Street Talk

Cool Shade, Great Produce Featured At Market

By Mickey Howley

Summer officially is here since last weekend and it seems the slightly cooler but wetter days of spring are gone for good.

Last weekend was a make-up date for the June Movie on Main. There will be another movie in July, “Independence Day,” for all you Will Smith fans.

The Chamber’s Music in the Park has the last concert for the spring season this Friday, June 26, in Railroad Park. The band “Soule” is back by popular demand.  If you have not made it to one of the Chamber’s concerts, I encourage you to do so, this band is hot, they have one hot saxophone player and as there is no rain in the forecast, the show will go on. It promises to be a hot night.

Beating the heat has not always been so easy. This whole air conditioned life is a rather recent situation. Cities like Atlanta, Houston, Miami, and Phoenix would not have had such exponential growth in the last 50 years were it not for A/C.  Many of our Main Street buildings were constructed before electricity. So these building used basic techniques to regulate temperature.

Many had balconies, providing shade for the sidewalk and a covered space for shopping outside. Others had large retractable awnings, usually made of canvas, ones that would provide the same shade effect.

Constructed with thick masonry walls, the ground floors of these buildings often have a cave effect, using mass as barrier to heat to keep the interiors cooler than the sidewalk temperature. Upper floors did not benefit as much from the heavy walls and were in direct sun load, so large double hung windows were often the solution. As long as there is some moving air, the heat is not so stifling.

 The first use of electricity in the early 1900’s was for lighting, but in the south it was also used quickly for cooling in the form of fans. Old commercial fans where one motor drove several fans via a long leather band are not uncommon.

The next upgrade from fans, at least for homes and smaller commercial buildings, were A/C window units. The early models were not so power efficient, and rather loud and constantly vibrating. But, they cooled air. You can still see a few of our Main St. buildings with these A/C units over doors and in the transoms. Look for the tell tale condensation drip on the sidewalk. Most buildings now have central systems, where the main space is cooled by an outside compressor and pressurized lines bring the refrigerant inside to a central air handler and manifold system.

All this modern effort to stay cool has had some effect on the look and feel of downtown. Many of the balconies and flexible awnings are gone. Inside, high ceilings trimmed in stamped tin or beaded board have been covered by dropped acoustic ceilings. Windows and upper floors not in use have been sealed and covered. Now, I’m not advocating giving up air conditioning, I love my A/C, it is just that sometimes in the heat driven desire to stay cool, the buildings loose some of their original architectural personality and function.

The Farmers Market is not air conditioned, but there is plenty of shade under the big magnolia. It is only going on from 8 to 11, so come on out and try to beat the heat.  Getting up a bit earlier on summer Saturdays may not be your favorite thing, but the payoff, as I’ve mentioned before, is the taste of fresh picked produce.

More than 60 percent of last week’s survey said the best thing about the Farmers Market was the fresh seasonal produce. Visit www.watervalleymainstreet.com to vote on what modern technology you would miss the most.

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