Buildings and Places That Define Our Lives

The Napoleon, Ohio, courthouse, built in the 1800s.
The Napoleon, Ohio, courthouse, built in the 1800s. | Source
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Our Earliest Buildings

The earliest buildings in our lives, that is, the ones of which we first became aware as affecting our comings and goings, probably are structures with similar titles and are familiar to all of us. Most of us were born in a hospital, some of which are no longer standing. Many of us in rural areas are not strangers to a courthouse, at which we acquired a driver's license, or in which we got our first look at a courtroom.

Buildings don't necessarily outlive us in these modern days. Hospitals are refunded and rebuilt. Courthouses are renovated, or perish, along with their 19th-, or possibly, 18th-Century designs, in the modern scheme of things.

The courthouse in Napoleon, Ohio, still stands as renovated a number of times after fire partially ruined it. Its 19th Century architecture has been retained, and it still bustles as a Hall of Justice, and is an old friend to farmers and engineers of Northwest Ohio as the citadel of Henry County.

As a farmer's daughter, I may have visited the courthouse as a youngster accompanying my Dad, as he was a local county farmer all his life. However, my first conscious memory of the courthouse is when I went there with my Dad accompanying me as I applied for my driver's license. I got a second visit to the courthouse rather quickly, as I failed my first driving test by not getting quite a full stop at a stop sign and had to reapply.

That may be why the courthouse always has been an old friend as I graduated from Holgate High School, journeyed through life, including in and out of Vermont, and came back again to Napoleon.

Locating the Henry County, Ohio, Courthouse

A markerHenry County's Capitol Courthouse -
660 North Perry Street, Napoleon, OH 43545, USA
[get directions]

The Henry County Hospital

The old hospital in which I was born, indeed, has been demolished long ago, as have many others in the country. Where it stood formerly at the corner of West Washington and Scott streets, a friendly family video store now exists.

A "brand new" hospital was constructed along old Route 424, across the highway from the historic Maumee River and just east of Napoleon city limits. Since my diagnosis of severe COPD in 2009, I've become very familiar with the newer structure that replaced my birth building.

If you've never taken the time to think about it, reflect on it for a moment now -- do buildings important in your life still have life, also, or are they long gone? I find it strange to comtemplate that the hospital where I was born and the elementary, middle, and high school building in which I spent so many growing years no longer exist, replaced by newer models for the same purpose.

The fairgrounds grandstand, entered from this side pictured, is still going strong through the years with appropriately added renovations.
The fairgrounds grandstand, entered from this side pictured, is still going strong through the years with appropriately added renovations. | Source
On the grandstand!
On the grandstand! | Source

The Henry County Fairgrounds

As a seven-year-old, with my family, I helped reenact the founding of the Henry County Fairgrounds in a celebration of its 100th birthday in 1953. That's a long time ago, now, but I still remember the smells and sights and sounds of that celebration as our presentation group danced and sang our way through the grounds dressed in 19th Century clothing. We entertained hundreds of visitors!

My parents were big Henry County Fair-goers in my childhood. Days at the fair were exciting and created memories for lifetimes. Much later, when I had children of my own and returned from the state of Vermont to Northwest Ohio, the Henry County Fair, once again, became an annual destination.

But in my lifetime, never have I met a more avid fair-goer than my granddaughter when she was an elementary school student! As she grew from a child to an adolescent, her weekend visits with me always included the second weekend in August, so I could take her to the wonders of the fair, of which, I witnessed, she never could get enough!

In retirement, I still visit the week-long fair for a day, or two, and carry along a light-weight camping chair for the now required frequent rests.

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In Vermont

For nine years, I lived in the state of Vermont and soaked in its beauty with wonderment. Usually, we had a bit of snow in Vermont, as can be observed in these two pictures (right, and below.)

In this lovely environment, I married, and Neil and I had two children, a son and a daughter. Neil constructed the log cabin from a kit which had already been built, marked, and then disassembled. Kits are sold in packages of disassembled parts, and the purchaser rebuilds the cabin from the included instructions and numbered logs.

Time constraints and a lot of umemployment in the state combined to defeat our log cabin living. We were forced to abandon and sell the cabin as it was, unfinished inside.

My memory of my time in the cabin with my family is priceless, even though fraught with the difficulties we faced. It includes the summer months of 1973 when my parents and younger siblings visited from Ohio. My Dad climbed to the highest peak of logs that were being placed end to end in the sky to form the frame for the sharply slanting, pitched roof with a one-window gable. Unforgettable!

Our next residence at Highgate Apartments high on Berlin Street overlooked the small city of Barre, Vermont. Buried, here, next to the Ford and awaiting dig-out is the little red Datsun in which my two children and I traveled the state.
Our next residence at Highgate Apartments high on Berlin Street overlooked the small city of Barre, Vermont. Buried, here, next to the Ford and awaiting dig-out is the little red Datsun in which my two children and I traveled the state. | Source
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Out of Vermont

As Neil and I were not destined to remain together, I left Vermont in 1980, with his help, and moved back to Ohio with our two children. My husband and I were soon divorced afterwards.

But there were more places and more buildings which were to re-define my life.

At the top right is the canal boat "Volunteer". It cruises a portion of the old Maumee and Erie Canal rebuilt in Grand Rapids, Ohio, at Lock #44, also renovated in the last decade for service and touring. Touring the canal and the historic saw mill at Grand Rapids is a lovely way to spend a summer afternoon.

One of my very defining memories is of a day spent there with my grown daughter and my granddaughter in 1997.

The picture beneath the "Volunteer" is one I took of my previous residence in Napoleon, where I spent 15 years living across the road from the Maumee River, "owned" a Newfoundland, and met two of the best friends I've ever had in life, all while I was still a working girl. (Ohio gets snow, too!)

Places and Buildings In Your Life

How many places, or buildings (including houses) have helped define your life?

  • More than 15
  • Less than 15
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In the 1960s, we lived through three major assassinations of our leaders, including a President. The grave site of President John F. Kennedy, killed 50 years ago, now includes two brothers. This place will give definition to my life forever.
In the 1960s, we lived through three major assassinations of our leaders, including a President. The grave site of President John F. Kennedy, killed 50 years ago, now includes two brothers. This place will give definition to my life forever. | Source
For six and a half years, 1966-1972, I lived and worked in Columbus, Ohio. My first apartment residence at 1 Lane Avenue no longer exists. There is a gas station on that corner now. Pictured is the front room of my second Columbus residence.
For six and a half years, 1966-1972, I lived and worked in Columbus, Ohio. My first apartment residence at 1 Lane Avenue no longer exists. There is a gas station on that corner now. Pictured is the front room of my second Columbus residence. | Source
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The Last Picture Is Not the Last

Although the last picture in this story and in this series of pictures is of Holgate High School, circa 1892, this building was one of the first that defined much of my early life. It was built to replace an 1877 four-room, brick structure which burned in 1890. A mere one-room cabin had housed school classes in 1876.

Additions to this pictured schoolhouse were built in 1956 (an elementary wing), in 1972 (new elementary addition to accommodate displaced students from nearby New Bavaria), and in 1980 (new gymnasium.)

I remember the dedication ceremonies for that luscious, new elementary wing in 1956. My classes in the second through sixth grades were spent in the old, basic building.

Before the 1972 renovations took place, I had graduated.

By the time the new basketball gymnasium came along in 1980, I had returned from Vermont and was astounded at the vastness of the "Tiger Cage" that reached nearly to the street outside the school building. In the 1960s, we had played basketball in a cracker box, where the out-of-bounds lines afforded just a shoe-length from the wall in which to operate. There, also, had been a yard in front of the building.

Now, it's all gone. There is a bare field where all those happy, defining years of my school youth, and many of those of my two children, were spent. It's always a little nerve-wracking for me to see that empty field.

The big, new school facilities of Holgate, Ohio, population usually around one thousand, or so, souls, lives along the northwest side of town on a street named for Holgate's most famous son, comedian and Hollywood actor Joe E. Brown. But that's another story!

And I've moved along to new definitions. There is, in total, I'm certain, a book-load of defining buidlings and places in everyone's life, many too many to share in this confined space!

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Comments 6 comments

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Reflecting on the buildings that helped define us is a really neat idea. Got me thinking and conjuring up some nostalgia. Thanks for sharing your memories. A good read!


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Interesting look at the buildings that have helped define you, Barb. Since I am older than soil, it was impossible to find the hospital where I was born and the two apartment buildings where I lived with my family as a child. All three demolished with new structures or vacant lots in their place. Very depressing.


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 3 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA Author

@MsDora...Thank you for stopping by with interesting comments!

I awoke with idea for an article on my mind a couple weeks ago! Finally got it written as a Hub. There are so many other places and building, but no space here, to talk about them all, but I'm pleased that you enjoyed this short version of definition in my life!


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 3 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA Author

@drbj...So appreciate your stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this Hub!

It is depressing to a degree to see empty lots and new buildings at places where parts of our lives took place, but we know life moves along whether we're on board, or not, so we might as well take a seat and enjoy the ride!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I have a new look at what helps to define a person, thank you. I lived in Ohio for almost twenty years and now I find I missed seeing the canal ride. It looks like such a great fun event.


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 3 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA Author

@teaches12345...Nice to have a visit from a part-time Ohioan!

Touring the mill and riding the canal boat through Lock #44 at Grand Rapids is a day's treat, to be sure! The renovations were completed to rave reviews. Sorry you missed it!

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