100 Years Old

I suppose the title of this entry could just as easily refer to a patient who reached a century of life, but I’m actually musing on the centenarian building where I’m working this month.

I’m sentimental.  I love history – loved it more than biology in undergrad.  So a building like this place carries whispers of the past into my psyche every day I arrive.  I bask in a steady breeze of stories – known and unknown – each day when I walk through the back door.  New Yorkers often explain the love of their city by describing the enormous number of engaging cultural things available to do…even if they never do them.  This building offers the same thing, but in the currency of stories.

You could spend months here just learning about all the things this building has seen.  You can ponder the tree stump near the front door where a guy blew himself up with dynamite while his wife was inside for an appointment.  Or think about the years when the building served as the town’s hospital, complete with an ER, lab, mortuary and second floor (since removed).  Also drifting through the single hall and 4 exam rooms are the ghosts of the doctors who pioneered the practice, and the dogged support staff that kept this place running through years of desolation, poverty, isolation and depression.  This building survived storms, heat, wind, rain and over a hundred hunting seasons.

Consider the relative youth of even the oldest parts of our culture:  We’re tykes on the world stage.  The oldest American culture – Native American – has been essentially glossed and veneered over by our exuberant European ancestors so that our main cultural heritage in America references the late 1700’s.  I suppose if you’re really trying to push the date back, you could reference 1492 and Columbus, but really, the American Experiment started in 1776.  This makes us babies among world cultures.  Embryos, practically.

So a building like this is one of the few material references to times and people long dead or moved away.  We are a transient culture, and our history is still too new to be truly memorable.  We need a good couple thousand more years to really figure out who we are, what we’re about.  Until then, some of us hold on to places like this: a lonely building filled to the weakening rafters with wisdom, loss and joy.

(At left: the earstwhile “pharmacy”, also a kitchen and occasional birthing room – now where pharm samples are kept)

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