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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Ohio Then & Now

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 17, 2006


Westcliffe Publishers was looking for someone to write and edit their new "then & now" series book for Ohio.


Fortunately, they found the photographic skills of Randall Lee Schieber and the writing skills of Robin Smith to produce this new book.


Schieber is a commercial photographer living in Columbus, with his work appearing in numerous publications.  A native of Findlay, he attended Kent State University and OSU.


Smith is a native of Dayton, and is a writer and graphic artist involved in numerous books.  She attended Wright State University.


The purpose of this new book is to take an historic photograph, and rephotograph the same scene in 2006.


The result is a 156-page book with stunning photographs and text, interesting even if you aren't familiar with the Ohio scene.


The authors noted that there is an abundance of historic photos of cities and buildings, but a lack of historic photos of landscape and farms.


Barns and farm home were photographed, but not landscapes.


Of the possible photos, only 1 in 10 were deemed as usable for the project due to condition and the scene not existing today.


Schieber traveled 40,000 miles around Ohio locating the scenes and photographing the scene as it appears today.


He carried a stepladder with him to recreate the position of the original photographer, and in one case, was loaned a 16 ft. extension ladder to reach the level of a second floor window that no longer exists for a photo.


As I paged through the book, the amazing thing to me is the lack of trees and vegetation in the historic photos compared to current day.


Some scenes couldn't be used as trees blocked the current day scene from being photographed.


Smith researched the matter of Ohio's vegetation.


She found that by 1900, Ohio had been stripped clean of woodlands for building materials and fuel.


It is estimated that less than 10% of Ohio was forested at that time.


Today, more than 30% of Ohio is covered with vegetation, evidenced by the photography of this book.


Both authors noted that in their research and travels around Ohio, the most common street names are: Broad St., Main St., Market St., Lincoln St., and Canal St.


Equally common are streets named after trees.


Steubenville has three photos in the book, thanks to the assistance of your library system.


The first scene is taken from LaBelle in 1897, and repeated in 2006.  What stands out in the new photo?  The rock hillside on the West Virginia side of the river.


The second scene shows Market Street in the 1930s, and the same scene today.


The final scene is the North Street Fire Station, first in 1909 and then today.


All of the photographs are fascinating windows into the architectural history of the cities of Ohio.


Victorian decoration, turrets, and windows of buildings have changed in 2006, while others are exactly the same as a century ago.


We have a pre-pub copy of the book, and will be acquiring more copies as they become available.