Hidden lives

The Secrets behind the Structures

This website will give you a preview of an upcoming book called The Secrets Behind the Structures, a book that will explore the inside stories of some of the world’s great, and not so great constructions. Great buildings, bridges, and other constructions usually have long and sometimes incredible histories.
Like some of the structures, the book is still under construction, and you can be a sidewalk superintendent by getting a few glimpses of the work as it takes shape. So just what is the book about? Well, it’s about hidden lives.

In a way, structures are like people. They may look ordinary or even plain on the outside, but they often have fascinating and turbulent histories. Just as an ordinary looking old man sitting on a park bench might have once stormed the beach at Iwo Jima, or a professional-looking business woman might be a CIA agent, structures have stories behind them. You can sometimes get an inkling when you see an old house by the side of the road, silently brooding behind some overgrown trees or squatting sullenly among much newer and better maintained places.. You know; a hulking presence that seems to be out of place, perhaps left over from another age.
It might be an old mansion, looking haughty and dignified while slowly deteriorating in a modern world that has passed it by. It could be a farmhouse with its steps worn and scuffed by the tread of innumerable families that once called it home. Perhaps it’s an old commercial building downtown with a cornerstone from the 1800s and the name of a proud company that no longer exists carved in stone over the door. Maybe it’s a group of rotting barracks buildings in a desolate place that once served as an army base or a prisoner of war camp long ago.

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Such places often look haunted, and in a sense, they are; haunted by the spirits of people who once lived and worked in them. Most of these people are long gone, remembered only by a few descendants and living only in dusty old photographs in forgotten attics.
These buildings once echoed with the voices of these long-gone people and once hosted events of great human drama. A dignified Victorian mansion that once sheltered the town’s leading banker and his family is now a funeral home, or perhaps a bed and breakfast.
Each structure was conceived, financed, designed, built, occupied, and modified through many years and many owners, and has seen many events.

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The Hilltop House Hotel, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

Of course, buildings are not the only structures built and used by people all over the world. Bridges, dams, towers and canals all stand in the silent shadow of their own history. How many people know that the top of the Empire State Building was designed to be a mooring place for transatlantic passenger dirigibles? How many realize that the Eiffel Tower was once condemned and reviled by the leading citizens of Paris; or that the Great Wall of China was the subject of a hoax by American newspaper men in search of a story on a slow news day, a hoax that spread around the world?
From the Cathedral at Chartres to the Great Wall of China, to the Golden Gate Bridge, the world is full of beautiful and impressive structures with an inside story that few know about. Some of these structures, such as the Eiffel Tower, are known to almost everyone. Others, such as the Kowloon Walled City are much less well known, and countless other structures are almost completely ignored by all but a few, but all have their histories.
These stories include how one of the most beautiful structures in the world was once regarded as an eyesore; how balloons were used to design part of Disney World, and how a controversial bridge in Cincinnati became the model for the Brooklyn Bridge. Behind the scenes and mostly out of public view are of the engineering, history and controversy behind some of the world’s great and not so great structures.

Along the way this book will discover the answers to questions such as..

What was the real purpose of the tower on the top of the Empire State Building?

Why was the Panama Canal almost built in Nicaragua?

How were balloons were used to construct Disney World?

Why did a Mexican empress once live in a castle in a botanical garden in Belgium?

Why did the Russians believe the tomb of Tamerlane is cursed?

Why has one of the world’s biggest hotels never had a guest?

The structures of the world have stories to tell and secrets to discover. Let’s look at some of them. Just click on any of the menu items above.

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