Monday, May 11, 2009
My, how times have changed
In March of 2006, heavy equipment, not mules, was used to clear the way for construction of the VMFA expansion project. (Photo by Travis Fullerton, © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
I can look out the window of my office in the Pauley Center at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and watch as our expansion, opening next May, continues. It’s a scene chock full of heavy equipment and huge cranes, and it reminded me the other day of something I found a while back in the VMFA library’s archives. Our librarian dug it out for me. It was an eight-page summary of what the site looked like when the original VMFA was constructed. Here’s a portion of what Jimmy Boehling and his younger brother, Dan, who both grew up in our neighborhood, saw back in the early 1930s when they were little boys:
“That deep, large hole in the ground was all done by teams of mules and manpower. The mules were used first to plow the area for a depth of eight or 10 inches, then the pans or scoops, each about four or five feet square, pulled by two mules, came in and dragged the dirt out. The pan had two handles behind, held by the mule driver, who, with both hands busy holding the pans, directed the mules mostly by voice commands. Layer after layer was removed in this way, and as trenches for the sewer lines and concrete foundations were all dug by laborers using picks and shovels and wheelbarrows.
“The excavating required several months and had to be completed before carpenters could begin building the temporary forms for the concrete walls and inner support columns. The carpenters had no powered hand tools back then, so [they] had to saw all the boards by hand.”
Wow! Mules! Imagine that. We’ve come a long way since the early 1930s.
Don Dale, VMFA Writer