Friday, March 12, 2010

Knapsack 3-18

Notes From My Knapsack 3-18-10

Jeff Gill


Things Are Looking Up, So Should You




Aside from the mystery of the large yellow object in the skies over central Ohio last week, we've all been looking up at gutters the last few weeks.


Some went "Ooooh, ahhhhh" at the beauty of the ice formations, some, watching the soffit pull away from the joists, go "aiiieeeee," and those who make their living repairing roofs and gutters go "cha-ching, baby!"


If you've had serious roof and eaves damage from the recently ended winter onslaught, my sympathies are with you, truly. We know what you're looking at, and it's your wallet's contents taking wings and flying away over the horizon.


For the rest of us, neither professional housewrights nor pained homeowners, this has been a great opportunity to lift up our gaze and notice some things.


St. Luke's Episcopal Church was thankful that their realization of structural needs in their 1835 gem of a building was before the weighty snowfall, since the engineering review gave them (thanks to agile consultants and digital cameras) a view of their undulating roofline. You don't have to be an engineer to know that's not a good sign, but it takes some specialist knowledge and no little money to figure out how to fix it (contributions are still quite welcome, by the way).


Walking down Broadway, I realize again and again how much I miss their weathervane, the ornamental top over the golden cupola dome, a figure that's not quite representational and not quite abstract. It reminds me of cod shapes from similar New England churches, and I always wonder if it wasn't an evocation of exactly that, modified out of deference to the lack of local salt-water fisheries in central Ohio.


If you just glance up above the storefronts on the main business district, all of which are interesting enough in their own right, you'll see a nearly invisible but omnipresent element of our downtown, like the frame on the Mona Lisa. The fact that you don't notice it is usually the point, but it's part of the overall experience.


Above the Prudential Real Estate awning is some lightly colored glass, an over-window element that was probably critically important back before electric light became both cheap, and the norm. Getting the most out of daylight for just getting your work done or lighting the shop was a budget decision that shaped success – now, it's mostly covered over, and not so important.


Above windows and signage and awnings, the very brick itself of many of Broadway's buildings shows a subtle layering and variation of texture, with shapes and outlines that keep them from being bland boxes like so much of modern retail architecture.


Along with the brick, you can see how woodworking and some tin-smithy have been woven together to make the illusion of fine stonecarving. The rot and decay that eats steadily away around the water-holding edges of this ornamentation shows you why stone is a great way to go, but it's fascinating to see what's been done.


Brackets, gables, moldings; dentils, acanthus leaves, egg and dart; the usual Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders atop pillars and pilasters – around Granville, we've got all this and more, in various states of original condition and patchy repair. Look up, and check it out, and make an old walk a new experience.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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