2009.10.14 Our best landmark

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I seem to be having a lot of difficulty getting things accomplished these days. Stories unwritten, photographs untaken, columns unimagined.

It sends me to the archives at midnight on a Monday in search of words from the past.

A few years ago—20 to be exact—I wrote about a dilemma regarding historic city landmarks. Some changes have occurred in the past 20 years that make this column a little historic itself.


Nov. 15, 1989

We received a call from a fellow last week who wanted to arrange for a photographer to take a picture of a Morenci landmark. Anything come to mind?

The stately Salisbury Hotel went up just 100 years ago, but it came back down 80 years later. Stair Auditorium was the landmark of Morenci for decades. The showplace was built in 1908, but lasted only about 60 years.

The old three-story Morenci Roller Mills would have made a nice picture. It stood for 109 years before its demolition to make room for a truck parking lot.

The old city hall/fire department/jail house of a hundred years ago was somewhat majestic with its twin towers overlooking main street, but those towers are nowhere to be seen.

I’ve seen photos of the impressive mausoleum at the cemetery, but state officials condemned the building in 1954, just 46 years after it was erected. Don’t worry; the bodies were buried.

This isn’t easy finding a landmark in a city where all the good stuff has been torn down. I suppose these buildings are gone mainly because that’s what they were—old stuff.

The old brick factory and the cider mill were leveled. The Union Street school is gone, as well as two older high school buildings.

Morenci’s first hospital still stands here on North Street, but it doesn’t look so impressive with the awnings down and the fancy iron work missing from the overhang. It didn’t help any when the drunk driver ran into the front of the place last summer with her car.

It’s been suggested that the old Ohio Dairy Company on Mill Street might make a good landmark photograph. It doesn’t look all that interesting architecturally, but it’s been a prominent fixture since 1902. It’s commonly referred to as Parker Rust Proof, and the building will soon become an empty landmark due to the loss of local ownership.

We’re not getting anywhere with old industry and public buildings. How about a residence? Any good landmarks there?

Elizabeth Thompson tells me the oldest house in town—or at least a portion of it—stands over on Centre Street. It was built in 1846 on Cawley Road, moved to the corner of Walnut and North Summit in 1872, then transported to Centre years later.

Perhaps the second oldest house is now located at 134 E. Locust St. where the Terry Sharp family lives. It was built in 1850 as a hotel and tavern, then moved 12 years later. Due to renovation, these places don’t look like they could be the oldest structures in town.

Maybe they really aren’t. Harold Hall thinks his brick home at the end of Summit Street might be the oldest. As the homestead of the old Stephenson farm, Harold has it placed at about 150 years.

When I think of landmarks, I turn back to my list of items on the Morenci Tour that I give out-of-town guests. Jack Smith, for example, is always on the agenda if his store is open, but I don’t think we should photograph a living resource who might pack up and move to Illinois some day, leaving us once again without an important feature.

Giant trees are often known as landmarks, until they fall, and we supposedly have the state’s largest dogwood at the cemetery. It’s also part of my tour, but dogwoods aren’t all that big and the photo wouldn’t be too impressive.

I always take people past the sewage lagoons when I lead the tour. Lagoon: a shallow body of water, especially one separated from the seas by sandbars or coral reefs. Believe me, those are not sandbars protruding through the surface and they definitely aren’t coral reefs, but this may be all we have.

When they come to take the landmark photograph, I’m going to direct them out past the hospital to the lagoons. What better choice to represent the people of Morenci. After all, there’s a little bit of all of us out there.

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