Saturday, March 31, 2018

Address Change of 1904 and the Spaghetti Warehouse Move

With the sale of Roger Yost's properties downtown, the Spaghetti Warehouse at 120 Commercial St NE will be moving again. That's a real bummer for them and for their customers.

Errantly identified with the Greenbaum building
(248 is a red herring!),
this is in fact 120 Commercial St NE,
not 248 or 298 Commercial St NE.
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

Same view today - via Streetview
But that's not our story here.

Our story is rather about the perpetuation of an error in the City's historic photos database. (This really is just a long and meandering footnote!)

The old photo of the Buren & Hamilton store (at top) shows an address of 248 on the awning, but in the Library's historic photos the image is captioned this way:
Buren & Hamilton furniture store was located at 298 Commercial Street NE in the building now occupied by Greenbaum's Quilted Forest.
Awning with "24" and part of "8"
(From a different image at the
Oregon State Library)
The Library's image isn't at a very high resolution, and the number has been misread as 298. It really is 248. (See detail from different image above.) Since in the old directories, Greenbaum's had an address of 298, as misreadings go it is a "natural" one and is easy to understand. (And the modern address is 240-248 Commercial St NE.)

Greenbaum's has seven window bays, not five,
and the ornament is very different.
(University of Oregon)
Less easy to understand is a misreading of the form of the building itself. The Greenbaum portion of the Eldridge Block has seven window bays. The Buren & Hamilton building has five. The architectural detailing and ornament is also very different. When you look at them side-by-side (and this comparison is of the original, historic form, not involving any remodel), it's hard to see how they could possibly be the same.

On March 6th, 1906 they started to say "old" address
It's like the force of the number 298 exerts a kind of gravitational pull over the whole matter of interpreting a photo and a history.

August 8th, 1904 (detail, see below for full page article)
But in the fall of 1904, the City undertook a major street renumbering.

Full-page article on early, draft version
of Ordinance 436
August 8th, 1904

Later notice about compliance Ordinance 436
 - September 30th, 1905
Every once in a while there's a history narrative or research project that founders on the address change. Some numbers or ranges of numbers moved several blocks. It's easy to be confused. The error on the Buren & Hamilton ID is reproduced here at Salem History Matters and over the years I've seen it in a couple of other places. It has multiplied a little and taken on a life of its own.

It's not wholly isolated. Like so often with infrastructure, funding for the Library's photo and history project covered construction but not maintenance. The software used to have a "social" component with a comment field, but that was rarely used and never monitored. Theoretically, it was possible to make corrections there. But that element has been deleted in subsequent software updates, and now there is no formalized mechanism to update the photos and history. Any errors just get reproduced in other materials.

Salem Cyclery and, Buren & Hamilton, with marching band, circa 1899
(Oregon State Library)
Here's a larger image that showed the number on the awning. It's from about 1899 and shows the Salem Cyclery store in what is now the parking lot between Bike Peddler and the 120 Commercial St building. In the State Library collection, it's also mislabeled. OSL's caption lists a different Buren & Hamilton address of 340 Court Street (see that History Matters blog post for more on that address). But it's definitely a part of the 120 Commercial Street building. (For more on the Salem Cyclery and one of its principals, Otto J. Wilson, see here.)

The two instances of miscaptioning, one at the Salem Library and one at the State Library, are just an example of the entropy and fragility of history. Just when you think you've got something straightened out, a new mess or error pops up! Maybe all the "gate-keeping" and curation in pre-online history was helpful, but there is value in crowd-sourcing, too.

Our official history in the downtown Historic District dismisses the building as "non-contributing." It's had too many rounds of remodeling.
This is a two-story commercial building. The date of construction may have been as early as c.1870. The Sanborn maps show that Durbin's Livery was at this location in 1884; Minto & Lowe Livery in 1888; a hardware and stove shop in 1890; YMCA Rooms in 1895; and an electric painting company and photo shop in 1926. Substantial changes have occurred to the building and the latest remodeling appears to have occurred in the 1990s. The current facade has brick veneer on the first one-and-one-half stories and is stucco-covered above. Windows are arched and fixed. The building does not contribute to the character of the district in its current condition. [italics added]
But the actual history of the building as a livery, YMCA, store, and restaurant is more than a little interesting, and it has been a very flexible and useful building. Even if it retains no more "historic" or "aesthetic integrity," its usefulness has created value. The way it has been dismissed in the official history may mean it has not got the attention it deserved and so errors on it and related to it have been easier to slip in.

So now apparently the 120 Commercial Street building will be divided for multiple tenants and it will be interesting to see its next phase of usefulness. And maybe during a new round of remodeling, they will discover older features and be able to restore some of them.

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