Archetectural Reconstruction

I chose to use as the subject of my Architectural Reconstruction a section of the Main Street in Luray, Virginia that currently has a significant number of empty areas. I used a section of the 1910 Sanborn Map of Luray to provide a base for reconstructing the street. The disadvantage here is that this section of the main street in Luray is on a significant grade.

I created a reconstruction of the street from the Sanborn map. Several of the buildings are still standing (In fact, all of the buildings remaining on the street are present on the Sanborn map), so recreating their rooflines was easier than it would have been otherwise.

Quite a few of the buildings are now missing, however, as one can see in Google Street View:

Using a photograph of the street from 1907 from the Library of Congress archives (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3c18692/) I reconstructed the building that had occupied the street just downhill from the one still standing on the corner of Main Street and Bank Street, the Mansion Inn.

I was unable to discover what happened to the Mansion Inn (the area is now a small parking lot and a grassy field.) I suspect that a combination of economic downturns and the construction of increasingly modern facilities to house the tourists that came to see the caverns eventually led it to going out of business and being demolished, along with a number of the other buildings on that section of road. A trip out to Page County to check the land records would reveal the truth, but I was unable to find the time for the trip. The other buildings (a mixture of shops and residencies, according to the Sanborn map) suggesting at least some of the population left the area after 1910, not really an unexpected turn of events given the time period.

Even though this was a relatively quick, simple, and dirty exploration into historical reconstruction, I think I have gotten a feel for the utility of Historic Reconstruction using tools like Google SketchUp. A quick project reconstructing a small area can provide a sense of the space, and reveal questions to ask about the area. A more detailed reconstruction using photographic reference can restore lost historic buildings in a form that gives a much better sense of their shape than the handful of photographs. Either a detailed or a simplified schematic form of reconstruction can be used to tell histories in new ways. My own little project here, for instance, made me think of a change-over-time project, showing the growth and change of an area over time, providing a solid visual reference for how the place developed through history.

One final image, while I’m thinking about it: A postcard featuring essentially the same area as the pictures I used above, but in color!

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