How Buildings Learn

During my tour of 819 South Cathedral Place with Mr. Harrow from the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, I learned that at the point that the dwellings were connected and under ownership of the Catholic Diocese, all the powering had been centralized and sourced from the basement of 819.  Mr. Harrow said that they were finalizing the separation of that along with physically disconnecting the unit from its neighbors.  This particular tidbit regarding the power went to the back of my mind until after I brought up a separate observation with Dr. Brownell about the 3rd floor dormers on this dwelling.  We know from a 1970s photo that there were no dormers at all on 819, and of course now, there are only two.

Recently while surveying the 819 roofline and cornice, it seemed strikingly obvious to me that something – dormers – used to be in the places where they appear on the other units, because there was a slight color differentiation of the slate tiles in just that area; they appeared less weathered.

Dr. Brownell agrees that the suspicious areas do tell us that something happened here, just as a side brick wall of a structure may tell us where windows and doors went missing.  He asserted that there must be a reason why someone would make a space like that unusable, or perhaps used for the purpose of requiring no windows.  That’s when I recalled what Mr. Harrow had said about the central powering in the basement of 819.  Perhaps there was some relationship; a grouping of HVAC units, or something like that.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get up to the third floor on my tour of the property.  But, perhaps the Catholic Diocese or the Cathedral Administration can help uncover that mysterious chronology…

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