Category Archives: Then and Now

We keep this love in a photograph

It’s been so long, I think I’ll open with something light, before I even attempt to explain the title, the cryptic detail photographs, and this post that’s been ruminating since July.

brick road

brick road

So you’ve all probably seen those amusing picture+words images on Facebook. This morning, I saw this one that had a picture of an ordinary looking house and text that said this: I went by the house I grew up in and asked if I could go in and look around. They said no and slammed the door… Parents can be real jerks.

Ba-dum ching, right?

doorknob

doorknob

Lucky me, I don’t actually have that problem – neither the parents who are jerks nor the inability to re-visit my childhood homes, because my parents still own them both. (Actually, my mom once pointed out that my father currently owns every house he’s ever lived in, with the exception of the fraternity house at college…

stairs

stairs

When I saw that thing on Facebook this morning, I got inspired to finally sit the frick down and attempt to write this post I’ve been meaning to write since July. Trouble was, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it. To be honest, I’m still not; but I’m sitting here, and I’m writing it, so that’s something.

I say I’ve been meaning to write it since July because that was when I was last able to re-visit my first childhood home. The second one, my parents currently live in; I know I’m welcome there any time, with or without warning, and I have my own key. Now the first one, where I lived from birth until age almost-11, is a different story. Yes, I said my parents still own it, but they don’t just keep it on hand, sitting empty, for funsies; they rent it out. And I don’t know all the ins and outs of the landlord/renter relationship, but I get that it’s not really kosher to just randomly traipse people through the place even if you do own it. So, I had to wait until the place was unoccupied for my parents to take me there, and that time came this summer. The place was between renters, and it stayed empty for a few weeks while some work was being done on it, and stars (and schedules) aligned and I was able to get in and see it again.

transom

transom

Kicking back to the rumination — as I said, I’ve been filing things away for this post for months — I am reminded of a presentation I saw my supervisor give a couple of weeks ago. She was speaking to a group of college freshmen about local history, “reading” photographs, and “sense of place.” She led them in a story circle exercise, asking them questions like: Where were you born? Where are you from? and What do you consider ‘home’? (These questions all sound very similar, but they have different connotations and may elicit 3 totally different answers from the same person.) In opening up the story circle portion, she showed two photographs on the screen – an historical photograph (circa 1900) of her grandparents’ farm in Indiana and then a more contemporary photo of the same house, courtesy of Google Maps streetview. When she showed the older picture, she said that it looked more like what she remembered, and then going to the newer photo she added, “I think I’d probably cry if I saw the place today.” You, too, huh?

Judging from her inflection in that statement about crying over the current state of a beloved childhood place, I think I was crying for that same reason when I saw my old house in July. I’ll not go into details, because for one, my father wouldn’t want me to, and for another, that’s really not what this post is about. Point being, though, this most recent time, I don’t think it would confuse anyone as to why I might have been sad.

pocket door

pocket door

But this wasn’t the first time I had seen it since we moved out. I know I visited it once when I was about 12 or so (a year or two after we left). And I had been inside again once a few years ago. Both of those times, there actually were renters in it, but Mom knew I’d been wanting to see the place again, so she asked, and they assured her they didn’t mind.

Now, I don’t remember being sad or how I felt at all that time when I was 12. But the time a few years ago, the place looked perfectly fine. In fact, it was Christmas time, and the placed was all decked out with meticulously done holiday decorations, and there was literally a beautiful Christmas tree in each room of the first floor. And yet I still started sobbing in the middle of the dining room. What the hell, right?

They even asked me – I can’t remember if it was my mother or my husband – why I was crying, and I remember saying, “I don’t know.” I also remember that I knew I would cry before I went, but I couldn’t put words to why.

fireplace

fireplace

So, going back to today and that joke image about visiting your childhood home. I didn’t include the image itself in this post (except to link to it) partially because copyright (boo) and partially because I didn’t care for the look and feel of it. I spent about 20 seconds Googling “the house I grew up in” to see if I could find something similar but more attractive, but I blew that off because I “saw a butterfly” in the search results. It was another image, explaining the Welsh word “hiraeth”:

hiraeth

hiraeth

What is this? A word that sort of explains missing times and places that don’t really exist anymore? (OK, obviously the house still exists, but the house as my house, the house of my childhood no longer does.) A little more Googling on the Welsh hiraeth also led to Portuguese saudade, as well. I think both of these are probably tinged with a bit more cultural nostalgia than what I’m attempting to express, but I thought they were both pretty interesting words that are at least as close as I’ve seen, if not quite right. (I should really cease being surprised every time I have a “there’s a word for that?!” moment. I’m sure there is a word for everything; I just don’t happen to know them all.)

fireplace details

fireplace details

So what’s with all the cryptic architectural detail photos? In case you hadn’t guesses, these are from the photos I took at my old house that day this summer. (Did you really think I wouldn’t want to take a few — or a few hundred — photos of the place? Have you met me? OK, well, actually, most of you maybe haven’t…but anyway. Yeah I like photos.) The house is over 100 years old, so it has some pretty neat woodwork and other things going on, so in addition to the wide shots of every room (EVERY room), I wanted some close-ups as well.

Finally getting to the point of all the things: what does the title of this entry have to do with anything? You probably recognized it as a line from the recent Ed Sheerhan hit, aptly called “Photograph” (lyrics, music video).

The day I went to see my old house, I got off work early (so I could get there before it got too late in the evening- as this house is 2 hours from where I currently live), and of course as I was starting up the car, I was thinking of what I’d be doing that afternoon, and the first song that came on the radio as I was driving away was that song. Now, I don’t think the song is actually about a house, in any way, but when I hear these lines, I think of that moment, and I think of my house:

We keep this love in this photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
Time’s forever frozen still

The time you can’t visit anymore? The place you maybe can’t visit anymore? At least, not as it was then; it can never be just as it was then, ever again, even if the physical space remains.

We keep this love in a photograph.

Dining room door to kitchen (2015), overlaid with Dad & me in 1983

Dining room door to kitchen (2015), overlaid with Dad & me in 1983

Please forgive my epically amateur Photoshopping skills.

Looking through the dining room to the front hall (2015), overlaid with Mom & me in 1983

Looking through the dining room to the front hall (2015), overlaid with Mom & me in 1983

I haven’t scanned a lot of my mom’s photos – mostly only my grandparents’ – so I didn’t have tons to work with already on my computer…

Dining room (2015), overlaid with my sister's baptism day in 1984

Dining room (2015), overlaid with my sister’s baptism day in 1984

…but you get the idea.

Back yard (2015), overlaid with me and Grandpa on the swingset in 1985

Back yard (2015), overlaid with me and Grandpa on the swingset in 1985

This one might be my favorite overlay:

family room (2015), overlaid with my 3rd birthday (1985) - aka the only picture of me in my underwear that you will ever find on the Internet. also, my dad built those bookcases.

family room (2015), overlaid with my 3rd birthday (1985) – aka the only picture of me in my underwear that you will ever find on the Internet. also, my dad built those bookcases.

Not an overlay but I’m sharing anyway:

Christmas 1986 (no overlay - I didn't have a shot of this particular corner but I loved this picture so I'm sharing anyway)

Christmas 1986 (no overlay – I didn’t have a shot of this particular corner but I loved this picture so I’m sharing anyway)

We made these memories for ourselves.

I have this thing hanging in my living room that says: “Home is where your story begins.” I was thinking about that this morning, in trying to figure out what I wanted to say in this post as well. I remember thinking, “That’s not necessarily accurate, depending on how you interpret it.” (Cue ridiculously pedantic explanation.) Going back to the whole story circles thing from earlier, what you currently consider “home” may or may not be the same place that your story begins, especially depending on how you choose to begin or define “your story.” I wasn’t thinking about it that hard when I bought it, and so I interpreted it that your story (your life) begins (began) at a place you consider(ed) home. Home is where a lot of your life happens (or happened).

exterior of my childhood home, 2015

exterior of my childhood home, 2015

So, that place was home. That house was the backdrop for a lot of the moments of our lives, for a lot of years. In fact, before my parents even lived there, before they were even married, the house is literally the backdrop for some important moments, such as the following, because my mom grew up in the house next-door (the one on the right):

Left, Mom on high school graduation day; middle, Mom & Dad on Mom's graduation day; right, Mom showing off her engagement ring.

Left, Mom on high school graduation day; middle, Mom & Dad on Mom’s graduation day; right, Mom showing off her engagement ring.

And because my grandparents lived next-door to that house for several years, in a longer story I won’t get into right now, my grandmother had these photos showing the house shortly after it was first built and the family who lived in it for the first 70 years:

circa 1910?

circa 1910?

original family, circa 1910?

original family, circa 1910?

I wonder what they would think of the house today? I wonder what they might have thought about the house when we lived in it? It has certainly changed a lot over the last 100 years.

So. I wanted to write a little something to commemorate my recent visit to my childhood home. And par for the course, I instead wrote a lot of something. (Again, have you met me?) I couldn’t put my finger on what it is about the place that makes me feel the way I feel about it. A bit of “neat old house,” a lot of memories and nostalgia, a lot of just me being hyper-emotional about all things micro-history (and oh god, if we’re talking about my own personal micro-history).

I think I’m all poured out. I’ll leave you with one last questionable Photoshop job, and I think I’ll peace out:

exterior 2015, overlaid with historical photo ca. 1910

exterior 2015, overlaid with historical photo ca. 1910

Five Oaks

Before it was a neighborhood…or even a park…it was a house. Five Oaks was the name that Jeremiah H. Peirce, a local lard oil manufacturer and later lumber dealer, gave to his 1854 home, apparently naming the estate after “five stately oak trees” situated on the four-acre property (Dayton History; Burroughs; FONIA).

I thought I would share some photos and information about the Five Oaks estate, as a nice, light entry for around the holidays.

This annotated map shows the location of the J. H. Peirce and boundaries estate in 1875. A lot of these old maps don’t show street names, so I’ve added the (current) street names to help you get your bearings in the map:

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

(You can view a high resolution version of the original Harrison Township map on Dayton Remembers, Dayton Metro Library’s digital images collection.)

Charles Sullivan, well-known in the Montgomery County Historical Society (now Dayton History) many decades ago, reminisced about the area in the late 19th century, mentioning two homes in particular that were off the west side of Forest Avenue (or, Tate’s Mill Road, in early accounts):

Opposite Shaw ave. a lane ran up to the home of Samuel Forrer, a two story brick, still standing. He was a well known civil engineer… He had six children and the descendants are still [1943] in the locality.

Opposite Neal ave. was the lane running up the hill to “Five Oaks” the residence of J. H. Peirce, a son-in-law of Samuel Forrer. He had 8 children and was in the lumber industry at the corner of Wayne and State now a railroad yard.

Here is a current Google Map showing the area now known as Five Oaks. The little green splotch of Five Oaks Park (northwest corner of 5 Oaks Avenue and Squirrel Road) is where the Five Oaks estate was originally. Samuel Forrer’s home was located on part of the Grandview Medical Center property.

And now for the really good stuff: pictures!

Since many of us probably have gingerbread on the brain right now, I thought it might be fun to share a different kind of “gingerbread house” — gingerbread in the sense of Victorian architectural embellishments. The Five Oaks house had some really neat “gingerbread” around its eaves, as you will see.

This photo, probably from the late 1860s or early 1870s — I suspect those two little boys are Jeremiah’s two youngest children, J. Elliot and Howard; the woman, probably his wife Elizabeth (who died in 1874) — shows what the Five Oaks mansion looked like in its early days:

Five Oaks, before the tower was built

Five Oaks, before the tower was built (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

About 1890, an addition, including a tower, was built on the north end of the house:

Peirce Homestead [Five Oaks]

Peirce Homestead (Lutzenberger Collection)

Here’s a wonderful cyanotypephotograph, showing roughly the same view but from a little further back, so you can see the trees:

Five Oaks cyanotype

Five Oaks (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

After the tower was added, people sometimes referred to the Peirce house as “The Castle on the Hill” (Dayton History).

In a 1980 article about the Five Oaks neighborhood, long-time resident George Loney had this to say about the Peirce homestead (quoted from Burroughs):

There was still a lot of open land around here when I was a kid, and I sure remember that old Peirce castle. It really was a castle. The stones had been imported from Europe, there was a turret and what looked like a dungeon underneath. It was all hidden in the woods and surrounded by three ponds. Mr. Peirce used to hang a rope with a noose on it in the woods to scare us off. I guess we did get on his nerves–all the kids in the neighborhood used to sneak around there. Of course, the castle’s gone now…

The “Mr. Peirce” of this anecdote must refer to J. Elliot Peirce, the only “Mr. Peirce” that Loney could have known in his childhood. J. H. Peirce died in 1889; J. Elliot was his son. Members of the Peirce family lived at Five Oaks until the 1930s: J. H.’s second wife Mary lived there until 1929 along with two of J. H.’s unmarried daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, both of whom died in 1930. I don’t think J. Elliot actually lived at Five Oaks with his family — Mary, Sarah, and Elizabeth lived there — but according to city directories, he did live very nearby  for a while, at 551 N. Old Orchard Ave., according to a 1919-20 directory; that same directory lists the others at “nec [northeast corner] Five Oaks and Old Orchard Ave.”

In 1946, the four-acre was purchased by the city for a park, and the house was razed (Burroughs; Dayton History). Five Oaks Park now occupies the land.

For more information on Five Oaks or the Peirce family, come see us at the Dayton Metro Library, Local History Room (basement of Main); or feel free to leave a comment on this blog. If photos are what you’re after, check out our Flickr set about the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection.

This post was written in advance on Dec. 17, 2011.

*****

Bibliography

Burroughs, Virginia. “Diversity helps keep Five Oaks neighborhood vital.” Dayton Daily News, 8 Aug. 1980, p. Z6-15. Available in Dayton Local History Room, Clippings File #3908 (Neighborhoods–Five Oaks).

Dayton City Directories. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.

Dayton History. “Five Oaks.” Accessed 15 Dec. 2011.  http://www.daytonhistory.org/archives/who_fiveoaks.htm.

Everts, L. H. Combination Atlas Map of Montgomery County, Ohio. Philadelphia : Hunter Press, 1875. Dayton Remembers: Preserving the History of the Miami Valley. Accessed 17 Dec. 2011 through Dayton Remembers: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/; or, find in a library.

Five Oaks Neighborhood Improvement Association (FONIA). “Five Oaks History.” Accessed 3 Dec. 2011. http://www.fiveoaksdayton.com/credits.html.

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402. Many photos from the collection can be seen at the DML Flickr site, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmlhistory/.

Lutzenberger, William. “The Peirce Homestead.” Photo #0541. Lutzenberger Collection (MS-024), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. Photo available online: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/lutzenberge/id/630.

Sullivan, Charles F. “The Covington Pike” (15 Sept. 1943). In Sullivan’s Papers, 425-437. Dayton, OH: Dayton & Montgomery County Public Library, 1995?. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, call no. 977.173 S949S. Transcription accessed, 15 Dec. 2011, at: http://www.daytonhistorybooks.com/covington_pike.html.

Geo-tagged Images of the 1913 Flood

I recently wrapped up a project at work that I’ve been working on for a few weeks now: geo-tagging images of the 1913 Flood in Dayton, Ohio, using images on the Dayton Metro Library’s Flickr and a web site called GeoSlideShow, which creates the maps from geo-tagged images on Flickr.

There are two maps:

  • 1913 Flood “During” – This map shows images when the city was actually flooded.
  • 1913 Flood “After” – Images on this map show the aftermath and clean-up in the city, including debris, mud, dead horses, crumbled buildings, and ruins from fires that broke out.

I am very excited about having completed this project, because I think it is a great visual aid to understanding the flood and its history. It’s one thing to look at several (or in this case, hundreds) of photos of the flood and think, “Oh, how awful.” I think it’s more helpful to be able to contextualize those images in geographic space. Marking the photo’s location on a current map can help people understand, because they may be able to picture what’s there now or perhaps realize that maybe they drive by that spot every day and that in 1913 it was under water!

Please note: The Dayton Metro Library has over 400 photos and postcards of the 1913 flood. I was not able to geo-tag all of them, so not every image is shown on these maps. If I could not pinpoint the exact location of an image (or approximate within about 1 city block), I did not geo-tag it, so it will not appear on these maps. (And let me tell you, it was a fun challenge trying to figure out the location of the image, based on descriptions and businesses shown in the picture!)

All of the Dayton Metro Library’s 1913 flood pictures can be seen on Flickr, as well as in the library’s digital collections.

Then and Now: View from Webster St Bridge

It’s a funny thing about “historic” photos. In order for them to ever actually become “historic,” someone in the present has to capture that image!  Don’t forget, what is ordinary and commonplace today almost certainly won’t be in 50 or 100 years…maybe even less than that! So snap that picture!

I’ve recently become very interested in “then and now” photos. (I think this is sort of along the same lines as my fascination with the “before and after” photos of my home improvement projects, but on a longer timeline and grander scale!)

Here’s a good example of a Then-and-Now comparison:

I snapped this photo a few weeks ago, looking at downtown Dayton, Ohio, from the north side of the Mad River, just off the north end of the Webster Street bridge:

Dayton from Webster St, 2010

Dayton from Webster St, 2010

A few weeks later, as I was scanning photographs for the library’s digital collections, I ran across a photo showing the same scene. Only the photo was taken in 1901:

Dayton from Webster St, 1901

Dayton from Webster St, 1901

I am just fascinated by being able to make these kinds of visual comparisons. I think this is the stuff that really makes history come alive for people.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, here are a few links to other tasty nuggets of “visual history” that you might find interesting:

  • CNN Special – Hurricane Katrina: Then and Now. Snapshots from the 2005 hurricane superimposed on current street views.
  • Roma ieri, Roma oggi (Rome yesterday, Rome today). A Flickr site operated by a local photographer in Rome, Italy. He posts historic photos and images, and then he goes out and photographs the same scene today.
  • Paul Hagon’s Flickr & Google Maps Streetview mashup (New York City). Hagon figured out how to take geotagged Flickr images and display them as icons on a Google Map, which, when you click on one of the icons in the map at left, the window at the right shows you the street view for that location. Fantastic! There are also pages for sights in New Zealand, as well as Sydney, Austrlia.

If anyone knows of any other great sites similar to these, I’d be glad to hear about them!