Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bakerville Barn

From David Burke:

Barn window with candle

New Hartford, CT

(This barn was torn down last year. For more about the barn's history and meaning to local residents, check out this link, as well as this one. For a look at the barn's dismantling, check out this article. -- Ed.).

Backside of Barn

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rehab Reality

From Pete Zarria:

Arlington, Iowa

Arlington, Iowa

I wasn't leaving without a shot of this old and very green Victorian. SOOC, adjusted lighting and sky. The house and color took care of themselves.

This home is back on the market. Just $30,000 buys a bit of real, old American, small-town goodness. As I understand it, the original owner's intent was to rehab the place into a show piece. There are many stories like this when reality and the cost of just heating and cooling deflate the airiest of dream balloons. So, back on the market she goes, another couple years of deferred maintenance under her 100-year-old belt and the slow inexorable end yet to come.

Most people knowingly realize it, but dreams have a way of postponing, even vanquishing, reality. Surely it should always be so.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


From Dave Brigham:

On a recent walkabout on the border of Newton and Waltham, I shouldn't have been surprised to find a large piece of trash just a stone's throw from the dump in my town, but I was.

I was tromping through Flowed Meadow, a conservation area that extends out from the Auburndale Playground. I'd walked around this area a few times before, and remembered that there was an abandoned house not too far from where I'd parked my car.

I followed the path that runs between two houses, which, honestly, are a surprise to see in the conservation area. The path is actually called Wabasso Road. At one point, years ago, there were obviously houses along here, and I was hoping to explore and take pictures of the one I remembered from the last time I'd been in the area.

Unfortunately, the house is no longer there. I walked the lot, looking for anything photo-worthy, but found only felled trees and remnants of a stone wall.

So I walked on, past the old fire hydrant that at one time was useful to the neighborhood, but which is now surrounded by trees, and looks like part of an absurdist landscape.

I looked up the slope to my right, and saw where all the lawn bags and yard waste in my town go to die: the dump. My journalism background compels me to tell you that the place is actually called the Rumford Avenue Resource Recovery Center.

I looked to my left, and spied a large, white mass of some sort, hunkered in the weeds. A whale? No. What the hell is that? Is that a boat? No, that can't be a boat.

It's a frickin' boat.


I'm not sure if the boat slid down the hill from the dump and landed here. Or if somebody at the nearby apartment building was storing it there in anticipation of taking it out on the nearby Charles River.

Obviously, nobody's been out on this rig in quite some time. And won't be ever again.

No fishing

But if you get just the right angle, you feel a big wave coming in.

Ridin' the wave

Monday, April 16, 2012

Down East Hollywood

From Joe Viger:

Roaming Bar Harbor, Maine's Cottage Street on an off-season Tuesday in March, you might suspect The Criterion Theatre is another unfortunate story of a forgotten landmark that needs saving. The marquee seemed to have some style, but otherwise, the facade was pretty unremarkable and the entrance was filled with outdoor seating. I wasn't sure if The Criterion was closed for the season or closed for good, but I made this photo because it seemed to have the melancholy feeling a lot of Backside subjects have.

The Show is Over

The Criterion Theatre Bar Harbor, Maine (iPhone 4s)

Weeks later through the wonders of the Inter-tube, I've come learn that The Criterion Theatre first opened its doors on June 6, 1932 and was hailed as one of the finest movie houses in Maine and the nation. It was built in five months by local George P. McKay for around $200,000 and is rumored to have been funded, at least in part, by bootlegging Prohibition-era liquor.

This seems out of context for small town Maine. But, let's not forget the Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, Vanderbilts, Carnegies and Astors are all noted past summer residents of Mount Desert Island.

The exterior of the 875-seat theater on this drab off-season morning didn't do The Criterion justice. Photographs of the interior show the rest of the story to be told in Art Deco glass, velvet and silk. The main hall chandelier centers the ornate theater with a painted ceiling that radiates outward.

The unique "floating," free-hanging balcony has a front rail painted pink and is still separated into sections by red velvet curtains that were formerly bought as private boxes by wealthy residents. It was said that The Criterion would draw a line of chauffeur driven Lincolns and Cadillacs on movie night.

The Criterion has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now operated as a non-profit. The theater will open back up for movies in June and will also feature music and other performances this summer. I guess I know what I'll be doing next time I'm in town.

Check out more of Joe Viger's photographs at

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Long Gone Train

From Heidi Waugaman-Page:

Every time I visited my friend in Sunapee, NH, we used to stop at the train. It was right on the main road. So cool...and now gone. There will probably be a Rite Aid or Walgreens, since that is what seems to be the only new construction around here.

The garage was for large trucks and had so many cool windows, chains, old posters, etc. It was super creepy.

Sunapee Train 1 Sunapee Train 2 Sunapee Train 5

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Eighth Wonder of the World

From Dave Brigham:

With a name straight out of the space age, the Astrodome sounds like the kind of arena where George Jetson would sit back comfortably in an egg-shaped chair, eat vacuum-sealed food packets and watch nuclear-powered rocket races. Opened in 1965, the venue hosted both baseball and football games, as well as motorcycle events, concerts and extravaganzas such as Evel Knievel's jump over 13 cars in 1971.

And of course it became known for installing the first artificial grass, known as AstroTurf, a feature that many MLB teams copied in the '70s and '80s before coming to their senses in recent years and getting back to natural grass (except for those playing in domed stadiums).

When I was a kid, my older brother and I were huge baseball fans, and Red Sox fanatics (and remain so to this day). But my brother loved statistics, so he followed other players around the majors. One of his favorites for a time was Cesar Cedeno, center fielder for the Houston Astros from 1970-81. Because of my brother's interest in Cedeno and the Astros, I have some childhood memories of him showing me the inside of the Dome in his copies of Sports Illustrated.

The idea of an indoor baseball stadium intrigued me. I never visited the Astrodome, but had the pleasure (cough, cough) of attending a Mariners game in Seattle's old Kingdome in 1995. The experience was surreal, like watching a baseball game in a gymnasium. For your amusement, here's a video of the implosion of the Kingdome.

I can understand why the Astros made a ruckus about the city of Houston building the team a new park, given the weirdness of domed baseball. And so Enron Field (now Minute Maid Park) was built in 2000. In 2002, Reliant Stadium was built to house the city's new football team, the Texans. Since then, the Astrodome has been vacant save for the occasional concert and rodeo, although nothing has happened there in a few years.

As you can imagine, the park is quite a bit the worse for wear.

Earlier this month, the park was opened to the media, as discussions are under way about the fate of the stadium. Among the ideas being floated are keeping the dome's outer shell and turning the inside into a casino/hotel complex, or a multipurpose destination for movies, concerts and shops.

Read more about the stadium, and watch old footage, here.

To see some cool pictures of the stadium both during its heyday and in its current run-down condition, check this out.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beyond the Mill

From Dave Brigham:

With 17 miles of trails, Noanet Woodlands in Dover, MA, offers a full day's hiking, all of it relatively easy. I was only there for a few hours, but plan to get back there and do more exploring.

I found the woodlands while searching on Google maps for something close to Snow Hill in Dover. I'd done a bit of hiking and picture-taking there and wanted to hit one more place that was close by (see March 22, 2012, "Fresh-Air Salvation," as well as the two other posts linked within that piece). I was drawn in by Noanet's close proximity and the promise of an old mill.

Turns out the old mill is a partial reconstruction of the former Dover Union Iron Mill.

Rebuilt Mill

It's a pretty site, but I was hoping for something run-down. Here's a description of the mill's history from a plaque at the site:

Mill description

So, as often happens, I trudged on, somewhat disappointed, and found some other things to photograph that I found more intriguing.

Rebuilt wall

A rebuilt wall near the old mill.


A little challenge for horses.


Close-up of a mossy rock.


Trash heap.

Michele's Tree

No idea who's honored/memorialized by this tree.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sawed-off Mill

From Peter Arnemann:

A lot of the pictures I take in the Greater Boston area are of simple subjects: an old barn with graffiti, a fire tower rising majestically over small hills, an outdoor worship center. So I find it a nice change of pace to post a link to pictures that Peter took of a much more complicated scene.

A few years ago, he found an old saw mill located "somewhere in rural Maine." The scope of this place, both inside and out, is incredible. And the pictures are terrific. Enjoy! -- Dave Brigham.

Check it out.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Nobody Lives in Centralia

From Dave Brigham:

I first heard of Centralia, PA, in the late '80s, in a song of the same name by the band Nice Strong Arm. I was haunted by the lyric, "Nobody lives in Centralia."

I don't remember when I found out there was a town with a tragic story behind that lyric, but it was several years ago. I'd forgotten about Centralia until reading Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. The book is Bryson's account of walking parts of the Appalachian Trail, and is an excellent read.

He spends several pages covering the history of Centralia, a former mining town in east central Pennsylvania, under which a fire has been burning since 1962. Bryson drives to the town, and finds a spooky scene out of an end-of-the-world movie.

Bryson cites an article that states that there may be enough coal under the town to burn for a thousand years. Think about that.

Much of what we write about and take pictures of here is decay and abandonment. Much of the time, amidst the rust and overgrowth and collapse, it is possible to see a new future, a day when developers buy and clear a property and build a new office park or residential community.

In Centralia's case, unfortunately, the future is beyond anybody's view. Much of the town has been bulldozed and there are few residents. Below is an embedded trailer for a documentary about the town, "The Town That Was." I had embedded the movie here, but for some reason it's not working.

One of the guys in the movie nails it when he says, in essence, we know how to build a town, but we have no idea how to end a town.

The main source in the movie is John Lokitis, who at the time the movie was made (it was released in 2007) was 34 years old. I was struck by his genuine love of the town, concern for its upkeep (he refurbished old municipal Christmas decorations and hung them although few are around to see them anymore), and sense of the history of both the doomed burg and his family and fellow residents.

After watching the movie (it's 70 minutes long) I did an online search for Lokitis. He has since moved out of his house, so apparently nobody is taking care of the town any more. Very sad, and cautionary tale.

Here is the trailer. If you want to watch the whole film, go to this link.