Professor Builds Historic Downtown Hillsdale Exhibit

Fincher started the project as a hobby during the pandemic.
College student | Sean Callaghan

Assistant Professor of Classics Joshua Fincher has endeavored to recreate a miniature model of 1890 Hillsdale.

“A pattern is what allows people to see everything that was there and see everything in conjunction,” he said.

The miniature exhibit’s story began with Fincher looking for a hobby in December 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he wanted something that was separate from teaching the classics, but also included his love for 19th-century architecture.

“It was something that felt like fun and it was a way for me to learn about Hillsdale,” he said.

Fincher also said he wanted the project to help educate and inform people about the city’s architectural history.

“The template provides the ability to present Hillsdale in a way that people can interact with when a large portion is gone,” he said.

According to Joanne Miller, a member of the Hillsdale Historical Society, the model also received a lot of attention when it was displayed at the county fair.

In terms of the interest the village generated at the fair, I can say it was a wonderful draw,” Miller said in an email. “Three-dimensional, it brought to life many of the images people had seen of old Hillsdale. We can’t wait to see how much he adds next summer.

Fincher contrasted the difference in which the model presents the architectural history of the city compared to the photographs.

“Historical information about architecture is conveyed through photographs, and photographs are usually limited in what they depict,” he said. “You might see a building or two buildings. It’s hard for people to get a sense of how all the buildings in a block interact together. »

Fincher said he wanted the model to give a full view of the city, rather than a 2D view as seen in most photographs. Only a handful of the original buildings from 1890 remain today, he said.

Fincher gave the example of HJ Gelzer’s current furniture store, which was originally an opera house with two other floors before their eventual demolition.

“Small buildings are just as important as major buildings in thinking about how a city or architectural ensemble works together,” Fincher said.

The project also offers another kind of challenge for Fincher who spends his weekends working on the model.

“It’s a different way of thinking. It’s still logical, it’s still complex, but it’s fun. You have to solve and use the geometry,” he said. “You have to think well in advance about how you’re going to construct a certain building.”

In addition to Fincher’s desire to educate, he also wants the model to inspire locals and students, he said.

“I really hope that people who have these buildings or who live here will take pride in them, repair them and try to restore the decorative elements that have been lost,” he said.

Mitchell Research Center volunteer Carol Lackey said she also appreciates Fincher’s work, given his extensive knowledge of the city’s architecture.

“His attention to detail, as well as his enthusiasm are indeed contagious,” she said in an email. “His ability to build on such a small yet precise scale is fascinating!”

Lackey also said she liked how the project offered both the college and the city the opportunity to work side-by-side.

“I believe that this project helps to bring the college and the city closer together! said Lackey.

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