Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Archive for the ‘Buildings’ Category

Hauted in Willoughby

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Word is that the building that once housed the Willoughby Coal & Supply Company is haunted. Back in 1945, a foreman is reported to arrived for work to find the owner’s body lying on the floor by the front entrance.

The official version of events is that he had climbed into the third floor rafter and accidentally fallen. But others think that he was murdered.

The building is still a working business today and on the day that I made this image a school group was touring it on a ghost walk.

Written by csanders429

May 30, 2017 at 6:58 am

No Longer Running

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I keep finding myself drawn to photographing abandoned service stations in my travels. I’m not sure why that is, but more than most abandoned businesses, service stations tend to still have a classic feel to them, even those that are in run-down condition.

Service stations typically were free-standing structures regardless of what era in which they were built. Many of those that have been abandoned and which are still standing were built of brick and featured a standard design.

The oldest ones had a single island for the gasoline pumps. There would be two garage doors for the service bays and a front door leading to the office/waiting room that also sold sundry other automotive-related items. Remember when oil companies used to issue road maps?

Maybe my fascination with old gas stations is rooted in a childhood ritual. During our travels about town Mom or Dad would stop at the filling station to “fer ‘er up.”

You didn’t have to leave your car. The attendant or even the owner would come out to you on the driveway.

My parents often knew the owner and chatted with him for a few minutes. They were guys you felt you could trust.

Service stations were part of the tapestry of small town America, but it is not like that today. In New Jersey a guy still comes out to fill up your car, but everywhere else I’ve been in recent years it is self service.

Today’s service stations — if that is the right term for them because they hardly provide any service — are large modern convenience stores that just happen to sell gasoline among other products.

Shown above is a former Marathon station in downtown Arcola, Illinois, that has been semi restored. The restoration has consisted of new paint and restoring the “best in the long run” Marathon herald.

It is located a block east of U.S. Route 45 just over the Illinois Central Railroad tracks. It probably took a major financial hit when Interstate 57 opened in the 1970s east of town. That is a story that is all too familiar in all too many small towns in America.

One of the Magnificent 92

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Indiana has a lot of stately courthouses that tower over the square of the county seat communities that they serve. Most were built in the late 19th and early 20th century.

I don’t know if this makes Indiana unique or any different than any other Midwest state.

Nearly three decades ago, the late Ira Wilmer Counts, Jr., a professor of photojournalism at Indiana University traveled the state and photographed the 92 courthouses in the Hoosier State.

I don’t know how long that took, but it probably wasn’t done in a week.

His work was placed on a display with the exhibit text written by his colleague, Jon Dilts, who was my adviser during my time in graduate school at IU.

Their work was eventually made into a book titled The Magnificent 92 Courthouses of Indiana and a poster. I had a framed copy of that poster that sat on the wall above my desk for many years.

Professor Counts didn’t have far to go to photograph the courthouse in Bloomington, the home of the IU main campus and the county seat of Monroe County.

I admired Professor Counts’ work for his ability to vary the angles and compositions of the courthouses.

I never had Professor Counts for a class during my time at IU. I only knew him casually, if that.

He had a distinguished career that landed him a place in the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.

An Arkansas native, Professor Counts is best known for his prize-winning photograph of a black student seeking to integrate a segregated high school in Little Rock in 1957.

When he died of cancer at age 70 in 2001, Professor Counts merited an obituary in the New York Times and other publications. His book about Indiana courthouses was mentioned in the Times obit.

Whenever I see a courthouse in Indiana I’m reminded of Professor Counts and his devotion to telling the story with images of the architecture of another era.

Storm Light Dorm

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I was driving through a thunderstorm to visit a college friend who lives in Charleston, Illinois.

By the time I got to Charleston, the rain had stopped. It was early on a May evening.

As I drove along 4th Street through the campus of Eastern Illinois University, I noticed the clouds were breaking.

It was at Eastern where my friend and I had met many years ago as students and where he at the time taught as a journalism professor.

Most of the residence halls at EIU are located on the southern edge of the campus. As I passed the residence hall district the sun caught the side of Lawson Hall and created a classic storm light scene.

I pulled over and got my camera out. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to photograph storm light.

When I was a student at Eastern, Lawson Hall was a women’s dorm. Maybe it still is.

My sister lived there for a time after she began attending Eastern, but I don’t remember if I was ever inside the building. If so, I remember nothing about it.

This image is more cluttered in the foreground than I would like. I was aware of that when making it, but I had only enough time for a grab shot.

I framed it as well as I could from where I was standing in a parking lot. I could have gotten closer to be able to crop out those wire. But that would have created a different angle and maybe not as much of the dark sky behind the building.

I didn’t have much time to ponder how to create a better image. I had a friend to meet up with and we had much to catch up on since I had seen him a year earlier. Some moments you just have to live with imperfection.

Roots of General Motors

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This building in Flint, Michigan, is part of the heritage of General Motors. Built in 1896, it served as the headquarters of the Durant-Dort Carriage Company.

Although the company ceased making carriages in 1917, it transitioned into making automobiles and became the Dort Motor Car Company

This building was its headquarters until 1925. A historical marker notes that many decisions were made here that led to the forming of General Motors.

Nearby, is a statue of William “Billy” Durant and J. Dallas Dort, the founders of the carriage company known initially as the Flint Road Cart Company.

That company went out of the carriage business in 1917, but Durant and Dort went on into the business of making automobiles.

This statue of the two men stands next to the Flint River in the area where their manufacturing plants were located. Dort’s plaque had been removed at the time of my visit in October 2011.

Keeping the Railroad Heritage Alive in Kent

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The Atlantic & Great Western built this French (sometimes called Tuscan) Revival style railroad passenger station in Kent, Ohio, in 1875.

To get this depot the townspeople had to agree to pay at least $4,000 of the $10,000 cost of its construction. Back in the late 19th century the people were fussy about the appearance of their town’s train station.

It was, after all, the first thing that visitors noticed about their city. Kent residents were so enthusiastic about getting a new station that they contributed $4,400 toward its cost.

The A&GW line would eventually become part of the Erie Railroad and, after October 1960, the Erie Lackawanna.

The last passenger train to serve this station was discontinued in early January 1970. No longer being used, the depot fell into a state of disrepair and the railroad said in 1974 that it was considering razing it.

The residents of Kent once more opened their wallets for a train station. Bruce Dzeda in his book Railroad Town: Kent the Erie Railroad, paraphrases an author as saying the station may have been owned by the railroad company but emotionally it belonged to the people of Kent.

The Kent Historical Society purchased the station in early 1976 for $27,000 and spent $379,000 to restore it.

The first floor of the depot was transformed into a restaurant named the Pufferbelly, in recognition of the building’s railroad past. It opened on Dec. 6, 1981.

The Pufferbelly closed at the beginning of January 2017 but by May it will become another restaurant that also recognizes the building’s railroad heritage.

The white tablecloth Italian restaurant that will open here will be named Treno, which is Italian for train.

There are still railroad tracks in front of the depot, but rail traffic on them is minimal. Few diners at Treno will see a train roll past the windows as they eat pasta.

But generations of Kent residents can feel good knowing that “their” station may not serve passenger trains anymore but it remains symbol of their community.

Old, New and Classic in the Fort Wayne Skyline

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When I was a kid I remember reading a book about a catcher who knocks around in semi-pro baseball, never staying with one team for long. One of the teams he played for was described as being located in a Midwest city with a few modest skyscrapers.

The author could well have been describing Fort Wayne, Indiana. Like other cities of its size, Fort Wayne lacks the jaw-dropping mega skyscrapers that define places such as Chicago or New York. But it has some tall buildings that are remarkable in their own right.

One of those is the Lincoln Bank Tower on the far left. This pleasing art-deco structure opened in 1930 and is 312 feet in height with 22 floors. It was the tallest building in Indiana until 1962 and tallest in Fort Wayne until the 1970 opening of what is now PNC Center, which is shown to the immediate right of the Lincoln Bank Tower.

PNBC Center is a 339-foot modern design structure of 26 floors that is the 11th tallest building in Indiana. It was Fort Wayne’s tallest building until the 1982 opening of the Indiana Michigan Power Center building, which is not shown. The latter structure stands 442 feet high and has 27 floors, making it the fourth tallest building in Indiana and the tallest outside of Indianapolis.

I find it notable that in this image are varying philosophies of building design that reflect the purpose for which the building was designed and the era in which it was built.

Lincoln Bank Tower reflects a time when a great deal of thought and effort was put into how a building appeared. Originally the home of Lincoln National Bank and Trust, it is now the home of Old National Bank.

The PNC Center, by contrast, has a pleasing but more restrained look. The black and white structure is described as being in the international style.

In the middle foreground is the Anthony Wayne Building, a mixed-use structure designed for housing and commercial businesses and having a more functional appearance that contrasts with the classic-looking building in the immediate foreground.

Built in 1962 to house financial firm offices, the Anthony Wayne Building was converted starting in 2011 to high-end condominiums, which was a new concept for Fort Wayne at the time. Downtown Fort Wayne had some apartment housing, but no housing for sale.

Developer Todd Ramsey and his four partners in RCI Development stripped the building to its concrete shell and devoted 10 of the 15 floors to condos and five floors to parking. The ground-level floor contains commercial space.

Now occupied by the law firm of Barrett McNagny, the Ekectron Building in the immediate foreground was constructed in 1895. The History Center blog of the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society notes that the name reflects the interest in electrical engineering of the building’s first owner, Ronald T. McDonald, who founded the Fort Wayne Jenney Electric Light Company.

The Jenney company was named for James Jenney, who had invented an arch light, but had difficulty selling it until McDonald arranged for a demonstration with public officials.

The Electron Building would later serve as the temporary  home of the Allen County Courthouse and the
Allen County Public Library while permanent facilities were built for both. It also housed Lincoln National Life Insurance Company until it completed its permanent headquarters on Harrison Street.

It is notable that the law firm is actually older than the building in which it is now housed, dating its roots to 1876. The firm moved into the Electron Building in 1986 after the building was remodeled.