Friday, March 01, 2013

It's all very odd

During one of my mental health breaks at work today I did a little online tour of the college campus where I spent many a happy year back in the Stone Age.  The school has a pretty decent interactive map, clickable down to the individual building level, with text accompanying most of the building descriptions.

Then I decided to visit some of the newer areas of campus using Google Earth, which has a timeline feature that allows you to see aerial views of the same space throughout time.  In the case of Harrisonburg, it would appear that the earliest aerial stuff was done in 1989, or about 1 year after I left school.

I was curious about ‘what used to be there’ before the school started its enormous expansion in the 1990’s that continues through today.  I knew from a trip back to Hburg a few years ago that the school and town are constantly reinventing themselves, knocking down the old buildings to replace with bigger shinier and probably more functional ones.  It’s still a little heartwrenching to know that if one of the Things ever goes there, I won’t be able to point out a lot of old favorite haunts because, well, they’re no longer there.  No more Mystic Den or JMs or the old Wampler Hall, to name but a few 'ain't here no more' places that loom large in that part of my personal history. 

Which, as I learned today, includes the grand house on the corner of Cantrell and South Main Street, where I lived off-campus for the first time.  Where it once stood is a simple green lawn, a sign on the corner announcing that this is now the school’s property.  Gone are the good memories of all the students who lived there, who learned a little more about how to be a grown up, who took that first step to independence.  Gone too, I suppose, are the bad memories, because if I recall correctly there was a murder in the house not long after I left.  Gone too are the relics of family life that occurred long before my time there:  the really cool cartoon graffitis in the attic (which we were not supposed to go in but, hey.  Whatever), the spooky basement with its inexplicable cage under the stairs, and, inevitably, the haunting places of whatever lost souls hung on to that tall brick shadow of the past.

to the left of those two trees used to be a big ol house.
All gone. Nothing but an empty lot now.  See? -->

No more reverberations of life, rich and complex, inhabit the space of that place now, unless one counts the rumble of semi-truck tires and cars whizzing past.  Nothing to impart the spot with life except the bland green grass planted over the flattened spot where I once lived.  The trees in the front yard survived; picturesque enough, I suppose, for the school landscaping planners and facilities folks.  Nice that those trees didn’t get in the way of the access road that’s been cut between my old house and the one that used to be next door, connecting Main Street with the large parking lot that was and still is behind the house where I once lived.

That’s all that small patch of land is now –  access only.

I hope there’s a good reason for why the house and the one next door were demolished and replaced with a stone memorial to the juggernaut that is my alma mater (said in the most loving way possible, of course).  I hope that the old gal had really and truly reached the end of her useful life and that someone, somewhere, has a few pictures of what used to be where nothing is now.

Much like those pictures I have someplace of the old row houses that used to be behind Burruss Hall (which were subsequently torn down for the hospital expansion), a photo of this now-unremarkable corner of town would hold a thousand imaginings for stories, a backdrop on which to set a tale from gentler times, or a memory-prod to bring back great swathes of life gone by.  For those of us with a propensity to wax nostalgic, and who likely have more history behind us than future ahead of us, having these memories to pin down corners of our life a of great use.  I'd hate to think this pin in lost forever...

Tiff out.


You know what?  Somewhere in the archives of this blog I’ve written about this house before, but I'll be jiggered if I can find it.  It might have even had a picture.  Anyone with better search-fu than me, please take a crack at finding it.  I'd be most grateful!


LL said...

So you're telling me that you really can't go home again...

Because home has been destroyed by a creeping expansion of some so called school so that they can extract more and more moolah out of the poor college ruffians! Or something like that...

oldfriend said...

Found it!

tiff said...

Nope LL - I don't think you ever really can. ESP not in this case!

Woohoo! Thanks Beth!!

the only daughter said...

Every multi-unit building we lived in during my childhood (and there were many, at least 10) have all been torn down.

Even a couple of the schools I attended no longer stand.

And for that bit of progress (whether the land has been developed or not) I am grateful.