On the snowy afternoon of February 9, I snapped a photograph of an old building with an interesting façade. In color a sort of brownish-red, the building wore “proud” architectural embellishments like a crown above the top floor. I took the picture and forgot about it after optimizing and naming it for inclusion in a Facebook photo album or for use here.
After I returned home from Nashville, I spent several hours looking through digitized historical photographs available on the Nashville Public Library and Tennessee State Library & Archives websites. While there I saw (and from which I cannot recall, but cadged – the same photo appears on the French Family website linked in the next paragraph) an older photograph of a familiar building. Comparing them, I could see they were obviously of the same building, although somewhat changed in features over time. In the older photograph, one sees that the building originally had turrets at the front corners and points at the medallion’s apex and at the shoulders or buttresses that support it on either side.
In former times, the company name was visible in standout lettering across three panels left featureless (if you look at the recent photo) apparently for that purpose. I used Bing to search for information on the Jesse French Piano & Organ Co. – I was interested to find that the Krell-French factory was located at New Castle, Indiana. Since I’ll be in the area sometime this summer, I plan to photograph whatever’s now at the old factory’s location.
The other difference that attracted my attention was the fact that during the years between the time the first picture was taken and I snapped the one below at left, the original plate-glass windows with wide transoms had been replaced on all three storeys above the ground floor by banks of three sash windows with transoms. Transoms are important in buildings constructed before the advent of HVAC systems, especially someplace that gets unbearably hot like Nashville, and probably especially so when a building’s contents are sensitive to heat, cold, and humidity, like musical instruments.
When I look at very old photographs, I “feel” them as contemporary or as part of the or a real world when I see the shine of reflective windows, or at portraits when I see the direct stare of the subject’s clear eyes. The building’s contents may alter and its owners and users die and turn to dust, it’s furnishing ending up splintered at the curb a hundred years later forgotten as junk, but the light that reflects on those old windows does so in much the same way on sometimes (although not in this instance) those very same windows as it does today. The light and its reflection (as well as glass if it remains unbroken) seems timeless, or travel differently through time than do people and other things.