18 March 2011

Non-Invasive Archaeology

 The street where we live.
On occasion I follow the lead of Kostis Kourelis and Bill Caraher and engage in non-invasive archaeology in the neighborhood.  It is much nicer to be able to call it 'non-invasive archaeology' than 'prying.' It isn't very exciting, but how much of our lives is?  The mass of green at the very bottom of the picture, to the left of the street where we live (A marks our house), has been my latest project.  Face-to-face with that mass of green, you see a mess. 

 You see the stump of the tree that provided that mass of green.  It is a liminal space, this area: the boundary between the family neighborhood above, and ours across the street, and between both of us and an erratic street squalid with student rentals and fraternity back lots.  Three or four years ago, on a Saturday night a small black bear wandered up from the lake shore, somehow found itself two blocks down the street from us, strolled through the fraternity drinkers milling in the street, climbed across a couple of porches, and ended up at the bottom of the first photograph, where the forces of the law shot too many tranquilizers into it.

The corner, where the mass of green shows in the first picture, is where a hill was sliced away for the sake of the road grade -- this neighborhood was laid out and built between 1900 and the War to End All Wars. The  corner was terraced with large uncut stones which have since collapsed. In recent years tree-trunks and stumps have been intentionally positioned across the slope .

Up the sidewalk to the right -- always dark and damp, no matter the weather -- following the main tree-stuffed road to the left, is a long retaining wall, its construction varied according to the tastes of the builders of the houses above.

The houses have steps up from the sidewalk which are almost completely unused, as you can drive up and around the hill to get to them. Some have garages built into the side of the hill, a very common construction all over Seattle. Here you see the cut in the curb for a driveway whose garage was allowed to collapse.  The hole filled in over the years with rubble, fallen branches, and leaves.  An electric power pole was planted in the middle of the driveway.

At the time the neighborhood was laid out, an electrical relay station was built to the left of the driveway, and probably the garage belonged to it.  In mid-century, it was decommissioned  About ten years ago the little building was acquired by an architect for his studio.  He turned the relay station into an Art Deco whimsy using the most minimal gestures of color and shape, taking his lead from the three squares of bricks inlaid on edge at the time of the original construction.  

There was a fire in early January while we were in San Antonio.  Since last week, the debris has been cleaned up and the building rewired for electricity.

We are waiting for the next transformation.

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