What I’m up to lately…

I’m working on a lot of different things right now.

I gave up on the rubber sheeting project, basically because I’m realizing I have the basic understanding, and that it’s probably not going to be helpful for my final project. I’ve decided on doing the autobiographical mapping idea, mostly because it doesn’t involve a) too too much extra research, so I can put my time into the actual map-making, and b) it also doesn’t involve technology that is beyond the scope of this class– which I’m afraid most of my Boston Common ideas did. I also like the idea of being a bit introspective, making myself– and how to represent myself– the "problem" of the class. I was a lit and creative writing person in college, and to be honest, I miss some of the introspection and self-investigation that was required there… it’s just so easy to get swept up in the tides of history, and to lose site of yourself in that.

I toyed with the idea of doing more of a family history thing, but to be honest, it’s just not feasible. I have one surviving grandparent, no great aunts or uncles, no uncles, aunts, or cousins. My family is cut off and small, and there’s just been a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty uncovered whenever I try to learn too much about my family’s past. It’s a shame, too– if I’d done a family history project and it looked good, I bet my parents would have loved that as a Christmas present, if it was put in a nice frame.

Anyway, I’m excited to say I’ve  found a way to make my Sketchup map relevant to that final project– When I was at the LC, I was able to get a copy of the Sanborn Map for the block I grew up on. It’s been fascinating to look at those maps.

First off, I found that Tipp City, my home town, has hardly changed at all in the last eighty years or so. The 1926 map of my neighborhood is basically identical to the neighborhood I grew up in. There was a small grocer built since then, a block away, and there was a tiny creamery company that’s been converted into a two-and-a-half-car garage. But other than that, it’s the same. The same houses, the levee in my back yard had been built by then (it was built in the aftermath of the Great Dayton Flood of 1913, a pretty devastating flood that resulted in one of the largest and most innovative flood control efforts of its time.) My parent’s old house is there, as is my grandmother’s, next door. The houses of my childhood friends… Even the tomato canning plant on the next block, and the adjoining sewage pump house– which lets me know that by 1926, whomever lived in that house had to put up with the strange, sickly-sweet smell of tomatoes and sewage that my family dealt with every summer.

Everything’s pretty much as it would be in the 1980s.

Although there were some surprises– a block or so from my house, there was the old flour mill and the old buggy whip company. When I was growing up, the mill was abandoned, and later turned into a performing-arts center by the man who took it upon himself to attempt to turn our struggling little town into a town that tourists go to for crafts and antiques– it worked, by the way, and the place looks better than it ever did when I was growing up. The old buggy whip factory was a workshop for a family friend who restored antiques. I was surprised to learn that the mill was still a functioning flour mill as late as 1926, while the buggy whip factory had been converted into an auto dealership.

One thing that perplexed me was that certain sections of the town have been blacked out on the main map, including my neighborhood. The map’s key is of little help in figuring out why this is. The best guess I have is that these are the industrial areas of the town, and may for this reason be uninsurable.

Which leads me to another issue– when I went to look at some of the other years, I discovered that my block, which is actually one of the second set of lots laid out after the town was founded in 1840, was actually left off of the maps all together. Moreover, the house I grew up in, if memory serves, was built in 1907, but was absent from the 1916 map, not appearing until 1926. Could this be a function of my house being on the "bad side of town"?

Speaking of "bad sides of town," something in the above-linked wikipedia article caught my eye, and I want to now go back to the LC and look into it:

The early city was a popular stopping-off point for the boatmen [from the Miami-Erie Canal, which it was built along]. The
original downtown included a large number of bars and a red light
district.

Now, the fact that the town was a stop on the canal is pretty widely known. And the number of bars makes sense, given the architecture of a lot of the buildings downtown. But I never heard of Tipp City having a red light district, and that sort of fascinates me.

I want to look and see what I can find, see what I can tell from Sanborn maps and maybe some newspapers. I love the idea of the quiet, Mayberry-type town I grew up in as some sort of den of sin. It does make sense given one piece of local history that always stuck with me from childhood. Where the Eagles building now stands, there was a great wooden building– thinking back, it looked a bit like a giant saloon– on the corner of First and Main, a block or so from my house. First and Main was maybe 100, 200 feet from the Canal Lock. Anyway, a book on Tipp City history had a picture of the building, and a brief description. Aparently, it was burnt down in the early 1900s after a fight between the two brothers that owned it.

I’d love to learn a bit more about that, and look for the old Red Light district.