Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Fakeside of America

From Chris St. Cyr:

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These photographs were taken a few years ago during a trip to Chicago. I believe they’re on the side of an appliance store exterior in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. As examples of signage they work well in that the type and image are rendered in a bold graphic style that is readable from a great distance. What attracted me to these painted signs was the fact that there was a faded and distressed treatment to the overall image. It turns out that sometimes the backside of America is the fakeside of America.

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So why would someone do this? I think it has to do with our fondness for what lies at the heart of the backside of America—nostalgia. That ever-present notion that calls us back to a simpler time, or at least that’s how we imagine it. From our parents' and grandparents' perspective it might not have been simpler, but as children we often view the world as being simpler and that is why we love the backside of America.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Vanishing New England Vernacular #1

From Joe Viger:

Rambling farmhouses and barns are everywhere on the back roads of New England. Unfortunately, many of these great old buildings are falling down or are being suffocated in vinyl siding. But there are still a few gems out there. This is the first of a series on these classic buildings.

Leaving Sandwich Village, NH, on Route 109 you eventually climb Wentworth Hill and pass a stately, Greek revival farmhouse on the right. This was the home of Denley Emerson, locally referred to as the "Mayor of Sandwich." Denley died in March 2008 but many credit him with preserving the town's heritage and character. In fact, Denley ran a real estate business and was known to be partial to folks who wouldn't develop the land they were buying.

The next house after Denley's former residence was also owned by Mr. Emerson at one time. When it was built it must have been the farm of one of the town's preeminent families, given the number of buildings and level of architectural detail. Today it is vacant and eroding. I was driving by one evening and saw the light shining through these buildings just right. I'm glad the Mayor of Sandwich didn't see my illegal U-turn to catch these shots.

Sandwich Abandoned

Nobody's Home

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Old School

old scool

From Michelle Loya:

This ramshackle building that was once a prominent point of Torrington, CT, and is now an eyesore to many, has always captured my attention. With its boarded-up windows, broken old black-top and rusted accessories, this building is just asking to be explored.

Only 88-years-old, this building was once an abundance of knowledge to many young children who passed through its halls. The Sacred Heart School (erected in 1922, dedicated in 1923 and only open until 1982) stood proud through many controversial years of history, and still today stands strong and fearless.

I can imagine light pouring in through the large windows every morning and the sun setting beautifully on the building every evening. I can hear the laughter of children at recess as I stand in the vacant lot admiring the building. For 28 years this place has stood idle. The vacancy no longer allows visitors, it is merely a canvas to those tasteless enough to graffiti it, and a shade of color on the theoretical palette of a passerby.

old catholic school

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spaghetti Warehouse Billboard Building

Building used as a billboard

From Mick Melvin:

This building is an unsolved mystery for me. It sits on a property with a few other buildings on Bartholomew St. in Hartford, CT. The painted sign on the front of the building reads, "Spaghetti Warehouse," and functioned as an advertisement for the restaurant (next door) because it could be seen from the highway (Route I-84), but there has been no activity in this building for some time.

I first saw the building from the rear while driving on Francis St. in Hartford and wondered what was in front. The rear of the building looked old and weathered. When I got to the front of the building, I saw the huge painted on sign. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the building's keystone with a date of 1912. I attempted to look up the history of the building, but have come up with nothing so far. It looks as though it was some sort of factory warehouse building. It is nestled up against the railroad tracks at the rear and sits in a rather large parking lot.

Back of the Spaghetti Warehouse billboard

This building is on sale as a package deal with the building that housed the restaurant. The Spaghetti Warehouse is a nationwide chain that was started in Dallas, TX, in the '70s and presently has restaurants from Texas to Ohio. The Spaghetti Warehouse in Hartford opened in 1993 and closed by 1996. As of right now, the only information I have about the mysterious building is that it was used as a billboard.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cars, Flicks & Weiners


Now Playing, originally uploaded by Small Wonder1.



From David Burke:

America's post-World War II obsessions included automobiles, movies and hot dogs. When these were wrapped together in one package the result was the drive-in movie theater. A wonderful concept that thrived for about three decades and eventually faded away. By the mid 1960's there were about 40 drive-ins operating in Connecticut. Only two, however, still remain in operation. I managed to catch the tail end of this entertainment phenomenon. My friends and I would pack up in a car and head to the Farmington, the Hartford or Plainville drive-ins for an evening of teenage fun and frolic (I have fond memories of the Hartford, East Hartford and Berlin drive-ins -- Ed.).

It was simple economics that spelled the end for most drive-ins. Land values, only one showing a day and a limited season could not hold up against the Jumbo-Plexes that proliferated in the 70's and 80's.


Showtime, originally uploaded by Small Wonder1.




The two photos here show the Torrington Drive-In. It closed around 1981 after a two-decade run. Its marquee, once brightly displaying this week's feature, is close to unrecognizable. The screen is tucked behind trees that are well over 20-feet-tall. Hidden perhaps, but still proudly standing, showing ghost features for those who still remember.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cryogenic Cars


Cars in a blanket, originally uploaded by D. Brigham.



From Dave Brigham:

Not everything we do here pertains to the dilapidated, the downtrodden, the disappeared or the defunct. As it says in our motto, the backside is "sometimes beautiful." Of course, in the eyes of certain beholders (especially hereabouts), there is nothing more beautiful than a collapsing barn or an old car rusting in the woods. But there are plenty of places tucked away from plain sight that hide wealth and privilege.

I took these pictures at the tony (but struggling) Atrium Mall in Newton, Mass., specifically the Chestnut Hill section, which is one of the wealthier zip codes of the Greater Boston area. I've been going to the mall semi-regularly for years, since they have a playroom and I'm a stay-at-home dad. A few years ago my son, Owen, was really into cars, so he'd ask me to go to the lowest level of the Atrium parking garage and then back up again. We were both pleasantly surprised to discover that on the lower two levels, where very few patrons park, there exists a world of vintage autos under blankets.

I'm not sure how often these whips (don't you love the idea of really rich guys in golf pants calling their cars "whips?" I sure do.) see the light of day. I'm sure most of these cars are in perfect running condition. Some of them, though, seem to be in cryogenic suspension, just waiting for someone to come along with the right part, or some new super-sweet motor oil to get them running again.


Undercover cars, originally uploaded by D. Brigham.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Go Somewhere Else

I'm not going to make a habit of doing this, but I wanted to direct people to two places other than The Backside of America.

1) This great article from the Boston Globe about the long-defunct Ridge Hill Farms amusement park/zoo/entertainment complex that once straddled Needham and Wellesley, Mass. I'd never heard of this place before, and was thrilled to see the author (the always terrific H.D.S. Greenway) provided specific locales where remnants of this park exist. I tried to access the remains of the park today but kept hitting dead ends. One of the roads mentioned in the article is private, and had a security vehicle parked in plain sight today, perhaps because of the article. I'll have to work out a better plan for a future visit.

2) The blog of Backside contributor Joe Viger, in which he provides his usual fantastic photos and a little history of Grand Lake, Colorado's Spider House.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Drop a Dime?

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From Mick Melvin:

Being new to the Nutmeg State, I was carrying my camera around so I could take shots to send to my family. One summer day, I went to Winding Trails in Farmington, CT, with my fiancé and some of her family. The scenery at the camp was beautiful. The camp has been in existence since the 1940’s when World War II veterans wanted a place for the children of Farmington to have a day camp. After taking a dip in the pond and walking some of the many trails, I came upon a phone booth!

I spotted the phone booth next to what looked like the original camp office. Seeing the booth brought back childhood memories. Memories of being sent out to play with a dime in my pocket so I could call home if an emergency came up. I had to think about the price of a local call now (35 cents, right?). It makes me laugh when I think of children today. They now have their own phones and most likely walk past a phone booth without a second thought. They probably have never used a phone booth for shelter from the rain either!

After downloading the picture, I took noticed of two things. I noticed the 911 sticker affixed to the back of the booth and the empty phone book holder. These days children don’t need the missing phone book, just those three universal digits for help.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Time Capsule Car


old dodge, originally uploaded by mloya89.



From Michelle Loya:

This is an old Dodge that has been left to decompose in the woods in Torrington, CT. I discovered it one day exploring the woods behind my house. It was so amazing to me because the only time I’ve seen a car as old as this has been at car shows I was dragged to by my father as a little girl. Being the klutz that I was, I was never allowed close enough to actually see them. It was so awesome to me to be so close to this creature and be able to photograph it and imagine what it used to be.

You can tell by the tarp wrapped on the windshield wipers that at one point in time this car had an owner who had tried to preserve it. It seems as though it stopped working and the owner didn’t want to fix it or maybe it was just old and they bought a younger car. Although it sits there lonely and tired it has persevered through many years of inclement weather, still intact and waiting to be shown off to the world once again. This machine, old and weathered, is as beautiful to me as it once was brand new to someone else.

I photographed this car because it is just so funny to me that this once much-used vehicle now sits abandoned in overgrown weeds and layers of fallen leaves. It is so sad, but so beautiful. I can imagine the life it once lived and the beauty it once possessed. I can imagine teenagers rolling it out of the driveway late at night to sneak off and see their friends, and sadly the last day it was used and left in its spot to become part of the earth.


, originally uploaded by mloya89.

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