Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sanctuary?

As I think I've mentioned a couple times before, I work in a weird space. Instead of a purpose-built office building, my department does its thing in what used to be a family mansion, complete with an anaemic Stockbroker Tudor turret running up one side.

My corner of the mansion is up in the attic, under the dormers. This office was carved out of what had been a single, large room running the full depth of the house from north to south. I suspected it to be, and have since learned that it was, a dormitory for the female household staff.

What I'd not been able to figure out until recently is why my part of the room is elevated. The desk, file cabinet, and everything else perch on a deep platform about eight inches higher than the rest of the space. As 19th century domestic life is one of my fascinations, I spent a lot of odd moments mulling this over. I confirmed that there was no structural reason for the platform– no beams or ductwork concealed beneath.

I wondered if, for some hierarchical reason, one of the maids was given a bed higher than the others. But that seemed absurd, and I'd never heard of any such arrangement. Especially in the United States, parlormaids were parlormaids. The butler and housekeeper for this family had their own bedrooms on this floor (hers with a window onto the stairs, so she could monitor comings and goings).

And then all became clear when I was rummaging through the archives and found a program from an event that took place here decades ago. At that time, I learned, the building housed the religious center. And the large room in the attic was the chapel.

Every day I come into work and sit on the altar.

Now the question I mull over in odd moments is whether this makes me a God or a Sacrfice. Given the working conditions around here, I suspect the latter.

53 comments:

Brenda said...

You should post a photo of that building. I'm an alum (x2) and I still think it's one of the most beautiful houses on campus.

Brenda said...

P.S. I've got the NU alumni screensaver and recently noticed your photo credit on many (all?) of the photos. Nice work :)

Jackie said...

That's just too funny. Are you going to make people genuflect as they walk past your desk now?

LaurieM said...

Oh that is too much. I think you're Budda on that altar.

pacalaga said...

I'm pretty sure you're the sacrificial lamb. (Fleece?) Good luck with that. I once worked in a place where I was getting software errors that no one had ever seen, including the engineers who designed and wrote it. I suspected my cube was built over the desecrated burial ground of restless spirits. Or a gateway to Hell, either one.

Skylar said...

I've been a total stalker for a little while now, but I just had to come out and totally agree with pacalaga. Sacrificial lamb is right...

Love the blog, love your essays on Cast-On, love your art!

Julie said...

Send out a memo to everyone containing this information, and the announcement that from now on you will be referred to as "The Great and Powerful Franklin". Who knows, maybe someone More Important will demand to trade work spaces so THEY can have the altar and you can score a real office.

Ruth said...

Clearly a sign that you ought to be wearing your robes to work. Gaining a bit of weight and assuming the lotus postion at (on?) your desk wouldn't hurt either, but you might want to break in your co-workers slowly.

Isela: Purling Sprite said...

Hehehehe, everybody bow down :) and pay homage.

Nancy J said...

Sounds suspiciously like the altar has led you to your spiritual placement. Anytime we have an employer, we become sacrificial Deloreses.

Geogrrl said...

I recall when friends of friends bought their first house. It was a large brick home, one of the older ones in town (it's the West--"town" doesn't date much before 1900). Anyway, they were wondering why the home had so many bedrooms--perhaps the original owners had a large family?

They did some research into the house's history and it turns out their house was the first whorehouse built in town. They even found pictures in the town archives of the "girls" hanging out the windows and waving at the cowboys coming into town.

Copies of those pictures now hang in the foyer of the house.

Andrea Rusin said...

Well, you wouldn't be a god; you'd be a celebrant. THAT I can totally see!

Mel said...

One can be both God and sacrifice. That's what Christianity is based on. Maybe you're the Second Coming.

Franklin said...

Oh please, Mel. If I were the Second Coming I'd forget when I was supposed to show and wind up arriving late after everybody else had gone home.

kmkat said...

I think this calls for a nice knitted lace alter cloth on your desk and some incense and a Buddha on your filing cabinet. Maybe you can pass the collection plate among your co-workers to pay for it ;-)

Liz said...

Do we get a fatted calf vs Dolores drawing out of this?

sweetfigs said...

How fitting! Can we have a picture, please?

SamD said...

The other question to ponder is whether you now feel different because of this new information...

Anna-Liza said...

Priest. Definitely priest.

ceh said...

You could confuse the god(s) and bring in Dolores with you to work sometime. They might go for the traditional sheep instead of you. (Pardon me for calling Dolores traditional.)

Sean said...

I love Mel's comment...both God and sacrifice!

It's great that you did so much research. I love this discovery!

Nancy in A2 said...

Franklin, you have been given sanctuary. I am so sorry it is your workplace.

marie in florida said...

both, dear. you can be both.

Daisy said...

Jean Miles fell down today and broke her arm!

baxtercat said...

if there is no "I", what is on the altar?

junior_goddess said...

You screwed around in church when you were a kid, didn't you? Ha!

Nanna Peter said...

What you need now is some cute novice to idolise you. You *must* have some young Christian group on campus :-p

Sue F. said...

Does that make Dolores your familiar?

Moorecat said...

Altarboy? Choirboy?

Then again, you would look fantastic in cardinal red.

Cardinal as in sin, not prince of the church...

Dawn said...

Just carry on thinking 'elevated' thoughts!

Dawn

Wily Jeneric said...

Oh, my. That ranks with discovering the women's dorm at my college was the old morgue.

For what it's worth, I see you more as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom... Much more thrilling and dramatic use of an altar, don't you think?

Barb B. said...

Well, Franklin, better to sit on the altar, than on the throne!

FiberQat said...

Oh a god most definitely. Demand virgin male knitters brought to you every second Thursday.

Anonymous said...

(bows down and chants)

we're not worthy!

anne marie in philly

Joanne said...

Well, Fwanklin, how do your co-workers feel abowt you sitting on the altar? What kind of twee does that make you?

Marce said...

Nothing like a strong physical reminder of our peon-ness, eh?

Greetings from a South Florida Knitter. Brenda complimented me on my win of her caption contest some time ago by saying that it reminder her of you and your Delores tales...now I see why that is the highest compliment I could have hoped to achieve! (plus I got free yarn...s'all good!)

Laura said...

I think you actually sit on the chancel (which would be about 8" high), not the altar (which would be countertop high). Either way, you are definitely in the sanctuary.

The puns still abound.

Maura said...

Notwithstanding the working conditions, you're still a god!

Joe said...

Franklin, dear, there could be no better place for your to do your work than this lovely sounding building. I think of all the god-awful looking monstrosities around the Loop, and you could be buried in one of those.

You need to read Alan Hollinghurst's, The Folding Star if you haven't...check out my blog for a VERY brief description, and let me know if you'd like my copy. I'd be glad to send it along.

David said...

The God of Small Things?

Household Saints?

Gods and Monsters?

Are you there God? It's me, Franklin?

V said...

I think that's fabulous -- and it's part of why I love to study history so much. There's always something amazing to discover! Although I'll have to admit it might make me a little uncomfortable if I were in your position.

Konchog said...

I wonder if maybe you should pry up those floorboards and see what's buried underneath!

Anonymous said...

So, dormitory or chapel, or both?
Does your platformed area have windows?

Anonymous said...

Why does the phrase "Altar Ego" pop into my mind??

Anonymous said...

Wht does the phrase "Altar Ego" pop into my mind?

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