A leisurely sunset walk around my Stockade neighborhood two days ago left me in one of my really-gotta-know moods. To wit: Who moved that fire hydrant? It happened right alongside Arthur’s Public Market, at the SW corner of N. Ferry St. and Front St. — the intersection where you’ll find the small traffic circle monument to Lawrence the Indian. Strolling up toward Lawrence, on the Front St. side of Arthur’s, I ran across — well, almost walked into — this fire hydrant:
There’s been a fire hydrant at that corner for as long as I’ve lived in the Stockade, along with a mail box and a telephone pole — but I just don’t remember that fireplug being almost dead center in the walkway at that busy Stockade corner (which is at the crossroads of neighborhood life). A sidewalk improvement project — which needlessly took down all of the mature shade trees on both sides of the N. Ferry St. block — recently replaced very old, cracked, uneven slabs on both sides of the Market with new ones, including a new curb, with a wheelchair-friendly curb-cut (causing the mail box to be moved).
Joyce and Artur Wachala, the proprietors of Arthur’s, each told me that the hydrant has always been where it is now. On the other hand, a Schenectady Police office on bicycle patrol through the neighborhood, says he thinks the hydrant must have been moved to make room for the cut-in. I’m left wanting to know whether our fair city has chosen a rather strange new placement for the hydrant, or whether it is in fact exactly where it always was, but I’ve simply got a different perspective after the installation of the new sidewalk.
My urgent need to know has left me searching for a photographic record of what the corner looked like prior to the new sidewalk and curb arrangement. So far, all I can find are pictures like these, which give no clue of the hydrant’s pre-improvement location:
This very recent photo, found at the Arthur’s Public Market website, is similarly (and frustratingly) unhelpful:
Now, some observers (of my obsession) have suggested that the hydrant was most likely always there in that spot, and I probably just stayed on the old sidewalk and never paid attention to it — perhaps because the mailbox dominated the little tableau next to the unmoved telephone pole. My never having acquired a bruised shin from bumping into the hydrant over the past two decades suggests otherwise.
However, this photo taken by me yesterday, at the same time as the first photo above, does show how perspectives can be easily altered:
Of course, I’m making too much of this (that’s why I call it an obsession). This could be merely a procrastination ploy preventing the completion of a serious piece on parody and academic freedom. Whatever it is, it’s driving me nuts. I’ll do some more snooping to try to figure out Who Moved That Hydrant? — or, whether it was moved at all. If you have any useful information, please let me know. Come back to this post for updates, as I learn more.
update (Aug. 25, 2008): Thanks to the Schenectady County Historical Society, especially Librarian Katherine Chansky and the staff at its Grems-Doolittle Library, I’ve located two views of the Arthur’s Market Hydrant, taken in 1962:
- photos taken 1962, Courtesy of the Schenectady County Historical Society -
The angles don’t allow me to make a definitive judgment about whether the hydrant has been moved (and my camera was malfunctioning today and wouldn’t let me take current pictures from comparable angles). Nonetheless, I must admit that the hydrant was located farther from the telephone pole and the curb in the 1962 photographs than I had expected. Here’s a side-by-side of the 2008 photo above, and the more revealing 1962 picture:
I’m going to keep looking (and soliciting) more recent photos that would help settle the Great 2008 Hydrant Placement Question.
afterwords: See our conclusion in the post “hydrant lowdown” (Aug. 29, 2008)
As long as I have hydrants on my mind, I might as well post one of my favorite personal haiga:
Here’s another fireplug haiku, from my past:
drift-covered hydrant –
the dog puts a halo
on my snow angel
…………………….. by dagosan
And, a reminder of why we have a sidewalk improvement program in the Stockade:
historic district –
an old sidewalk trips
the blossom gazer
. . . dagosan
Meanwhile, that sunset walk ended along the Mohawk River, at the end of my block on Washington, Avenue, where I saw this scene — which made me momentarily forget all about fire hydrants:
it’s pink! it’s purple!