Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Anniversary Post #5: My Favorites from 2014

From Dave Brigham:

Welcome to the fifth installment in a series celebrating the 7th anniversary of the blog (for links to the prior four installments, see the bottom of this post). This post covers 2014.

I need to mention that Joe Viger has contributed some amazing photos and fantastic write-ups over the years, but I'll be linking to very few of them in this series. Why? Because Joe -- an amazing photographer who has served as a mentor of sorts to me in that regard, and a great friend I've known for nearly 30 years -- has changed the security settings on his Flickr account so that many of his photos that have run on this blog show up as broken links now. I will instead direct you to his wonderful online portfolio.

The year started out well, on January 3, 2014, with the blog's first -- and, to date, only -- photo from Hawaii. Lostlosangeles shared a great shot of an abandoned high school in "Maui Wowee."

Just eight days later, on January 11, 2014, I posted about a drive-in theater in Connecticut where as a teenager I'd seen wholesome films such as "Eager Beavers." "Fade to Black" found me astonished at how much of the old outdoor movie place was still intact.

(The East Hartford Drive-In, South Windsor, Connecticut.)

The good streak kept on rolling at the end of the month. On January 25, 2014, I published "Last Building Standing," about the lone architectural solider left standing after Boston's West End was demolished in the late 1950's.

February 17, 2014, brought us another great collection of Pete Zarria's photos. In "Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign," he shared lots of neat photos of old signs in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Iowa and Missouri.

On April 14, 2014, I published a post about a trip a friend and I took to Springfield, Massachusetts. "Coincidence?" features two black-and-white photos, one of which is of the YMCA where my father spent countless hours as a kid. I"d heard a lot about the Y as a kid, but had never seen the building until that. day just a few weeks before my father passed away.

(YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts.)

Mick Melvin's "Holy Resurrection!" from June 24, 2014, brought me back to childhood road trips to my cousins' house in Westchester County, New York. As we drove along I-84 approaching Waterbury, Connecticut, I'd look up on the hill next to the highway where Holy Land USA stood. There, I'd see the giant cross and wonder what the park was like. Mick didn't get inside, but he took some nice photos of the cross and the gates to the long-abandoned Christian-themed park.

(Holy Land USA, Waterbury, Connecticut.)

We finished up the year on December 26, 2014, with an ode to a closed restaurant. "What's Sadder Than a Closed BBQ Joint?" was specifically about Jake's Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham, Massachusetts, but illustrates the general problem of keeping a family-owned eatery in business when health issues arise.

(A sad sight: the bar at the former Jake's Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham, Massachusetts.)

Here are links to the previous three installments of this series:

"Anniversary Post #4: My Favorites from 2013"

"Anniversary Post #3: My Favorites from 2012"

"Anniversary Post #2: My Favorites from 2011"

"Anniversary Post #1: My Favorites from 2010"

Coming up next, my favorites from 2015, including an abandoned mansion in Maryland; the redevelopment of a former gas company site in Waltham, Mass.; some gorgeous shots of an old paper mill in Vermont; and a 200-year-old former law office along a very busy road in Weston, Mass.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Anniversary Post #4: My Favorites from 2013

From Dave Brigham:

Welcome to the fourth installment in a series celebrating the 7th anniversary of the blog (for links to the prior three installments, see the bottom of this post). This post covers 2013.

I need to mention that Joe Viger has contributed some amazing photos and fantastic write-ups over the years, but I'll be linking to very few of them in this series. Why? Because Joe -- an amazing photographer who has served as a mentor of sorts to me in that regard, and a great friend I've known for nearly 30 years -- has changed the security settings on his Flickr account so that many of his photos that have run on this blog show up as broken links now. I will instead direct you to his wonderful online portfolio.

On January 17, 2013, Heidi Waugaman-Page shared several cool shots of what I guess you would call outsider art, taken in Vermont and New Hampshire. In "Roadside Art," we see a giraffe, an eagle, some flowers and a tree, all crafted from old, and sometimes rusting, metal.

My favorite aspect of exploring for this blog is to stumble across something I didn't know I was looking for. Second to that, I suppose, is knowing roughly what I'm looking for, but still being amazed by it upon my arrival on the scene. Such was the case in my January 30, 2013, post, "Whimsical Woodlands." I'd read online about a magical place called Martini Junction and set out to find it in Needham, Massachusetts. I got turned around a bit in the woods, but when I found the spot, I was just about overwhelmed with joy.

(Scenes from Martini Junction.)

On February 7, 2013, I wrote for the second time about a mystery that has bugged me since I was 14 or 15 years old. In "President Little, Part II: From Myth to Man," I updated the story of an abandoned house in my hometown that I'd wandered through with friends when I was in high school. I learned a bit more about the man who'd lived there from some some folks who knew him. I also tried to get in touch with his son, who at that point was elderly, to ask him why his father had left everything he owned behind in his house when he died.

(What's left of the house where President Little once lived.)

On February 26, 2013, Kristen Smith shared with us a picture from an abandoned camp in New Hampshire, in "Abandoned, But Solid." Ah, the simple pleasure....

I take a fair amount of photos of churches and religious icons, but I've never seen anything like what James M. Surprenant shared with us in his March 25, 2013, post, "Jesus Saves," featuring a beautiful black-and-white shot taken in Eden, North Carolina.

In "Down On the Farm," from May 7, 2013, Pete Zarria shared some gorgeous photos of farms from Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin.

While we here at The Backside of America focus quite often on abandoned or forgotten or collapsing or rusted or graffiti-covered places, we also love old places that have been restored. On May 28, 2013, in "Small, But Useful," I wrote about a tiny building that started life in the 1840's as a private school, and which over the ensuing decades served as a train station, a summer house and an art studio.

On June 14, 2013, Pete Zarria posted numerous fantastic shots of ghost signs. "More Signs That Say 'Boo'" featured photos from places in Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri.

Just three days later, on June 17, 2013, I published "Powda House," which is about the most significant historic structure in Dedham, Massachusetts, and most likely the smallest as well.

I've never trespassed inside a building in service of this blog. I have, however, done some external trespassing, although on a very small scale. Two and a half years after posting about the former O'Hara Waltham Dial Company, I revisited the site, this time checking out the backside. Not sure why I didn't think of doing that sooner. In the July 8, 2013, post, "What a Dump: A Different View," I found myself face to face with this sign:

I didn't go over the fence, but I felt that in simply walking around the area, I was potentially exposing myself to hazardous waste. I snapped a few pictures and moved on.

August 19, 2013, brought another post by Pete Zarria, "Backside Business," featuring cool shots of old hotels, markets and restaurants in Iowa, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Missouri.

On September 4, 2013, I published the first of a four-part series about Chelsea, Massachusetts, "Chelsea Stroll." I shot photos of a dive bar, a really old municipal garage, a run-down residency hotel and a Russian steam bath. I did not, however, venture to take pictures of King Arthur's Lounge.

I'm happy we can share at least one post by Joe Viger. On November 18, 2013, he posted a beautiful shot of a back alley in New York City, in "New York Escape."

In "The Big Reveal" from December 10, 2013, I got a rare picture of a mural that was painted on a school in my adopted hometown on Newton, Massachusetts, in 1981. The mural had been covered for years by a loading dock, but when construction workers began renovating the building, they revealed it for just a short time, before it was torn up.

To wrap up the year, on December 26, 2013, I posted the first of several posts about named buildings, "What's In a Named Building? (Part 1)."

Here are links to the previous three installments of this series:

"Anniversary Post #3: My Favorites from 2012."

"Anniversary Post #2: My Favorites from 2011."

"Anniversary Post #1: My Favorites from 2010."

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Anniversary Post #3: My Favorites from 2012

From Dave Brigham:

This is the third in a series celebrating the 7th anniversary of the blog (for links to the prior two installments, see the bottom of this post). This post covers 2012, which to date is the high water mark for The Backside of America with 92 posts.

I need to mention that Joe Viger has contributed some amazing photos and fantastic write-ups over the years, but I'll be linking to very few of them in this series. Why? Because Joe -- an amazing photographer who has served as a mentor of sorts to me in that regard, and a great friend I've known for nearly 30 years -- has changed the security settings on his Flickr account so that many of his photos that have run on this blog show up as broken links now. I will instead direct you to his wonderful online portfolio.

As regular readers of the blog are well aware, I've chronicled the former mill city of Waltham, Mass., quite a bit. I live in the next town over, so I find it easy to hit a few spots at a time as I drive through the city. Two weeks apart in January I posted about just such a two-bird-with-one-stone situation.

On January 13, 2012, I posted black and white photos (a rarity for me, and the blog) of Mt. Feake Cemetery in "Peaceful Rest." On January 27, 2012, in "Smoke On the Water," I told the story of Nuttings on the Charles, a boathouse that was used for roller skating, boxing, dancing and concerts.

(Mt. Feake Cemetery)

On February 25, 2012, a guy calling himself lostlosangeles shared "Gathering Nutrients" with us. A simple post, yes, but it seems so unreal, so Hollywood.

Kristen Smith takes great photos, and those she posted on March 1, 2012, in "Nice Little House" are no exception. A simple house, passed by countless times, finally lures one in. And a record is made for posterity.

It's no secret that I enjoy writing a good series. On March 22, 2012, I concluded a three-part write-up about Snow Hill in Dover, Mass. "Fresh-Air Salvation" is about an outdoor worship space, something that I, someone who does not practice religion, found very spiritual.

(Abigail Draper Mann Woodland Worship Center, the Dover Church)

Heidi Waugaman-Page posted a gorgeous photo of an old train by the roadside in Sunapee, NH, on April 14, 2012. In "Long Gone Train," she also shared a shot of a nearby garage.

The train is no longer there, nor is the spooky barn that David Burke shared with the blog in "Bakerville Barn" on April 28, 2012. That's why we shoot these places -- to document them for future generations.

(Bakerville Barn in New Hartford, CT)

The blog has lost touch with David Burke, which is really too bad, because he took some great photos. In his May 12, 2012, post, "Stanley Works," he shared an amazing shot of a shuttered Stanley Works factory in New Britain, CT.

Pete Zarria (a nom de plume; say it out loud) has benefited the blog in at least two ways: sharing fantastic photos, and covering a good portion of the Midwest, allowing us to fulfill a bit more of our nationwide mandate. On May 16, 2012, he posted a shot of a great old sign in Marshalltown, Iowa -- one of dozens he has shared with the blog over the years -- in "Advertising Ghost."

My May 18, 2012, post, "Aqueduct, My Friend," (yes, I enjoy writing headlines, and often use musical references) represents the most exciting type of Backside post for me, in that it is about a place that took me completely by surprise.

I'd driven past this stone marker numerous times before I finally pulled over and investigated. Click through the link above to see what I found.

On May 21, 2012, the blog ran the first installment of a week-long look at graffiti. That was the first and only time we offered up a series in that format. I'd like to do that again. "Graffiti Week, Part I" featured several shots I took at Cat Rock Park in Weston, Mass. Here again this represents something I love about exploring: I went looking for, and found, remnants of an old ski hill, but I found much more than I could ever have expected.

(Long-abandoned snack shack at Cat Rock Park.)

Pete Zarria takes a lot of photos of old service stations, some of them restored. He shared a few from Kansas and Illinois with the blog in his July 2, 2012, post, "Fill 'Er Up, Part II."

(Nicely refurbished gas station along Route 66 in Kansas.)

Those who have any familiarity with Cambridge, Mass., might be surprised to learn, as I was a few years ago, about the extensive canal system that once ran through the city that's home to MIT and Harvard University. In "Where's the Gondolier?" from November 5, 2012, I shot photos of the last remnants of that system, Broad Canal along Memorial Drive.

I have found countless spots to explore over the years by using Google Maps. Once such site was the "Old Rifle Range" that popped up one day as I looked online for places to wander. On December 4, 2012, I wrote about and shared photos of the range in Concord, Mass., that dates to World War I. "Concord, Part I: Old Rifle Range" was the first of a three-part series about the Boston suburb that was so important to the Revolutionary War effort.

Every year around Christmas on the Backside of America Facebook page I share the photo that David Burke posted on December 25, 2012, of a chimney in Canton, CT, with a Christmas decorations on it. You can see it at the "Merry Christmas" post, but not in real life. It was dismantled to make way for a shopping complex.

Here are the prior two installments:

"Anniversary Post #2: My Favorites from 2011"

"Anniversary Post #1: My Favorites from 2010"

Coming up next: my favorites from 2013, including a mural, long hidden from view, that surfaced temporarily before being dismantled; great stuff from the Midwest and Southeast by Pete Zarria; an amazing roadside religious icon; and a post about an important part of my childhood, revisited.