Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Learn about Grant Neighborhood Architecture and History on Thursday

When you're walking or riding around Salem there's always a neat or odd or interesting old house.

What's this old house sandwiched between Evergreen Church
and some new construction? (via Streetview)
A talk on Thursday will shed light on some of them! May 1st retired architectural historian Thomas Hubka will be giving an informal talk about house styles and "vernacular architecture" in the Grant neighborhood.

Around town, once you're outside of the historic districts, which have their own house-by-house documentation, sometimes in Salem helpfully scraped up on sites like waymarking, and not looking at the houses that are individually listed on the National Register, there's not a lot of useful information.  One helpful resource is Virginia Green's "Discover" blog, which information has a lot of the "local landmarks" (deemed slightly lesser than the national listings) and other older homes.  Not about Salem, but very helpful for styles and dating is the pamphlet, Everyday Houses: A Guide to Springfield’s Most Popular House Types, 1880-1980 (big pdf).

Style Cluster in "Everyday Houses" - Cross-Wing center top row
Put together in 2008, "Everyday Houses" was a student project under the direction of Hubka while he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at University of Oregon. It's great for a vocabulary to describe the architectural styles of the homes, both grand and humble, we see around town. It also helps with naming and analyzing some of the detailing.

Hubka's now retired and lives in Portland. And he's visiting more around the valley.


Cross Wing Detail
The Grant neighborhood is undertaking a pilot neighborhood heritage project with the City's Historic Preservation team, and hopefully more history will be researched and told. Hubka's talk is a prelude and pep-talk in a way. (How neat would it be to get a book on Salem's architectural styles! - though in truth they can't differ much from Springfield's.)

A Cross Wing House in the Grant Neighborhood:
The Parsonage for Bethel Baptist - Discover blog
During the pilot project, there will be plenty of history to recover.  Back to Virginia Green, Green's written about a lot of houses - but not all of them! And in many cases the brief history is only a sketch, and there's more to learn. In some cases, the additional context of a book like Hubka's might also suggest a richer context. There's plenty more Salem history - both in a grand sweep and in a house-by-house, family-by-family micro level - to tell!

In the case of our "sandwiched" house, Hubka's typology suggests the scroll work, if original, and other detailing might make the house fancier than the other houses of "cross-wing" type, and suggest a dwelling suitable for a capital-P-Parson, and to be distinguished from "mere" farmhouses. It's possible the detail says something about social status and aspiration.

the 1926 Sanborn fire map shows
the old wood church and parsonage
Not in Green's history is that the parsonage was built for an earlier wood church, which the brick structure replaced in 1928 (that's what I recall on the cornerstone, anyway). There was probably more space between the parsonage and the church - the current buildings' spacing is a bit tight - and the 1926 Sanborn map confirms this.

Interestingly, the map raises the possibility that the church building a few blocks north on Hazel and Academy is this same church, having been moved! (Green also writes about several house moves in her Salem's Moving History blog, but not this possible move.) The footprint sure looks the same.  Green writes "This 1890s building [the one on Hazel] was originally the German Baptist Church in Salem" - and that's what the Sanborn labels the one on Cottage and D. How many German Baptist churches could there be in north Salem in the 1890s? The 1926 map for Hazel and Academy also shows an empty lot, so it seems likely the church that's there now was moved.  

Apparently West Hills Community Church on Brush College NW is the descendent of the German Baptist Church and Bethel Baptist Church, so the membership has moved around in different instantiations of a church. All this may not be 100% conclusive, but the dots sure look like they connect.

See how easy it is to go down the rabbit hole with neighborhood history?!

In so many ways history is an iterative enterprise, with each generation forgetting things or learning more, and so the story's never stable.

The Neighborhood Association meeting and Hubka's talk is on May 1st with a potluck at 6:30 p.m. and the General Meeting at 7pm.  It is in the Library of Grant Community School, 725 Market St NE.

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