Friday, March 27, 2015

Blessed Renovation

From Dave Brigham:

I'm not a religious man, but I do love a nice church.

This beautiful building is the former Blessed Sacrament Church in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood. I was in the area recently donating some supplies to the pet adoption center where we got our cat. I brought my camera with me, and before I even left the adoption center's parking lot, I spied the big green dome and knew I had to head in its direction.

Built between 1910 and 1913 and opened in 1917 by the Boston Catholic Archdiocese, the church closed in 2004. The massive church (approximately 1/2 acre in size) was the centerpiece of a campus that included a rectory, a convent and two schools.

Built in 1901, the Cheverus School (named after the first bishop of Boston) was closed for some time before the Hyde Square Task Force bought it and reopened the building as its Youth Community Development Center.

St. Norbert's School was built in 1926. The building was recently converted to 21 market-rate condos.

When I walked by the church, and saw boarded up windows where magnificent stained glass once resided, I was concerned that the building was being left to rot. Many of the old windows were removed to the Sacred Heart Church in Weymouth, Mass., but the church sat there like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla.

I was so happy to learn through my research that the building and its satellites are being repurposed.

The Hyde Square Task Force completed its purchase of Blessed Sacrament a little more than a year ago. They have big plans.

From the HSTF web site:

The Church will be a place where people from all races and ethnicities and from all walks of life from Hyde/Jackson Square, Jamaica Plain, and beyond will gather, perform, create community, and celebrate individual, family, and community wide events. It will also be a place that showcases the cultural richness of the Latin Quarter through arts and cultural events.

For a history of the task force's involvement with the church and its affiliated buildings, read this piece.

For a look inside the church on the cusp of the renovations, check this link.

To see historical photos of the church campus and surrounding area, check this out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Take Me Down to Panama City

From Dave Brigham:

I visited Panama City Beach, Florida, recently with my wife and kids to get away from the brutal winter we've been having in eastern Massachusetts. We stayed in a pretty nice resort hotel, and spent a lot of our time eating at chain restaurants and hanging out in nicely buffed museums like Ripley's Believe It or Not and WonderWorks. While we got a little bit of local flavor at a few eateries, I felt the need to venture off the resort-filled main drag and poke around the underbrush.

Waking up early on our second morning there, before everybody else, I realized this was my best time to explore. The previous day we'd driven by countless surf shops, drive-through liquor stores, mini golf courses, motels, restaurants and pawn shops. Any of those places would have made for some great photos, but instead I headed first for an abandoned structure that I honestly couldn't identify.

After cruising around the Abandoned Gulf Coast web site, I found some photos of the good old days of Panama City Beach. This led me to the Flickr account of one of the members of that site. This guy told me that this building used to be a bar. I tried to join a Panama City Beach-related Facebook page to post my photo and ask members for more details, but my request has to be processed. If I find out more, I'll update this post.

For more cool photos of the entertainment heyday of Panama City Beach, check out the Parks and More and Buildings sections of the Abandoned Gulf Coast site.

While at first my eye was drawn to the mammoth beachside hotels and condominium complexes, I soon realized that there were a LOT of empty concrete slabs all over Panama City Beach, including this one two doors down from our hotel.

This, of course, led me to Google, where I learned that this town used to be a lot more honky tonk, with motels galore (the Fiesta, Inn Paradise, Trade Winds, Rip Tide, Barney Gray), locally owned restaurants and numerous theme parks (Miracle Strip Amusement Park, Jungle Land [which now houses Alvin's Island Magic Mountain Store], Goofy Golf, Castle Dracula, the Ocean Opry, Petticoat Junction, the Snake-a-Torium).

The Inn Paradise still stands, but has been stripped and will be torn down and replaced, according to what I've read online.

Here's a video looking back at the heyday of Miracle Strip Amusement Park:

Here's a video of the Sky Ride at Miracle Strip:

I found this remnant of the Sky Ride launch area while driving past Shipwreck Island Water Park:

I wish I could travel back in time to Panama City Beach during the 1950's and '60's, to see all the goofy, home-spun roadside attractions, enjoy unobstructed views of the beach and maybe catch a drive-in screening of "Gidget." And back to the time when this property was vibrant and filled with happy beach-goers, instead of fallow and overgrown.

I'd also like to travel back to the more recent future, to warn whoever planned this development, to let them know that it might be a bad idea to place a multi-story hotel or condo complex in a residential neighborhood. I assume the economic downturn in 2008 had something to do with this project being abandoned. Will somebody pick up the slack?

I spent approximately five hours spread across three early mornings pin-balling around town in my rental car, trying to find the forgotten side of a beach community that in this century has morphed from part of the Redneck Riviera to Spring Break Central.

I learned through my research online of Joe Breakbill, aka Flamingo Joe, who owned a a restaurant and market in Panama City Beach before passing away suddenly in 2013 at age 66. He opened Flaming Joe's Market just a few months before his death. The store was damaged during a storm not long after his death. At some point in the last 18 months the store was wiped off the face of the Earth.

Goodbye, PCB.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Chewed Up, Spit Out

From Kristen Smith:

It's good to welcome Kristen Smith back to the Backside! She's contributed some great stuff over the years (I've linked to some at the bottom of this post), and this post is no different. Amazing shots from Wyoming and Idaho. Enjoy! -- D.B.

As you drive into the Gros Ventre section of Grand Teton National Park you'll come across this abandoned homestead with a world-class view. I don't know who tried to ranch here or what he tried to raise, but Wyoming chewed him up and spit him out.

On our way into the Jedediah Smith National Forest in Idaho, I saw this abandoned cabin on a spur road. There were no trespassing signs up so I did what I could with it. I like the black empty sockets of the windows and so playing with the processing seemed to work well to show up the bleak quality of the scene.

Another semi-cliche shot of Grand Teton through the window of a derelict cabin in the Bridger-Teton national forest.

Here are some other posts of Kristen's:

Demolition -- Par for the Course

Nice Little House

Roadside Attractions?

Lost Bomber