Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Archive for the ‘Buildings’ Category

Industrial Space

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You can find blocks like this one in every American city and town of any size.

An old red brick factory sits in the heart of the city, often next to a railroad track.

Some of these industries are very much alive and well while others sit silent and vacant as monuments to another era. In a few cases, the buildings have been repurposed.

I’m not sure of the status of this industrial site in Marion, Ohio, but there is something about it that is quintessentially American and typical of the Midwest.

The boarded up windows on the first floor suggest abandonment, but the windows on the second floor suggests life.

The fading paint on the side that once proclaimed what company owned this building and what it made is a testament to another time.


Written by csanders429

October 18, 2017 at 6:17 am

And They’re All Made Out of Ticky Tacky

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When I made this image I thought of the 1962 song written by Malvina Reynolds titled Little Boxes.

The song is a commentary on suburban America in which everyone not only lives in houses that all look the same but also lead lives that are all pretty much the same.

Released in 1963 by Pete Seeger, Little Boxes speaks specifically to tract housing — something called cookie cutter housing — that became widespread after World War II.

This neighborhood in Kent, Ohio, may not be tract housing per se. In fact, it might be filled with custom homes built to a design agreed to by the folks who paid to build the home. These homes are hardly small.

Yet I can’t help but think of the song because those who live in this development have much in common with those described in the song as having gone to universities to become doctors, lawyers and business executives.

Given the prices of these homes, only those who are affluent could afford to live here.

It may not be a “cookie-cutter neighborhood” as such, yet it has much in common with countless suburban developments favored by the middle to upper middle class across America.

This neighborhood and these homes could be anywhere. Still, there is something pleasing about such neighborhoods, which in and of itself helps to explain their popularity.

Written by csanders429

September 15, 2017 at 7:18 am

More Questions Than Answers

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I’m walking along the main street in downtown Marion, Ohio, and have come to a stretch that is a bit seedy.

Along the way I encounter the Midway Tavern. The name begs the question of what is it midway between.

I found it curious that a tavern would use a sign provided by a soft drink company.

When I think of tavern I think of beer and not soda. Sure, taverns stock a variety of sodas because someone might want to drink one or mix it with something harder.

Perhaps this used to be a diner or something similar and the tavern owner just re-purposed the sign.

Written by csanders429

August 26, 2017 at 7:31 am

Church Along the Way

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We had stopped at a rest area along Interstate 70 while driving to Maryland. We had picked up sandwiches at a Sheetz in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, and would eat them at this rest area, which we knew about because we had stopped here before.

There is a panoramic view of a valley here and I took my camera bag with me to the picnic table.

I put on my longest telephoto lens and zoomed in on a structure on the hillside.

It was a rural church that has probably been here for decades. Presumably, there is still a congregation that meets here regularly.

There wasn’t much I could do about the wires in the foreground. Sometimes you just have to live with clutter.

Written by csanders429

August 22, 2017 at 6:34 am

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.