- Arts and Design
Buildings and Places That Define Our Lives
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
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 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.
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!
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?
Get the Real Thing in Mini
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!