On June 18, 2012, Louisville lost a particularly wonderful citizen: Helen Mazzoli. I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Mazzoli as the University Archives & Records Center worked with her husband, Congressman Romano (Ron) Mazzoli, to process his papers and renovate our reading room in his honor. She was the kind of woman you meet and think, “Wow. I want to be like her when I grow up” — even if you are, technically, already well past that mark.
As part of the Mazzoli Papers Project, we conducted a series of oral history interviews with the Congressman’s staff and colleagues, as well as with his family. I had the privilege of interviewing Mrs. Mazzoli in January 2011. She deserved a far better interviewer, but she was a very gracious interviewee. While I enjoyed hearing about her work on Congressman Mazzoli’s campaigns, their life together while he was in Congress, and their time at Harvard after he left politics, my favorite story concerned her going to Hollywood at the age of three to audition for the movies. I won’t relate the entire story, as her interview is now available online, so you can hear her tell the story herself.
That is one of the beauties of oral history: hearing her tell her own story is far better than reading my words. And her voice, her inflection, her way of telling that story, is captured forever in this recording. Knowing that I’m helping to preserve this memory – and making it available to the public – is one of the best parts of my job as an archivist.
When working with historical photographs of a town or city, it’s exciting to come across images of recognizable buildings. This is partly why so many people visit the Photographic Archives to search for old photos of their home or street – to compare and contrast the now and then; to get a glimpse into the past of something that is familiar. In fact, looking at old photographs is a great way to learn the history of a city like Louisville, and now websites like Historypin make is very easy to compare old photographs with current-day views according to location.
While comparing images of a location from different eras, I often notice significant architectural differences in the buildings. Usually I see a reduction of ornamentation – which coincides with architectural trends through much of the twentieth century; Victorian and Beaux Art architecture is quite ornate, while later styles like Art Deco, International and Modernism favor more streamlined and functional design. Comparing historic photographs with current day views can reveal the removal of decorative elements such as turrets, parapets, finials and cresting (Fig. 1).
Recently I came across an image of a Louisville building from around 1909 that I recognized. I checked the address and indeed the photograph was of a building that I had photographed last year, on South 4th Street, near the UofL Belknap campus (Fig. 2).
Comparing the historical photograph with the Google Street View of the same address revealed a peculiar change in the building from 1909 to present day: the removal of the top floor! Close inspection shows that the building pictured in the historical photo is the same building that stands today. The placement of the windows, flat arches over the windows, structure of the façade, and the columns all match in both images. However, the brick building contained a third floor in the 1909 photograph, and now only shows two floors. Perhaps a fire could be the cause of this, but it’s a brick building and it’s hard to imagine a fire destroying the top floor entirely… Does anyone have any other ideas for why the third floor may have been removed from this building?