Linda Grashoff's Photography Adventures

History Embodied

August 7, 2022

The last time I took the camera to downtown Oberlin I was drawn more than once to artifacts of the past that are still part of today’s built environment. Some of the remnants have obvious causes. Some have origins more mysterious, at least to me. I knew I wanted to create a post of embodied histories, but only two images made the cut from my recent trip downtown. So I have filled in with photographs taken in other towns and at other times. Some of these photos have been posted here before. I hope grouping them adds to their collective meaning: that some of the past exists not only in memory, but also in a visible, tangible, present.

1 A piece of old removed subflooring propped up against a wall shows where tiles were laid.

2 Tiles were also laid on the cement slab of a building associated with a former bank drive-through.

3 What went on to produce this rough rectangle within the sidewalk on Main Street?

4 Ma Bell broke up in the early 1980s, but her manhole (?) survives outside the Main Street building now housing Frontier Communications.

5 The old building by the bank drive-through must have had posts.

6 The orange paint on the pavement of a parking lot must have indicated something—probably not the bit of ice filling a small depression in the middle of the circle.

7 In the nearby town of Wellington a wall charred by a recent fire displays a metal tube filled in with brick that matches the original wall.

8 A coal chute on the side of a building in Oberlin is recognizable only to those of us who can remember when most buildings were heated by coal furnaces.

9 It’s obvious that the brick walls of Oberlin’s Apollo Theater were laid by hand.

10 Many windows in old buildings in Oberlin—and probably across the country—have been bricked in.

11 I can’t figure out the sequence of changes to this building in Wellington.

11 Something cost $3.50 at one time. The Oberlin Heritage Center may know what.

12 Here’s the whole sign.

13 In Wellington part of a sign endures along with indications that another building once abutted this one.

14 And in Cleveland another defunct building has left its mark on its neighbor.

16 responses

  1. Might the rough rectangle in #3 have been a patch for a piece of broken pavement? It’s fascinating, and also a bit sad, to see the ghosts that vanished buildings have left upon still-standing former neighbors, as in #13 and #14. What #6 shows is strange, almost shamanistic.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 7, 2022 at 11:03 PM

    • Hi, Steve. I don’t think the rectangle in #3 was broken pavement because it’s only about four inches square(ish). My guess is a post, but that’s pretty ridiculous, given where it is. I guess I would get into the sadness of #s 13 and 14 if I weren’t so happy about the photographs they made. (Callous, eh?) I like the idea of #6 being shamanistic.


      August 8, 2022 at 12:18 PM

  2. You and I (and probably thousands more) share a fascination with manhole covers and painted buildings. I don’t see many of the painted buildings much anymore but I never miss an opportunity to shoot an interesting manhole cover. #11, sign with tree shadows, would make a great print for anyone’s collection. And #7 and #10, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 8, 2022 at 11:57 AM

    • Thank you, Ken. If I spent more time in more cities and towns, I imagine that I would see more manhole covers and painted buildings. I did see a building in Hendersonville, North Carolina, some years ago that was freshly painted. It wasn’t an art mural but advertising. So the tradition may be ongoing, at least a little bit. But of course it’s the old painted buildings that I (and probably you) prefer.


      August 8, 2022 at 12:25 PM

  3. Joe

    Love #7!

    Liked by 1 person

    August 8, 2022 at 12:03 PM

    • Thank you, Joe. I like how the fire equalized, if that’s the word, the appearance of the bricks inside and outside the tube, making the wall look more mysterious.


      August 8, 2022 at 12:29 PM

  4. Subfloor never looked so good. I like the shadow overlay of the advertisement wall in number 11 also.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 8, 2022 at 2:41 PM

    • Thanks, Steve. I wonder how many layers we are looking at in #11. There’s the tree shadow at the top level and the bricks at the bottom level. But I think I detect more than one layer of paint in some places.

      Liked by 1 person

      August 8, 2022 at 7:49 PM

  5. There likely are. Locally we have several old brick buildings in Holyoke and Springfield having their old walls restored to the original advertising murals.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 8, 2022 at 8:23 PM

  6. I like the movement from circular shapes to bricks and then to whole buildings. Haven’t you photographed the old bank drive-through before, or is it a different one? #3 & #5 are big favorites here because they incorporate the unexpected – the leaf in #3 and the tiny “garden” and cracks in #5. I might prefer #6 though, for the same reasons. 😉 #7 is wonderful, too, and makes me think of the fire damage I’ve often photographed on trees around here. That might be a whole post…
    With #9 I find it hard to believe bricklayers would have left their handprints in place. It looks really cool. I like seeing the close-up and whole scene in #11 & 12. Finally, that tree in the last photo is the best!! A real survivor!
    I enjoyed the text and musings on memory being in the past and present. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    August 9, 2022 at 1:10 PM

    • Yes, I’ve photographed the old bank drive-through many times. Most of these photos are those I have posted in the past, some just last year, some many years ago. It’s fun to see how nature intrudes in a setting that is not nature-based (#s 3, 5, and 7). Whether for you or for me, I agree that fire damage would be an interesting grouping. It’s that finding-beauty-in-the-disastrous thing that always appeals to me. The hand prints on the bricks are something I saw for years when I left by the back door of a building where I used to have a studio. Isn’t that tree amazing? Thanks for all your comments, Lynn.


      August 9, 2022 at 2:04 PM

  7. A joy to the eye. Beautiful observations.


    August 12, 2022 at 3:27 AM

    • Thank you, Jessica. It was fun to find all these traces of history, and fun again to assemble them together.

      Liked by 1 person

      August 12, 2022 at 6:54 PM

  8. Revisiting your post is even better the 2nd time… a delight of color, line, texture and history.


    August 15, 2022 at 2:47 PM

    • Thank you, John, and thank you for looking the first time, let alone a second time.

      Liked by 1 person

      August 15, 2022 at 3:29 PM

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