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Street Talk

Open House Shows Off Valley’s Potential

By Mickey Howley

Last week was the open house for the Blu-Buck Mercantile buildings. It was a very good turnout and folks got to see the inside of those buildings. And most of those buildings have been effectively dark and closed for well over a decade, some even close to two decades. So it is great for all of us walking through the four buildings to see them clean and shiny and back alive with people living in them and soon to be working in them.

Kagan and crew preserved lots of what one might consider obsolete features. My favorite is in the back of 428 Main, the rope driven elevator. It has a hand brake and a big gear pulley that raises and lowers the platform. It may not meet modern safety standards, it was meant, even when new, to be just a freight elevator and it still works great for that. But to see that elevator back in operation is a pure joy and a bit emblematic of the whole job. That piece of equipment will still do – thanks to some recent love, care, and repairs – the job it was designed to do. It works just like it was designed to work. It is just maybe our expectations have changed. That elevator dates to a time before the town had electricity or electric elevators were common (the first electric elevator was built in 1880 in Germany).  The elevator, like the building it is in and the other buildings next to it, once again are functioning like they were intended to do.  And by function I mean the greater purpose of bringing economic and social activity and concentrating that downtown. Downtown as a common space for all Water Valley residents, whether the space is a commercial building with a business or out on the sidewalk or street or park. 

Naturally those buildings are privately owned, they are not public buildings per se. But they serve a public goal, keeping the Valley economically strong at the very center of the town. Most of the buildings on Main Street have been standing far longer then anyone alive. I like to think of them as strong and enduring, not rel-ics or mere lucky survivors. 

And so when everyone left last Thursday, I went downstairs into the long retail spaces. They are all about the same size, four times longer then they are wide, but each one is different and they are all connected by barrel-arched passages between the thick masonry walls. And there late on a very cold February day in a large empty long room, just standing, you’d think it’d be cold and remote feeling, but with the western sun streaming through storefront glass, there was a very warm glow of promise. 

Blue Magnolia Films movie titled “85% Broken” is playing Saturday afternoon at the Oxford Film Festival. Snooky Williams, Jack Gurner Sr., Reiko Yamada, accordions, art, railroad spikes and John Davis. It is a great film and it shows off the Valley in very good light.


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