Monday, August 30, 2010

Going Underground

By Dave Brigham:

I've lived in the Boston area for 20 years, but I've learned more about the Hub of the Universe in the last two years than in the previous 18, thanks to a series of subterranean tours with my subway-loving son. He loves everything about the trolleys -- the screeching sounds they make going around curves, the different models, the types of doors, what the wheels look like, you name it -- while I thoroughly enjoy people-watching and exploring new parts of the city.

I've taken countless photos of trains, tunnels, stations, buskers, funny graffiti, interesting buildings we see when we venture above ground for lunch, etc. But I'm equally fascinated by stuff like this litter-filled stairway that used to take folks down into Park Street station, the oldest subway destination in America, as seen through a grate.

Litter-filled Stairway (former Park St. entrance)

There's so much that doesn't meet the eye when traveling on the T (as the Boston subway system is known, short for MBTA). As you motor along between stations on the Green Line, you spy doors in the tunnel walls -- leading into the basements of certain buildings, so I've heard. There are doors in the stations that only T employees can access, and while most likely the only things back there are bathrooms, I want to see. I want to take a tour of the abandoned tunnels all around the city to learn how the different parts of Boston used to connect underground.

I can't do that, though, but others have. Check out Abandoned Subway Tunnels for some cool black-and-white pix, and this story and video from the Boston Globe.

Here's another photo shot through a grate, this one of a vent shaft near the Government Center T stop.

Vent outside Gov't. Center stop

As much as I've come to enjoy my subway jaunts, I'm always well aware of how old and fragile so much of the system is. Many stations have been upgraded in recent years, and plenty are in the process of being renovated. Below is a shot of a concrete wall, at State Street station on the Blue Line, that has been scraped away, exposing rebar underneath.

Wall under repair, somewhere on Blue Line

I look forward to many more years of exploring Boston and discovering the nooks and crannies that make the subway system special.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shuttered Island

From Dave Hill:

I took these pictures in April, 2010, on a sailing trip to Peddocks Island in Boston Harbor, when I decided to try out my new dinghy and outboard.

Peddocks Island, Boston Harbor, #6

The photo above shows a chapel that was part of Fort Andrews, which was constructed beginning in 1904 and remained as an active military base until the end of World War II. During World War II, the island's base was used, in part, to house Italian prisoners of war. The chapel is probably one of the most prominent buildings visible on the island, and can be clearly seen across the channel from the tip of Hull.

Peddocks Island, Boston Harbor, #5

Above is one of the many run-down brick buildings on the island. This one was probably used as officers' housing, and is located along the path that runs south from the chapel along the eastern shore of the island. Had I been less worried about my dinghy floating away with the incoming tide, I would have ventured closer for better pix.

If you followed the path down the hill you'd eventually come to the small community of summer cottages that still exists on the island.

Peddocks Island, Boston Harbor, #1

Looking north from just behind the chapel (the white building on the right), the buildings here are the main reception area for visitors who take one of the ferries to the islands today. The whole island, which was used as a setting for Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island," is part of the Boston Harbor Islands park system. There is frequent ferry service to/from the island during the summer -- it is well worth a visit, in my opinion.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Live Here, But It Helps

From Dave Brigham:

In 1995, when I turned 30, my girlfriend (now wife), Beth, joined members of my family in buying me my first mountain bike. She'd bought one in college, and wanted to share her passion for trail riding with me. She still cracks herself up talking about how the first time I rode in the woods, I wore jeans, instead of bike shorts.

We rode a lot initially at the Middlesex Fells, a large (more than 2,000 acres) reserve that spans the towns of Malden, Medford, Melrose, Stoneham and Winchester, just north of Boston. I had a great time exploring hills, meadows, and old fire roads. Over the next 2 1/2 years we rode in a lot of places in New England, but none more intriguing than the grounds of the old Metropolitan State Hospital straddling Belmont, Waltham and Lexington, Mass.

Opened in 1930, the hospital housed mentally ill patients in at least a dozen large, red-brick buildings. The facility closed in 1992 as part of the national movement to deinstitutionalize such patients and move them into smaller hospitals and group homes. For 15 years, the site sat shuttered and deteriorating, a magnet for urban explorers, adventurous partiers and hikers and mountain bikers. In 2007, most of the buildings were torn down to make room for a 387-unit apartment development. Some of the old buildings were renovated and used within the new community.

Part of old Met State Hospital, Waltham MA

Above is the administration building, the last structure awaiting renovation or demolition. I remember touring past this building and several others just like it, only larger, with Beth and our friend Mike. We didn't go in any of the buildings, but spent a fair amount of time on a few occasions marveling at the buildings and wondering just what sort of things went on behind the closed doors.

For great photos of the inside of some of the Met State buildings, check this out. To read more about the conversion of the site to luxury apartments, read this.

The photo below is from the Gaebler Children's Center, which opened in 1955 on the state hospital's property. This picture is the only one I've taken while knowingly trespassing. I drove right past the "No Trespassing: Police Take Notice" sign, figuring no cop would arrest me as long as I had my two-year-old daughter with me. The folks at Opacity report that in the time since I took this picture, the site "appears to be under development by Testa Construction and Site Dismantlement; demolition or renovation seems imminent."

Abandoned state hospital bldg., Waltham MA

For some cool inside and outside pics of the children's center, check this out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Just Drop Me Off Here...."

From David Burke:

While taking the most around-about way to the Maker's Mark distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, two friends and I drove past this old house in the rural town of Lawrenceville. Being a passenger, I asked Scott to PLEASE stop and back up. He kindly obliged and I then snapped this one picture from the car window, and we continued on our way.

I was not quite sure as to why I found this house so intriguing. Perhaps because it is not like anything I might come across in New England. It does not seem to be ransacked or vandalized. I wanted to say "just drop me off here and I think I'll start afresh."

House. Lawrenceville, KY

Well, I am back home but this little house still stays on my mind.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Butt Ugly Building


From Mick Melvin:

Driving to work every morning, I had always wondered about the huge, abandoned building located at the corner of Main and Trumbull streets in Hartford. It sits on its own little island in the middle of the city surrounded by parking lots near Route 84. I couldn’t imagine why this building was not scooped up by some developer. I searched the Internet trying to find out what was at this location, but came up with nothing. Much to my delight, I opened the newspaper one morning and there it was, “The Butt Ugly Building.”


I had no idea it was dubbed the “Butt Ugly Building” until that day. It is certainly a fitting name for the structure. When Dave told me his plans of starting this photo blog, this building was one of the first things I thought of capturing for the project. I hesitated to post any pictures because I didn’t know the history behind this butt-ugly building. As it turns out, it was the home of the H. B. Davis department store. The building has been vacant since the store closed 30 years ago.

The building has been in the headlines as of late because of legal problems surrounding the development of the property. The building has played a part in the demise of former Hartford Mayor, Eddie Perez (see 7-8-10 Hartford Courant, "City Moves to Buy Butt Ugly Building"). The new Mayor, Pedro Segarra, has plans to demolish the building next month and rid the city of this long standing eyesore.

Keep Out II

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Roadside California Movie Sets

From Joe Viger:

Travelling around California I kept finding great old ruins. Many were defunct roadside businesses and there was something remarkable about these places. It took me a while to figure it out, but I think it was the level of preservation and a unique quality to the way the time has worked on these old buildings. I’m a lifelong New Englander and the hot, dry climate in California seems to age buildings differently. The construction plays a role in the impression these building left on me, too, as there is more masonry and stucco than the typical wood structure in my home state. The character of these buildings was so strong that they struck me as looking like movie sets waiting for the crew to arrive.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t always stop and make a picture but Lemon Cove, CA, was worth getting out and stretching my legs for. Here, blocks apart from each other, were two amazing old filling stations.


Victor Alred Garage

Just east of Fresno, CA, a man selling cherries out of the back of his truck caught my eye and I quickly realized his place of business had a past life. I stopped to take a few pictures and ended up buying some cherries. I don’t like them but he was a nice guy trying to earn a living on this desolate, hot corner where clearly others had failed.

Abandoned California 2

Abandoned California 1

Monday, August 9, 2010

This Blue Bird Done Flown the Coop

From David Burke:

The last thing I expected to find while roaming amid abandoned auto repair buildings in Plainville, CT, was a burned-out Blue Bird school bus. Yet there it was in all its eerie and singed glory. There were several other decaying vehicles clustered nearby, but the bus was the crown jewel of the whole mess.

Burned out school bus

In my opinion, the mattress is the creepiest part. This just doesn't seem to be the appropriate place for a nap or romantic getaway, but I have the feeling that someone felt otherwise. I went back to the same location a couple of months later and found that the bus was gone. Just goes to show that the Backside is often brief and fleeting.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dark Side of the Motel

Picture Lake Motel #3

From Dave Brigham:

When I was a kid, my grandparents lived in Lakehurst, NJ. Most times when we visited, we stayed at their house in a retirement community. But on at least one occasion, we stayed at a place called the Moon Motel (after a bit of research, I'm pretty sure that this is the place. Located in Howell, NJ, this motel is about half an hour from Lakehurst, and is described in a few locations online as being "infamous" and "easily the shadiest place in town.") I don't recall much about the place, but I remember swimming there in the evening and thinking that was really cool. Nobody in my family has much recall on the place, either, other than to remember that it was either "a dump" or "not anything fancy."

Still, I have a soft spot in my heart for old motels, especially ones with loads of neon, nice pools and just a hint or two of mystery. I never stay in them, however, so I'm a party to their demise.

Picture Lake Motel #4

The Picture Lake Motel in Bourne, on Cape Cod, seems like it was just such a place, minus the groovy neon. The abandoned motel is located a few doors down from the spot where the My Tin Man Diner burned down 10 years ago (see Backside's "Two Hearts Beat As One," 7-28-10).

A thorough search online turns up nothing whatsoever about the place, other than generic listings in lodging directories. It's like the place never existed.

The pool, at least, is probably listed in the minds of Bourne-area skateboarders as a cool place to ride, late at night. But watch out for the cops cruising on Route 28, especially under a full moon.

Picture Lake Motel Pool #2

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Old, Decrepit House Update

From Dave Brigham:

As I reported last month ("This Old, Decrepit House," 7-25-10), there was a good chance that a long-abandoned house in Watertown Square in Watertown, Mass., would be torn down. The house had been neglected even when it was occupied, and had holes in the exterior walls. I drove by today and sure enough, the place has been demolished. The new owners hoped to save it, they said, but if they couldn't, they talked about building something in a similar style. I hope they follow through on that. I'll post updates as construction gets under way.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Stairway to...?

From Michelle Loya:

I took this picture in Woodstock, Vermont, while wandering around the historic town on vacation. I was lucky to find some amazing objects to photograph, this metal staircase being one of them.

It was located in the back of what seemed to be a house. There was a very narrow door to the left of it, which first sparked my interest because I was confused by its size. This miniature door led me to this beautiful staircase.

I was unsure how to photograph the staircase. There wasn't one specific way I could capture its beauty; I was tempted to take a video of it. The rusting wrought iron curling in such a simple pattern was amazing to me. There were a few parts broken or missing from it and I wondered how old it could be.

Not many things stay so nicely preserved in the tundra that becomes Vermont in the winter months. Despite its beauty, the staircase looked very unsafe, as it wasn't quite flush against the house and only had one side with a railing. There are so many questions I still have about this staircase, but I suppose I may never know and thats part of the beauty of it.