f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

March 6, 2008

History Detectives down the block

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 6:40 pm

update (Aug. 11, 2008): See our post “9 Front St. stars on History Detectives tonight

prior updates: You can see the Stockade Blockhouse Investigation on History Detectives on August 11, 2008 (at 9 PM on Schenectady’s WMHT-17; check its schedule for encore presentations). The Schenectady Daily Gazette covers the story again, in the article “Home’s link to past focus of PBS program” (Aug. 8, 2008).

It started two years ago, when Schenectady City Historian Don Rittner glimpsed this blue stone outer wall through a lattice fence at 9 Front Street, in my Schenectady Historic Stockade District neighborhood. It resulted in a crew from the PBS program History Detectives filming a segment yesterday afternoon that will air this summer. See “PBS program digging into Stockade home’s past” (Schenectady Daily Gazette, by Justin Mason, March 5, 2008; photo of participants); and “PBS filming home in Stockade” (Albany Times Union, March 4, 2008)

the cold night
comes out of the stones
all morning

…….. by jim kacian – Presents of Mind (1996)

[large] As the Gazette reported yesterday, “Rittner now believes the stucco facade of Daniel Partington and Sharon Cole’s home is concealing a former British Army blockhouse that could be among the oldest structures in the county. And his work has caught the attention of a nationally syndicated program exploring extraordinary objects in everyday homes.” [Click here for a large photo of the hidden stonework that started Rittner’s investigation.]

Partington and Cole (who is a speech therapist and a native of the UK) had thought their home dated back to the 1890s, which is not very old by Stockade standards. But, a number of “peculiar discoveries” made them believe the building might be much older — including hand-hewn hemlock beams in the house’s basement, stonework that extended from the foundation to the attic, “where he found newspapers from the early 1820s wedged between the rocks,” and two-feet-thick exterior stone walls in a portion of the house.

Because stone is scarce in this part of the country, it was almost exclusively used for military fortifications. But, the origins of 9 Front Street may have been hidden by “improvements” over the years. As the Gazette article explains:

“An addition was built on the rear of the home and its exterior was almost completely covered with stucco, giving it a distinctly Victorian appearance. Rittner said the only thing that prevented the building’s stonework exterior from being completely obscured was the small, foot-wide space between the couple’s house and the building next door, which apparently prevented workers from applying the stucco.”

old wall–
for no particular reason
fireflies visit

….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

The Gazette article gives more details from this detective tale, along with speculation about the house, which might be the oldest building in Schenectady, and date back to a time when “British and Dutch traders maintained a very tentative foothold in the area.” The evidence was enough to bring History Detectives to Schenectady, with co-host Elyse Luray spending two days “reviewing Rittner’s work and examining the house for a 20-minute segment on the show,” which will air this summer, during its 6th season. Luray says:

“When this airs, the rest of the country will know that Schenectady was one of the first American frontiers. . . . You never know what you’ll find in your attic.”

I’m sorry that I learned about the filming too late yesterday afternoon to walk about four houses down the block to do some gawking. It inspired me, however, to take a few photos of the house for this posting (plus this one), and to dig up a handful of haiku that seemed to capture its/my mood.

the cloudburst
scrubs it clean…
the old house

one by one
even the cats come home…
cold nights

dawn–
through a hole in the wall
the cold

my house’s rear wall–
the dirty snow
holds on

thin wall–
with the moonlight comes
the cold

well hidden
by the spring mist…
grave tablet

…….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

a blue ceiling
where the roof-beams
have collapsed

drifted snow
the welcome disappears
from the doormat

falling leaves
the house comes
out of the woods

…….. by jim kacianPresents of Mind (1996)

– pbs History Detectives – with Elyse Luray

mid october
the shadow of a wrecking ball
on the stadium facade

……. by ed markowski

for sale
an old house with creaky stairs
and a cricket

…. by George Swede – Almost Unseen (Brooks Books, 2000)

update (08/08/08): Here’s coverage of the show from WMHT’s member magazine, Outlook (August 2008, at p. 4; pdf. download, with photo of Sharon and Dan in front of 9 Front St.):

HISTORY DETECTIVES: FRONT STREET BLOCKHOUSE airing Monday, August 11th from 9- 10 pm, explores when a couple in Schenectady, New York purchased their dream house in the town’s historic district, they believed their home was built for a middle class family in the late 19th century, like all other homes in their neighborhood. But four mysterious stone walls visible in the attic have led them to believe that this might not be the case.

HISTORY DETECTIVES host Elyse Luray travels to upstate New York to determine whether this unassuming structure may have helped ensure the survival of the town of schenectady, a 17th- and 18th-century vanguard Dutch outpost, as it fought France and her Indian allies for control of the lucrative fur trade. History Detectives: Front street Blockhouse

1 Comment

  1. History Detectives if my favorite show ever… Watch it all the time :-)

    Comment by Colon — March 8, 2008 @ 5:10 pm

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