Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Don't Do Urbex, But These Guys Do

From Dave Brigham:

Although I've been fascinated by the backside of America for much of my life, I only started taking pictures and writing about it two years ago. If I'd started documenting abandoned factories, railroad tracks, diners, houses, amusement parks and other out-of-the-way places before I had kids, I would have been totally into urban exploration.

But with a 9-year-old and a 4-year-old, I'm not willing to risk injury or arrest in pursuit of adventure and some cool photos. Call me a chicken, and I won't disagree. I really want to slip through fences and see what's going on behind the collapsing walls and smashed windows. But I don't think fast on my feet, and worry about my ability to talk myself out of trouble.

But thankfully, people like the folks who are making the "Crack the Surface" series of short documentaries are out there exploring the places that many of us wonder about, but are afraid to, or unable to, venture into.

Below is episode two of the "Crack the Surface" series. It features footage shot over six weeks in New York, Indianapolis, Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Montreal.


Crack The Surface - Episode II from SilentUK on Vimeo.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Smoke On the Water

From Dave Brigham:

Old pilings #2

The story about these old pilings in the Charles River in Waltham, MA, turns out to be much better than I'd imagined. I figured they were remnants of an old dock, something simple where people could walk out and dangle their feet in the water and watch the boats and the ducks float by, while taking a break from the nearby watch factory. As time progressed, went my thinking, the dock rotted and fell apart and floated away, leaving behind these ghostly markers.

Well, this spot had much more going on during its heyday. I had to do quite a bit of searching to discover that a canoe manufacturer named C.P. Nutting built a boathouse here in 1914. According to an article I found at eHow.com, "This was also a boat house that was used for roller skating, boxing, dancing and concerts. This ballroom was famous, as it was one of the few ballrooms in Massachusetts, outside of Boston, where the famous big bands of the time played."

Here is a picture of the dance hall. And here is a card advertising some performances at the hall from 1936.

As for Nutting's company, according to a posting on a forum for the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (I told you I had to dig deep!), "it was established in 1884, but did not start building boats and canoes until 1890. By 1905, between 6 and 10 canoe builders were employed at Nutting’s, and it was reported that on average, Nutting built 150 canoes per year. In contrast, the fledgling Old Town Canoe Company was producing about 10 times that many by 1906. Nutting’s specialty was canvas canoes, and they had a reputation of being finely constructed."

Nutting-on-the-Charles was not too far down the river from the Totem Pole Ballroom, which was part of Norumbega Park in nearby Newton, which I wrote about recently (see December 28, 2011, "Amusement Park Ghosts").

Norumbega, which was a "trolley park," closed down in 1963. Nuttings had a much more dramatic ending two years earlier, when it burned to the water line. All that's left are the pilings.

Old pilings #1

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Drug Store

From David Burke:

Taken in Torrington, CT.

Drug Store

The drugs are now sold out back.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Peaceful Rest

From Dave Brigham:

I don't have much to say about these pictures. They were taken at the Mt. Feake Cemetery in Waltham, MA. I don't shoot black-and-white much, but this place, on a cold, gray day, seemed like a good opportunity to practice those skills.

I call this picture "Class conflict," because of the two simple, low-slung stones looking up at the obelisk behind them.

Class conflict

In this one, I like the juxtaposition of the cracked sign with the proud, elegant statue behind it.

River Avenue

There are so many neat grave markers with cool patterns worn in over decades and centuries of wind and foul weather.

Thy will be done

I like the variety that this shot showcases.

Old stones

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

UPDATE: Chestnut Hill Phoenix

From Dave Brigham: There is progress at the Newton, MA, site where the Omni grocery store and other retail and business offices once stood, which I posted 19 months ago (see June 11, 2010, "Chestnut Hill Phoenix"). As I indicated at that time, New England Development plans a complex featuring residential, office and retail space. Recently, the developers announced the site, to be known as Chestnut Hill Square, will be anchored by a Wegmans grocery store. People are excited about that. While doing some Christmas shopping at the mall across Route 9 from the site, I snapped a few pictures of the demolition in progress. This is the approximate spot where the Omni once stood. Chestnut Hill Square #4 Here are a few other shots of the site. I'll post more as this project advances. Chestnut Hill Square #3 Chestnut Hill Square #2 Chestnut Hill Square #1

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Norumbega Point

From Dave Brigham:

Viking Tower #7

History is ever changing. Archeologists dig up tools, weapons and ceramics and recalibrate their assumptions about who lived in a certain place, when, and what they ate and how they obtained certain objects and skills. Historians are handed long-forgotten letters hidden away in somebody's attic, and realize they need to revisit certain assumptions about an author, a war or a religion.

It's not often, however, that you see monuments built to false history.

The Norumbega Tower is such an edifice.

The tower was commissioned by Eben Horsford, a 19th century Harvard chemistry professor who believed that Vikings had once occupied the site in Weston, MA, where Stony Brook empties into the Charles River. Horsford believed that the local Indian name Norumbega was a Native American translation of "Norway." As such, he was convinced that Vikings had settled in the area in 1000 A.D., and so paid for the large stone tower to honor these brave explorers.

Viking Tower #1

Viking Tower #10

Modern historians refute the idea that Vikings landed on these shores nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus. For more on the subject, check out this Straight Dope column.

Across the Charles River from the tower sits the former site of Norumbega Park, a "trolley park" that ceased operations in the '60s. For a piece about the former amusement park, see December 28, 2011, "Amusement Park Ghosts."