Thursday, December 29, 2005

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs...

A few weeks ago I wrote about the changing of Columbia's street signs. Before I published the post, I wrote a couple of snarky comments that never made it onto the blog. Basically, I asked where the defenders of Columbia were and why weren't they raising a stink about the desecration of these unique artifacts of our city.

The answers to my unasked questions are right here.

Although county officials are following federal guidelines in erecting the new signs, they also are erasing some of Columbia's originality, Barbara Kellner, Columbia's archivist, said she believes.

In the 1960s, employees of The Rouse Co., which developed Columbia, decided to name the community's streets and neighborhoods after icons of American art and literature, Kellner said.

Hence, for example, Faulkner Ridge Circle, after novelist William Faulkner, and Jeffers Hill, after Robinson Jeffers, the poet.

"They were looking for a theme they could use that would give them a lot of names," Kellner said.

The shape and color of the street signs created one of Columbia's most distinctive features, according to Kellner, adding that the signs came about in part thanks to the attention that Columbia's late founder, James Rouse, paid to even the smallest details in planning the new town.

"Those signs made you instantly realize that you were in Columbia and, to me, the change in the signs is another indication that less attention is being paid to the little things," she said.

I've got nothing really to add about the signs, but I do have something to say.

Barbara Kellner is one of the greatest people living in Columbia. For those of you who haven't paid a visit to the Columbia Archives, you don't know what you're missing. Her knowledge and enthusiasm bring to life the old maps and writings from the gestational period of our community, to the point that you feel as though you were actually there. Grab a coffee at the Lakeside cafe and head across the lobby to the archives to have a talk with her (maybe you should call ahead first). You'll leave there with a much greater appreciation of Columbia and the woman who brings our history to life.

Also, buy her book. It's got some great pictures and is totally worth $14.

No comments: