Outside our house, the trucks are gathering—milling machines and sweepers and pavers and rollers. And at the end of the day, the old, tired pavement on Main Street will have been ground up and swept away. And in its place, the beauty of a freshly-paved road.
“You want to know about the street you’re paving?”—this is the question I’d like to ask the flaggers and machine operators.
Main Street is wide. They must be noticing this. It was laid out in 1811 to be “eight poles wide,” broad enough for a carriage and four horses to turn in the street. And the houses that line it were built to show the periods—Italianate, Renaissance Revival, Queen Anne Victorian, Gothic.
But what the machine operators can’t see is the history under their wheels. One Sunday afternoon in 1925, for example, several hundred Klu Klux Klan members marched down Main. The parade was headed by thirty girls dressed in white, followed by a band and the Klan ranks. Overhead an airplane flew, dropping flowers on the marchers. The Klan marched from the park, passed the house where we now, live to the courthouse lawn. There they knelt to pray in front of a burning cross—Thy kingdom come, they chanted together, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The flaggers standing out there in the middle of Main directing traffic probably don’t know that at one time, interurban tracks ran down its center. Anyone, even a kid, could walk out of a house on Main and catch the interurban train to Columbus, the nearest big city, or go all the way to Chicago or New York.
I like living on Main, down the street from the courthouse with its columns and capitals and campaniles. I like hearing the bell in the clocktower ring out the hours. I like living across from the Coover House, built to bring culture—literary meetings and lectures and house concerts—to town. I like my everyday walk past houses built to show architectural variety.
But all has not been beautiful on Main Street—not in 1925, and not since.
Main Street is wide, but it’s also deep.