Every person has a story, so does every building.
I’ve always thought of older buildings as being interesting — having more inherit character than their younger counterparts. Each thing found in them is part of a chapter in that building’s existence and sometimes in our own community’s history.
In my line of work, you wouldn’t necessarily think that going into old buildings is a part of what a reporter does, but it is. I have been in more than a dozen older structures (dating back 100 years or more). Some of these buildings are homes, some commercial buildings and others are public buildings. It’s always interesting to take a peak inside and see what has gone into these structures we pass every day on the streets.
Some of these buildings have stories literally written on their walls.
Earlier this week, while touring the three buildings recently purchased by the Paulding County Community Improvement Corporation in downtown Paulding, I was shown some old graffiti.
Dave Burtch of Community Revitalizing Paulding said he had found where several individuals had written their names and messages in a stairwell.
“I spent about a half hour reading them,” he said, adding the oldest dated back to 1911.
This isn’t the first older building I’ve been in that has had this. The building at the corner of Second and Clinton streets in Defiance (The Fifth Stitch building) also has messages written on one of its walls, which were found during renovation work. Some of them just simply said the person’s name and a date. Renovators wondered what importance the building had in the past that people felt the need to leave their mark there.
I’m not sure if the writing on the wall is that noble. For some reason, it brings to mind that there has been graffiti left on walls for thousands of years. Just take Pompeii for example. Roman soldiers left thousands of messages everywhere.
Pompeii scholar Professor Brian Harvey has listed the location and translated several of those graffiti messages left. Some are quite vulgar. Others, like those mentioned above, just have a name and state that person “was there.”
Returning back to old buildings, some of the structures I’ve been in have held other surprises too.
My home, which was built in 1890, has a hidden room in the back of a closet. I’m not sure what it was used for, though my imagination believes the former owners may have hid some contraband back there during Prohibition. The home was built too late for it to be used for more noble efforts with the Underground Railroad. However, I do know of at least one home in Napoleon where it has evidence of that within its walls.
Anyway, it’s clear that some of these buildings house a lot of surprises.
Some have been historic — a time capsule left by former property owners, old newspapers in the walls or political signs found in an upstairs room. Other “surprises” are a lot more macabre.
I do not recall the location, but I do remember a couple telling me they found a mummified animal in the attic of a home they purchased. They were arguing if it was a cat or a raccoon.
If memory serves, when the John Paulding Historical Society took over the old Grange building volunteers, found lots of guano upstairs, courtesy of bats.
In a different building I was touring (for the sake of the owners, I will not say where), I saw some heavy rope and suggested that the structure may have been used as storage for a general store, with items taken in through a now skylight in the ceiling.
“If you look closely you’ll see one of them has a noose at the end,” I was told. He added that human hair was found on it.
That’s not something I would like to find, but still it’s a chapter in the story of that building.