Friday, June 9, 2017

Anniversary Post #7: My Favorites from 2016

From Dave Brigham:

This is the seventh installment celebrating the 7th anniversary of The Backside of America. This post covers my favorites from 2016; there will be an eighth post in which I will ramble on about the joys and frustrations of maintaining this blog, and yell at the children to get off my lawn. For links to the previous six installments, see the bottom of this post.

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.

This blog focuses a lot on the broken, the rusty, the abandoned and the forgotten. But there is always room for the resurrected, the renovated, the repurposed and the refurbished. On January 14, 2016, Mick Melvin shared a nice story about a traffic control tower in Meriden, Connecticut. "Traffic Stop" taught me, and probably many readers, about an old-school traffic management system.


(Traffic control tower in Meriden, CT.)

I love old mill towns, with their massive factory complexes, surplus of railroad tracks and bridges, practical homes and churches catering to immigrants. On January 27, 2016, I posted about the few hours I spent in Clinton, Massachusetts. In "Finding Hope, But Losing a Mainstay, in Clinton," I walked through an 1,100-foot, graffiti-covered former Central Mass. Railroad tunnel; snapped photos of ticket booths outside what locals claim is the oldest continuously used baseball field in the world; and captured the wonderful neon sign of a restaurant that closed not long after I visited the city.

Into the light

(Exiting the abandoned tunnel in Clinton, Mass.)

On February 4, 2016, I posted about an adventure in my hometown of Simsbury, Connecticut. With some family members, I explored the remnants of a once-thriving village along an old stagecoach route, a place I'd never heard of growing up. "Stealing Back Into the Past of My Hometown" features photos of old wells, cellar holes and stone walls.

In "Bunker Buster" from February 17, 2016, I chronicled one of the coolest places I've ever explored: the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. I've got two words for you: ammunition bunkers.

(World War II-era bunker at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.)

On February 23, 2016, in "A Slice of Heaven," Mick Melvin told the story of a park in Hartford that once featured b-ball courts and chess tables, and which now is called Heaven Skateboard Park.

On February 29, 2016, the blog took a leap into one of the most iconic Massachusetts suburbex locations: Medfield State Hospital. Courtesy of Derek Watts's "Shuttered Asylum," we got to see beautiful photos of the asylum, which was open from 1896-2003.

The year was front loaded with some great posts, including "Shakin' All Over," my account from March 5, 2016, about a former Shaker village in Harvard, Mass., and its unusual cemetery.

Wrapping up the first quarter of 2016 was "Big Walk in Littleton," one of several posts around this time in which I attempted to profile an entire town. In this March 30, 2016, post, I took on the former farming town of Littleton, Mass., and featured an old train station, an abandoned juice plant, a cool house built in 1673 and a chimney in the middle of the woods.

(Abandoned farm house in Littleton, Mass.)

The hit parade continued on April 7, 2016, with "Sweet and Junky," my chronicle of a visit to a chocolate factory cheek-by-jowl with a junkyard in Somerville, Mass.

In "No More Bell to Toll," from May 3, 2016, Kristen Smith shared gorgeous photos and the story behind the first Estonian Lutheran Church in the country, located in Wisconsin.

On May 7, 2016, in "Last Stop," Derek Watt shared some beautiful shots from a transportation graveyard in New England.

(Trains in the graveyard.)

We focus quite a bit on railroads here at the blog. I find it hard to believe how an industry that once was so vital and omnipresent across our country has become an afterthought in so many places. In "Station In Need of Preservation," from June 21, 2016, Mick Melvin told us about a train station in Windsor Locks, Conn., that may one day be preserved.

On July 19, 2016, I posted "Tobacco Road," about an adventure I enjoyed on many levels: I had my mother with me; I saw some cool old tobacco barns and a decrepit church; I did a bunch of research online and learned about this little plantation not far from where I grew up.

(Church in the Floydville section of East Granby, Conn.)

July 26, 2016, was a great day on the blog, as we featured Derek Watts's fantastic shots of the inside of the old Victory Theatre in Holyoke, Mass. In "V for Victory," he posted photos of the theater's interior, taken with permission.

My post from August 1, 2016, found me alternately paranoid and ecstatic to be walking along some long-abandoned railroad tracks. "I Rail Against Trails (Not Really, But I Don't Want Every Abandoned Set of Train Tracks Converted for Cyclists and Roller Bladers)" is not only the longest headline the blog has ever published, but also a fantastic adventure, with a side trip to a graffiti-covered snack truck.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have a thing for churches and religious icons, even though I'm not at all a spiritual guy. On September 16, 2016, in "Like a Virgin," I wrote about and posted photos of the amazing Madonna, Queen of the Universe Shrine in East Boston, Mass.

Every so often I get one or both of my kids to accompany me a on a Backside jaunt. In "Rockin' in the Dungeon" from October 21, 2016, I chronicled a trip the three of us took to Dungeon Rock in Lynn, Mass.

Water towers in New York City caught Mick Melvin's eye in his November 15, 2016, post, "Water You Talking About."

(NYC water tower.)

On December 22, 2016, Derek Watt shared gorgeous photos of a historic home under renovation in Hudson, New York.

(Door detail from Dr. Oliver Bronson House, Hudson, NY.)

We wrapped up the year with "What's Auers is Yours" on December 29, 2016. I'm highlighting this post because it features an adventure that somebody else took me on, which is rare. My buddy Gary and his family hosted my family and me as we walked through the historic Auerfarm property in Bloomfield, Conn.

(Window from old apple barn at Auerfarm.)

Here are the previous six installments in this anniversary series:

"Anniversary Post #6: My Favorites from 2015"

"Anniversary Post #5: My Favorites from 2014"

"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"

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