Interesting objects found around Spring Valley
Glimpses of Yesteryear
Thursday, September 27, 2012 3:29 AM
This is a test. Well, not really, but how observant are you as you cruise about the streets of Spring Valley? There are a number of interesting objects that date to a long-ago era, most of them not in our memory banks.
Objects of interest — how many of these have you seen?
No. 1 is a coal door, an iron piece about 20 x 27 inches that was installed in the foundation of a house. Many homes grew from the wood-burning parlor heater to the more advanced coal-burning furnaces, some even with stokers. One would call the lumberyard to order a certain amount of coal to be delivered by the drayman with his horse-drawn wagon. He loaded up fuel from the coal sheds situated along the railroad tracks, hauled it to your house, and shoveled it through the door into a coal room in the basement.
This coal door is at the Washburn-Zittleman historic home on West Courtland, where the designated coal room is now unused, but the walls are blackened with many years of coal dust.
No. 2 is a carriage block located along the curb at 600 Warren Avenue, a home built by Halbert Week who, along with his partner, Frank Rafferty, operated the Farmers Store, now our community center.
The Week home was notable as one of the first in town to have central heating, with a wood-burning furnace. The carriage block was an "upping stone" to aid a rider to mount or dismount his horse, or to get into a carriage. At the museum's Ag Building, one can see a surrey (with no fringe on top) and note how a carriage stone was most helpful when a lady with long skirts wished to climb into a horse-drawn vehicle.
No. 3 is a concrete pad painted a rusty pink that stood in front and to the northeast of Cliff Gammell's Texaco Station, now our Tourist Info Center on North Broadway. About 2 ft. x 10 ft. with three round spaces in it, the pad was not where the gas pumps appear in the photo we have on file, so apparently there were three different signs here, boasting various products of interest to the automotive customers.
The concrete also has letters scratched on it, mostly illegible, but we can make out the initials M.K., and the land was once owned by the Ed Kavanagh family. Any ideas?
For No. 4, you'll have a hard time finding this 9 ft. x 15 ft. concrete structure, and Stu Smith at the light plant tells me it, too, will soon disappear. It is found on Church Street where the first water tower once stood above it. Under the concrete are the valves and other pipes, the "heart" of the tower, needed at the time the tower was in use.
Built in 1911, the water tower first drew water from the spring by the Carnegie Library, now our city hall, and the pressure served the entire town. It was taken down in 1993 after the new water tower was built on the north end of town. For a few years we could see the concrete pads that supported the tower, but those have since been removed. I'm told the city has three wells that draw fresh water from underground - one on the corner of Section Avenue and Jefferson Street, one at South Park, and one on Pleasant Avenue.
No. 5 provided this writer with some hearty chuckles. The building in the background is the first Catholic church, built in 1878 at a cost of $1,200 by Hans "Jake" Andersen, a local lumberman and builder. The Andersen family went on to form the corporation we now know as Andersen Windows. Hans Andersen also built the Methodist-Episcopal Church in 1876, now on the National Register and the historical society's Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, plus the big 1884 opera house and other structures about town.
Anyway, the signpost that is marked KC 443 was pointed out to me as an item of considerable interest. The eight inch square post stands about five feet above ground with another three feet below. Since this was a Catholic church, the KC obviously stands for Knights of Columbus, right? So what was the story?
A phone call to Jerry and Kenny Cleveland cleared up the matter and offered much amusement, as one can't assume things. Jerry tells that the Cleveland family owned the property from 1944 and there was a cedar post indicating the corner of the lot. It seems Ken's wife, Mary, is a native of Sargeant, Minn., and when the railroad was taken out from that town, this concrete post was a mile marker - 443 miles from Sargeant to Kansas City, Mo. The post was abandoned; the Clevelands "saved" it and brought it to Spring Valley.
When the cedar post on the lot line rotted away, the Clevelands installed this concrete marker instead, maybe about 2008. Of course, Ken Cleveland's initials are KC, kind of appropriate, right? Oh, my, what things we learn almost every day.
There was a "hitching ring" in the sidewalk along South Broadway across from the elementary school, but I neglected to get a picture of it, not realizing it would be gone when the South Broadway project went through this summer.
We hope you'll take a spin or hike about town, and when you see other items of interest of a forgotten era, give me a ring, as we are always open to new stories.
We'll see you at the museums, still open on weekends through October.