Friday, May 02, 2008

One For The Locals

Do you ever wonder if any of your neighbors read your blog. When I first started blogging I didn’t think about it at all. There is just so much stuff out on the web, the odds of somebody locally finding this blog where pretty remote, or so I thought. Now I know there are people in town that read it. It doesn’t bother me all that much, but I must admit, I liked it better when I was writing in anonymity.

Anyway, I found this photo on That is a coal gas tank. Thomas Petch ran the coal gas plant at the turn of the century here in Eureka. There would have been something like this at the foot of H Street, where Humboldt Towing now sits today. And just look at those lucky people who get to live right next door to that beautiful piece of architecture.

As the name suggests, coal gas was made from coal. We don’t mine coal locally, so I’ve often wondered where the coal came from. There must have been a steady supply of it because they not only made coal gas from it, but coal also heated most of the homes here in town in the 19th century.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that natural gas supplanted coal gas as the gas of choice. Even then, it wasn't an immediate change over. There were still some coal gas plants operating in the US in as late as the 1960s. I know that coal is mined in Utah and western Canada. We didn't get rail service to the outside world in Eureka until about 1914. So I would guess that our coal came by ship from Canada. That is just a guess.

If you go to the Library of Congress archive site you can find a 1902 Panoramic Map of Eureka. These bird’s eye maps were very popular at the time, and surprisingly accurate. If you zoom in on it, and look at the foot of H Street, you can see Eureka’s coal gas tank. And if you look really closely, you can see Thomas Petch leaning up against the building smoking a pipe. Lazy Irish. Get back to work Petch!

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Jen said...

I like that no locals read our blog. I've thought about telling other people, then....decide not to.

Coal is so dirty. Scarry living that close to a gas tank.

Janet said...

I like it better writing in anonymity too. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing behind someone's back. I might write "a neighbor thinks..." and then build on that with "I don't know about that, here's why" even though it's unlikely I'd have that conversation with them face-to-face. I think it's because writing gives me time to process. I can't get up in the middle of the night and knock on the door of a neighbor and know last week you said such-and-such...they would think I'm a lunatic. I even wonder what the prior homeowners would think when I crap on the decisions they made. Or what my parents would think if they knew home much the estimate I just received was. Perhaps I'm just a loud mouth online and it'll come back to bite me if I'm ever a home blogger rock star. Highly unlikely.

pedalpower said...

I know how you feel. I knew, of course, that anyone could be reading my blog. I never told anyone locally about it though, so I was still a little freaked when my neighbor said she was reading it...

Eureka Observer said...

I see by the polling trend you are pretty safe here in Humboldt County. Seem like most of your loyal readers are elsewhere, but for a local blogger those are pretty impressive numbers. I know a couple local bloggers who get ten hits a day. At least you are not lonely.

STAG said...

Is the GR Georgeson residence still around? That is a good picture of the Wm. Carson residence down on the right corner.

I should't worry about neighbours reading your blog...its not like you are slandering anybody. I find that when I put people's pictures up on MY blog, they are pleased more than otherwise.

I also don't hide behind an anonymous name...though the "stag" is a nickname of mine, my real name and email are right there on the blog. I have never found any problems ensuing as a result of my being up front and honest about who I am. I have not heard many convincing arguments otherwise, but I firmly believe that being totally anonymous can lead to wisecracking "blog rage" flaming. The blogosphere seems to be less prone than other social networking sites though.

Derek said...

I think my parents reading my blog is the worst, makes you feel kind of censored.

Fred said...

I like it when people locally read the blog, but not people from work. Not sure why, just not a big fan of having my work and hobby life intermingled - rather live in relative anonymity myself. Anyhow, as of the time of this comment, looks like there are 5 people in your area that are reading. I wonder how our blog would poll. I know there's at least one other blogger within a 20 mile radius due to his blog's name, but beyond that, I've no idea.

Ragnar said...

In some European countries coal gas was used well into the 1990s (namely former Eastern Block countries), in Western Europe the coal gas supply was pretty much over by the late 1960s. The conversion was much later than in the US though.

Those large gas tanks weren't really dangerous... I don't think I ever read of any incidents. Vienna had at least 5 of them I think, the largest gasometer as they were called actually a set of four. Some were open like this one, some were embedded in fancy brick towers. The four of those are still standing and now used as a shopping mall and apartment building.

I think the main reason they went out of use is the fact that natural gas can be compressed easily and stored in much smaller tanks (at least in Europe there are buffer gas tanks but they're really small and unobtrusive).