeping the history and the spirit of the motel from years ago alive.

Being able to talk so passionately about an old and broken down building is something that takes courage and I commend Nichols for that. I don’t figure many other people in the community think about the memories that were made there. They instead focus on the terrible state the motel was in during its final months. While that’s understandable, I encourage people to ask questions, talk to people and really listen.

Listen to other perspectives and be open minded about a way of thinking other than your own. Personally, I had only heard bad things about the motel but after speaking with Nichols, my thoughts changed.

I realized that sometimes, we need to look at the bigger picture and not just the most obvious thing right in front of us. If I hadn’t reached out to Nichols and her family, I never would have known about the once positive history of the building.

Despite the popular belief, history is not restricted to physical structures. Eventually, age will cause everything to crumble but the important thing is for the legacy to live on by telling stories, reading, listening and sharing.

I hope that Nichols and her siblings are able to keep up their parents’ legacy even though the building they called home is now gone. Use the Washington Motel as an inspiration for your own communities — take advantage of opportunities to start learning about some of the places and people who left an impact but may no longer be present.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.

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