Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seeking Relief: Horse manure and Humanure at the Courthouse

What is that column on the corner of State and High?

Over at the Mission Mill blog, folks from the archives and library have posted something of a mystery.

We've dropped some comments, but because they have links, the comments seem to get stuck in the spam queue, and it seems easier to answer over here.

The mysterious column is also visible here and here, but not here, here or here. Those with a better knowledge of automobile models and fashion might be able to date it more securely through these additional images, small as they are. We guess right around 1920, and it had disappeared well before the 1940s.*

At the Mill, speculation and recollection suggested it was a ventilation tower for an underground toilet. But what about the water table and flooding? Were there really toilets below ground. Is it possible the tower was an early traffic signal instead?

The identity of the column is a fascinating mystery, and hopefully more documentation will surface!

In the same discussion they posted another photo and identified it as showing excavation (bottom left, not bottom right as their notes suggest!) for the Masonic Building.

Here's a better reproduction of the image that started the inquiry. Between the caption, the wagons, and the fencing, we think it's a paddock associated with the Fashion Stables, visible in this image, and operating at this location from 1903 to 1910, and not excavation for the Masonic building circa 1911.

It's great to see the Mill starting to share bits of history online and hopefully conversation will grow more and more lively!

* The dating in the Mill's note is a little garbled, and it's not clear what they mean:
Also, they weren’t sure when it was built, but the the general concensus was that it was after WWII, maybe even as early as a Great Depression WPA project, and it was filled in probably in the late 1940s.
Update, April 17th, 2012

Sun of a Gun! Here's a detail from an image dated May 30th, 1941.


  1. The landscape plan of Lord and Schryver for the Courthouse, visible in posters and other collateral for the Hallie Ford show, is dated March, 1932, and shows no sign of toilets or any other structure on the corner. This is not conclusive, of course, but it seems to us that such a structure would be acknowledged and planned for in the planting scheme. So this is consistent with the idea that the structure, whatever it was, was hardly - or not at all - present in the 30s.

  2. Bonnie Hull just posted a note with a picture of the Courthouse landscape plan! It's the 8th image in the post.

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