Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Electrical history

THREE AMEREN GUYS came in this morning and I took them to the basement of our Fifth and Maine building. They were fascinated by the old electrical boxes and telephone wire boards.

There were a lot of words thrown around like "4-wire" and "3-phase power" and "how the heck would we ever run this to an outside meter." They were fascinated by the way the boxes were hooked up and the conduits that presumably go from the basement to the roof housing the wires.

They could basically tell how how old the boxes were by the material. The box with the "Bedford Dance" designation leads to the third floor and dates to the 1970s. Another box leads to the second floor and is circa mid-1980s, when WGCA operated in the corner studio space.

One of them opened a box and went "Wow!" That means it's really old and has some ancient tubes, wires and and other thingies in it. They explained what it meant but it was beyond me, other than the fact this building was constructed in 1895 and there's a lot of old stuff in it, including the owner.

The stories this old gal could tell!
I could have taken them to the upper floors and show them the E.E. Brown signature. He inspected the building in 1925 or so and left his name to prove it, written in pencil inside a closet by a long-gone electrical panel. Same goes for the guy who installed the 1920 Hollister-Whitney elevator - his name is written by the motor near the roof entrance. Crap. I can't remember the name and I'm not climbing five stories to refresh my feeble memory.

The point is, there's a ton of history in here and Ameren employees can tell what it is. One of the guys said they used to have a key to the basement to check the meters, and he remembered a guy who "had an office down here." That was in the old bank safe, still used and leased out to a local genealogical society.

I think the Ameren guys enjoyed the trip down memory lane. An old building has its share of challenges, but we wouldn't trade it for any other location - she's still standing proud and still tells stories, one electrical box at a time.

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