Monday, March 28, 2011

Summer House

From Joe Viger:

I’m fascinated by getaways and summer houses. Friends of mine on Facebook have probably noticed a series of shared posts from Steve Casimiro’s blog called “Weekend Cabin” that indulges this fascination. Sometimes in the fall I started making images of summer houses.

This seems sort of silly I guess, but there’s something about these places that intrigues me. I’ll confess that part of this fascination is pure, unadulterated envy on my part. Who are these people who own these amazing properties and are content to let them sit dormant most of the year!? Usually I imagine quitting my job and moving in immediately.

But, I think there’s more to it than that. These houses are often architectural gems. In the valley north of NH’s Presidential Range, summer houses are built in “the Randolph style.” This is a specific shingled cottage popular in the little town of Randolph, NH.
Summer House-2.jpg
Others are classic New England.
Summer House-1.jpg

Some are reflections of their surroundings, like when riverstones are used in the building.
Summer House-3.jpg
Some summer homes are more modest, but no less interesting to me.
Summer House-5.jpg
Summer House-6.jpg
Summer House-7.jpg
Summer House-8.jpg
When my Dad passed away, I remember thinking there should be more than his dog tags from the Navy and an old, corduroy railroader cap. So, above all, I think the hook for me with summer houses is the sense of family legacy that they invoke. I see them as touch points to shared history and experience of place that tie people together. Summer houses play host to generations of visits by families and friends. The only agenda item for the gatherings are unstructured time where people connect, enjoy each other and perpetuate family myth.

I realize this may be a romanticized idea that isn’t always true. But certainly legacy is getting tougher to come by as people have become more transient, families are changing shape more frequently and financial pressures make it harder and harder to hold on to family assets. All hail the summer house. Someday I’ll have one.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Working In a Coal Mine

I've been anxious to publish Michael Cevoli's pictures for quite some time now. Due to his busy schedule, my time spent promoting my first book and some back-and-forth on just which pictures to publish when, the process has taken longer than I'd hoped. But finally I'm ready to feature the first of what I hope will be many posts from him.

Based in Providence, RI, Cevoli is a graduate of the master's program at the Rhode Island School of Design. The photos below are part of his thesis work at RISD. He is slated to show some of his work at a museum in Poland this year.

The photos below were all taken in Pennsylvania. I think they're great. I hope you do, too. -- Dave Brigham

From Michael Cevoli:

Open Mine, Ashley, PA

Open Mine, Ashley, PA

Drag Line, Darkwater, PA

Drag Line, Darkwater, PA

Coal Breaker, Ashley, PA

Coal Breaker, Ashley, PA

Patch Housing, Ashland, PA

Patch Housing, Ashland, PA

Family Shrine, Byrnesville, PA

Family Shrine, Byrnesville, PA

Coal Fire, Locust Mountain, PA

Coal Fire, Locust Mtn., PA

Friday, March 18, 2011

Anatomy of a Teardown

From Dave Brigham:

I live in Newton, Mass., a well-to-do community that's gone teardown crazy in recent years. See a '50s-style ranch house that's a little worse for wear? Don't blink; it'll soon be gone.

This house used to be in the Oak Hill section of my fair city, on Dudley Road, one of my favorite "big ol' house" thoroughfares.

Date w/ the wrecking ball

The older section of the road is close to Route 9, and filled with enormous houses, both new and old, set on wooded lots and away from the road. The teardown house was located on the newer section of the road, amid average-sized houses. It went on the market in March of 2010, and was scooped up by a developer, who soon leveled it.

Teardown complete, #1

By July, the new house looked like this:

Chestnut Hill Teardown/New house

Now it's on the market for a cool $1.525 million.

Teardown Reborn #2

I'm not gonna argue that the original house was anything worth saving, and I understand the economics of development means that you have to build something that you can put a big price tag on. But doesn't anybody remodel anymore?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lost Bomber

From Kristen Smith:

B18 bomber engine

In January 1942, just weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack, a B18 bomber crew were on anti-submarine patrol over the north Atlantic. Flying out of Chicopee, Mass., they planned to be as far north as Newfoundland, where enemy submarines were suspected to lurk. The weather was not on their side and quickly turned nasty when a storm came up the coast. Blown inland, the inexperienced crew (they were B24 experts, a different beast altogether) were soon hopelessly lost. Some say the men, who had never worked together before, had trouble calculating their drift. Visibility was nil. Whatever the problem, it became apparent only when the plane brushed treetops that they were anywhere near a mountain. By that time it was too late and the pilot’s evasive maneuvers failed. They crashed spectacularly into Mt. Waternomee, waking up the towns below.

The hub

A rescue team was rounded up and within an hour they were headed up the steep, deeply snowed-in mountain in North Woodstock, NH. I can only imagine the intense stress they were under, not only from the trepidation about what they would find, but because of the utter chaos of the forest after the hurricane of 1938. Trees down everywhere, the trail obscured, deep snow drifts, camouflaged chasms just waiting for someone to fall in. No GPS or cell phones. No Gore-Tex or fleece either. Amazingly, they found five of the seven-man crew alive.

After more than 60 years, the site is and isn’t what you’d expect. You’d expect there to be almost nothing visible, but there is, due to the fact that volunteers annually clear debris from the extant wreckage. You’d also expect there to be more wreckage than there is. What with the Army carting off the cockpit and ordinance and others carting off the fuselage and tail section for a museum, there isn’t a lot of recognizable stuff on the ground. What’s left is almost unrecognizable. Most of the site looks like this:


Fifty years after the crash, in 1992, a memorial plaque was erected and an American flag flies from a nearby sapling. It’s pretty startling to come across this on the trail. On the whole it’s a very steep and rocky climb and then the next time you raise your head, there it is. Mangled hunks and twisted metal spread over a couple of acres. I can’t believe anyone lived, but they did.

Photographs from the day of the crash can be seen here, and a more detailed account of the crash, the crew and the rescue is here.

I have more photos here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Graffiti Highway

From Mick Melvin:

My niece and nephew told me about an abandoned highway near Route 84 going through West Hartford, CT. Of course, I thought of the photo opportunities right away.

abandoned ramp

The “highway” is actually a series of never-used on and off ramps near Route 84. They told me how to get to it and I made the trek on my mountain bike, with camera backpack in tow. I rode along the ramps and the overpasses for many hours on a beautiful spring day. (We ran a short piece with one photo about these ramps in June 2010, called "Ghost Highway" -- ed.)

There are six ramps that run underneath the overpasses and over the highway. Four of the ramps lead to the overpasses that go above Route 84 near Exit 39A leading to and from Route 9. The other two ramps were to be off ramps on the northern side of the highway.

I enjoyed the quiet while pedaling along the abandoned ramps. It's really quiet until you are practically over the highway; then you can hear the roar of the traffic below. It was really eerie being there all alone, but it was a good ride for an old fella like me.

side by side

Besides the overgrown vegetation on my journey, there was graffiti of all sorts to see along the way. I spent a good amount of time viewing the various writings and artwork on the walls, railings, and mostly the pavement.

Upper ramp across I-84

I also enjoyed the view of Route 84 while on the empty overpasses. While standing and enjoying the view, I couldn't help but think that the location could be a great park or fitness trail. Hopefully someday the abandoned highway will be utilized and be removed from backside status.

two ramp view

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy First Birthday to Backside!

From Dave Brigham:

I had no idea what to expect when I launched The Backside of America a year ago (see March 1, 2010, "Take Me to the River."). I'd long had an interest in what goes on behind the neat and polite curtain of society, whether it be the crumbling walls hidden behind the solid abandoned factory facade, or the neat-as-a-pin back lawns of Newport, RI, as seen from the Cliff Walk.

I had a backlog of my own photos to get things rolling, but I had a sometimes sketchy point-and-shoot digital camera and no knowledge of exposure, composition, lighting, shutter speed and editing. So I reached out to a handful of friends whose photos I admired. Luckily, most of them agreed to join the ranks here. And they have done recruiting of their own, so this blog continues to flourish (and we're always looking for more people; America's a BIG place.).

I've been overwhelmed by the great pictures and fascinating stories that have come across the digital transom, such as Joe Viger's stark black-and-white frozen Alaskan tundra (see March 8, 2010 "Backside at the Topside of the Continent"); Mick Melvin's tale of the rise and fall of turn-of-the-20th-century African American community, Deerfield, Colorado (see July 9, 2010, "Dearly Departed Deerfield"); and David Burke's June 8, 2010, B & E adventure, "Meet Me at the Station (We'll Find a Way In)."

Over the last 12 months, we've covered many of my favorite topics:

Diners -- see March 18, 2010, "Eat, Dance & Be Happy" from David Burke and my own July 28, 2010, ode to Lazarus-like diner owner Barbara Lind "Two Hearts Beat As One".

Drive-in Movie Theaters -- see April 12, 2010, "Cars, Flicks & Weiners" from David Burke.

Old vehicles -- see Michelle Loya's May 24, 2010, "This Old Truck" piece, and Mick Melvin's January 1, 2011, post, "Patriotic Caddie."

Old Factories -- see my July 5, 2010, post "Rebuilding the Lost City."

There are plenty of great things in the hopper: fantastic shots and a history lesson about a downed B-18 bomber from our newest contributor, Kristen Smith; my chronicle of, and diatribe against, the tear-down culture; and a post that brings new meaning to The Backside of America.

Still, with all the great stuff we've run in the past 12 months, there are some pictures that either haven't fit in anywhere, or have been cut from posts due to space considerations. Below, you'll find some of those pictures.

From Mick Melvin:

downingtown quarry

(Hansen Agregates- Distribution Quarry, Downingtown, PA, taken through a chain linked fence.)

From David Burke:

Torrington, CT

(Old quarry, Torrington, CT)

From Michelle Loya:

Wagon wheel

(Wagon wheel, Woodstock, Vermont)

From David Burke:

Top Dog

(Taken in Portland, CT, in the late '90s)

From Dave Brigham:

Elvis Mural, Newton MA

(The King, Newton, MA)

From Kristen Smith:

A signal from the shelter

(Bedford Golfland, Bedford, NH)

From Joe Viger:

Wide Treads & Cheater Slicks

(Taken in Asheville, NC)

From David Burke:

Torrington, CT

(Taken in Torrington, CT)

From Dave Brigham:

Boston Trailer Park

(Taken at the Boston Trailer Park on March 16, 2010, after three days of heavy rain.)

From Joe Viger:

Backside Mosaic

(Oakland, CA)

From Joe's Flickr page: The Talking Heads album cover for "More Songs About Buildings and Food" features this great photomosiac done by David Byrne. He made a portrait of the band using hundreds of polaroids. It's amazing... they have it at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This view reminded me of that, despite being much less interesting than Talking Heads.

From Mick Melvin:

avondale garage

(Old broken down truck in an old garage in Avondale, PA.)

I'm happy to report that I have a new camera, and have been taking an adult ed class to learn how to use it more effectively. Here's to the next 12 months of beautiful pictures and fascinating posts!