This Long Grove History article appeared in the January, 2018 issue of Long Grove Living magazine.

The oral history around the Red Oak complex near the crossroads is that it was originally an 1860 residence “built in a day” for the Quentin family. Current owner Jesse DeSoto recently passed along a couple of old nails he encountered during his remodeling. Fred Astaire Dance Studio Co-owner Aaron DeSoto, his young daughter, and dance instructor Brianna Yadgir are pictured inspecting the old nails. Do the nails foot with the old story?

Up to around 1800, nails were made from iron by hand and each one was unique. After that, nail cutting machines were used, and by 1830 iron nails were pretty uniform in appearance. Up to the 1880’s the heads on these iron nails were rectangular. From 1890 onward, steel was used and nails typically had the modern appearance of a rounded head. The Red Oak nails are iron and very uniform in appearance with the classic “rectangular” shape, which places them in the period 1830 – 1880, which matches the oral history.

Nails weren’t always the cheap commodity we know today. In the hand made era, some blacksmiths had nails as their only product. Old buildings would be burnt solely so the old nails could be more easily harvested. Construction projects used to employ a person to do nothing but straighten bent nails, as it was cheaper to pay someone to do that than to buy a new nail. Why do we size nails in units like 8d and 10d? It’s because, back in the day in merry olde England, that’s what the cost of 100 nails of that size was in “pennies” or “pence”. Why a “d” as an abbreviation? That goes back even further to Roman times, where a penny or pence was called a Denarius.

Nails are featured in several colloquialisms, and this month’s Save The Bridge limerick has some fun with one of those, at the expense of the idea of tearing the bridge down to replace it with a modern two lane structure. Given that the old historic iron bridge sits on Coffin road, this seems appropriate:

A nail in the coffin means you’re through
Your plan is done, cold and blue
Regarding the thought
That more lanes can be bought
Let’s drive one nail, if not two