I was taught as a youngster that you can measure how old a tree is — or was — by counting the number of rings in the middle of the log. Each ring represents one year. Always found that fascinating. Always found that so intriguing that I would look and count the rings, when I could. Especially on the older trees. I wanted to know how old that piece of wood was and how long it took to cook.
The other day I was at the Hughes Lofts, at 209 East Main Street, and was walking a group of people through our construction site and talking about the future home of the Louisville Thoroughbred Society. Then, I noticed one of the historic wood beams lying on the floor next to what will be one of two new elevator shafts.
The construction crews had to cut an end of the beam to allow for the concrete blocks to be installed for the new shaft. And, the three-foot wood was now on the floor and available for inspection. So, I asked my good friend and companion, Ryan Dickey, if he could take a photo of the beam in question. I wanted to enlarge the photo so that I could add up the rings. I wanted to know how old that piece of wood truly was at the time of its demise. I wanted to know how long it had been “in use” on God’s most beautiful green Earth.
As the years go along, some of the rings get a little closer together. Some of the rings get a little wider, from time to time. The old-timers used to say that a thick ring represented a good growing season, full of rain. And, they used to tell me that a thin ring, that may fade as it may its round, was probably a more lean year, when both water and nutrients were at a minimum.
So, I began.
I added. Squinted. Adjusted my reading glasses. Strained. Enlarged. And, kept counting. More than once, I had to start over. Until I got my pencil out and started to mark the rings. As I approached and counted past 100 rings, the lines began to fade into the wood. Maybe it was older. Maybe it was a tad younger. But, for my modern math, that beam was cut from a tree that was 100 years old when it was toppled to make way for progress, and help make the original Hughes Building itself.
Then, I started to think. The Hughes Building was constructed in the late 1800s and finished around 1906. That was 113 years ago.
Even I can do this math.
The beam was 100 years old when cut. If immediately placed into the building, over 113 years ago, I was suddenly looking at a piece of wood that was over 213 years old.
Are you kidding me?
And, it was as beautiful, and blonde, and strong, and sturdy as any piece of lumber I have ever touched.
There are beams that span the Hughes Building on all six floors. They reach the breadth of the building. All the way from Main Street to Washington Street. I have not counted them yet. The number it took to carry the weight of the wooden floors, from front to back. But it has to be 50 or more of them.
More importantly, the beams will soon support a lot more than just the floors and the old, historic structure. Soon, they will have new jobs. New responsibilities. And, new friends.
Later this year, those beams will be supporting the weight of new friends and family as the Louisville Thoroughbred Society comes to life in the refurbished home of the Hughes Lofts.
To find out more how you can become a member of Louisville’s newest, finest and most thrilling private club, go to our website at www.thelouisvillethoroughbredsociety.com. A new version is expected to be launched this week. Sign up. Join us.
The beams are waiting on you.