They Don’t Build ‘em Like They Used To

Most of the buildings here on Main Street—the ones that haven’t fallen apart or been renovated to death—like the movie theater—have such amazing detail that it is hard to imagine why anybody wouldn’t want to restore them to their original glory.

For example, they’ve all got two really fantastic window display areas—one on each side of the front doors. People used to take such pride in their displays. My favorite was always at Christmastime as a kid. The store owners really went all out! I pretty much made my wishlist for Santa while standing out in front of the toy store every year. My grandfather used to put a small pine tree in the window of their florist shop, and my grandmother and mother used to decorate it together. Every year, they had a new theme and people would come by just to see what they’d done. Of course, they hardly ever walked out empty handed, which is why the display was so effective! Most stores being built now don’t even have window display areas, or they cover them up with banner ads. It makes them dark and uninviting.

The upper half of the display window is called a transom. I have no idea why. But that’s where if we had a sale, the banner went. Some places had that area painted or decorated with the store’s name or logo.

In between the display, windows were handsomely carved columns. They were usually painted in a theme that corresponded to the store. Going across the top was a lintel (I didn’t know that word, either, and came across it doing research), which is basically supports going horizontally above the columns. They all had these fancy rosettes going across them, which I thought was just decorative. I mean, they certainly make things look fancy, don’t they? Turns out they were to also secure two pieces of the lintel together. Some stores painted them in a complementary color, and others kept them the same color as the lintel. As the florist, my family always had the lintel and columns painted green, and the rosettes painted in red and pink. I always thought it looked cool.

I think the neatest thing, though, is the cornice. It’s a fancy way of saying that decorative thing up at the top of the building. They can be really ornate, or stylishly simple. Some of the buildings don’t have them at all, and I think it helps add to the variety and individuality of the street. If we are able to get on the list of historic places and get enough money to renovate, I’d really love for each business owner to really think about what kind of cornice—if any—they want to add to their building or if they’d like to renovate what they have. Plus, the finials on either end are pretty cool too.

I’ve learned all this great stuff about the architecture of the time period and what went into the construction of the main parts of my town, and many other towns across the country. These were not the cookie-cutter assembly kits that you see today. This was quality workmanship and pride.

I’d like to bring that back.