Friday, September 10, 2021

Gould

From Pine Bluff, I tried to head out to take a few more pictures. But I got turned around and missed a turn, and the phone GPS sent me on a weird direction that I hadn't planned on following. Whoops. The change in route did head by a few interesting places, so I diligently pulled over and tried to get a few pictures when I could.

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And this shell of an old barn, which looks like it won't be standing much longer.

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I headed into the small town of Gould and stopped at the old Gould Auto Parts store, which was completely covered in vines.

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Even the front door was nearly hidden away.

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For a comparison, here's how the same place looked during a visit back in 2014:

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Sunday, September 5, 2021

Pine Bluff

The other day I had some free time so I made a quick trip down to Pine Bluff, which is a great place to take pictures. Pine Bluff has lots of old, unique and interesting architecture.

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This was a sign for Henry Marx Co., a clothing store that opened way back in 1895. The store closed after 101 years in business, in 1996.

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Nearby was this tile mosaic, the final remains of what was once a building here. In the background is the Hotel Pines.

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This building sat near the busy train tracks...

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Pine Bluff has unfortunately been given an unkind and unfair reputation. But despite that, the city seems to really be trying to regain its status as the preeminent city of southeast Arkansas. In the past few years, the city has unveiled a streetscape project that has expanded sidewalks and added new landscaping and light fixtures along Main Street. Along with that, the city has also opened a state-of-the-art Pine Bluff/Jefferson County library, the Pine Bluff Aquatic Center, the 601 Main Street Plaza, and an expansion of the Arts and Science Center Art Space.

During the rennovations of a building along Main Street, an old ghost sign was exposed when a modern facade was removed. The sign was for the Sweetland Confectionary, which once boasted the coffee in town.

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Just across the street is another old sign, this one for a local attorney.

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Just around the corner was this row of neat old buildings, which includes the Masonic Temple (built 1902-1912).

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A few blocks away is the Jefferson County Courthouse, which was built in 1856 and is one of the oldest courthouses in Arkansas. It was almost destroyed by fire in 1976, but the original facade was saved and restored.

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One of my favorite buildings in Pine Bluff is the old Saenger Theater, which opened in 1924. Would love to see this old gem get fixed up and preserved.

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While heading out of town I passed by this old building and got a quick question. A Google search for the Pine Bluff Iron Works found a Facebook page, but sadly the last post was in 2011 saying that "It is with a heavy heart to report our 107year old business is officially closed."

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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

St. Andrew

I had to run some errands downtown, so I brought the infrared camera with me. I made a quick stop outside of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, which was built way back in 1881. The steeple is 220 feet tall, and was the tallest structure in Little Rock until 1916, when the dome of the Arkansas State Capitol took over the title. It is still the ninth tallest structure in the city, surprisingly taller than the 300 Third Tower and the Marriott Little Rock (the old Excelsior/Peabody).

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Sunday, August 29, 2021

St. Louis

Despite all the pictures in the last post here, we did see more of St. Louis besides the Arch. But I didn't bring a camera into most of the other places we visited (like Busch Stadium or the Zoo). One afternoon we drove away from downtown and visited Crown Candy Kitchen, a cute little restaurant we saw featured on a TV show. The food was good (Jonah was excited about the ice cream and candy), although none of us were brave enough to order the sandwich with 14 pieces of bacon on it.

On the way up there, we passed by a good number of interesting old buildings. Of course I didn't have a camera with me - they were resting back at the hotel. Now I do realize it takes a certain level of person to fall in love with and to be married to a photographer. Someone with infinite levels of patience and grace, who will let an absent-minded person drift off into thoughts of driving around looking for photogenic old buildings. Luckily I married one of those saintly people. And after lunch, Caroline said she would look after Jonah for a bit if I wanted to go and take a few pictures. So I took her up on the offer and hurried to get a few pictures while they visited the City Museum.

So with cameras in hand, I backtracked by some of the neat old buildings that we drove by earlier.

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Of course I wasn't the only one out there with a camera....

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This graffiti was on a nearby building, which just made me think of the poor sister in Parasite.

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St. Louis has a deep history. The area that is now St. Louis was the home of the Native American Mississippian culture, who built massive mounds on both sides of the Mississippi River. The city of St. Louis was founded in 1763, and it would soon grow in prominence as the U.S. began moving into the western frontier. In 1904, St. Louis hosted both the World's Fair and the Olympics, and was the first city outside of Europe to host the games. The population of St. Louis peaked in 1950 at 856,000. But it has been steadily decreasing since then, with a current population sitting around 300,000 people.

The reasons for that population loss are many, and have been written about by people much more knowledgable about it than I am. But the evidence of that population loss is evident by the number of abandoned homes, many of which were built prior to World War II.

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These neighborhoods are not empty, and I felt incredibly self-concious driving around taking pictures. I was some guy from out-of-state, running around taking pictures of the buildings that had been left behind in this area of the city. I didn't want to seem exploitative, since I do love finding and taking pictures of old buildings. But I really don't think anyone saw me or really cared that I was there, but I hated that someone might have thought I was there with bad intentions.

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And another shot of the same building, but this one was with the infrared camera:

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Nearby was this old Catholic church, which was built in 1889. Although the church has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it closed in the 1990s. The building has since been turned into a private skateboard park, with ramps and slopes installed where the congregation and altar once stood.

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I stopped at a few other places nearby, like this old industrial-looking building:

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And also this partially-burned old brick home.

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Further down the road was this old block of homes. It would be amazing to know the history of this building, and the people who once lived here.

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Nearby was another set of old homes, these completely covered with vines.

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From there I headed back towards downtown and stopped at Union Station. The iconic station was built in 1904, and it became one of the largest and busiest train stations in the world.

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Across the street from the station is the fountain called "The Meeting of the Waters." The fountain is meant to celebrate the meetings of the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers. The male figure represents the Mississippi River, while the female figure represents the Missouri. They are joined by 17 water spirits, which are symbolic of the 17 smaller streams that empty into the two rivers. The fountain sits in Aloe Plaza, and was installed in 1939. Since the two main statues are nude, I'm guessing it's named Aloe Plaza since that's what the naked statues would need to use after getting sunburned from having so much exposed skin.

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There are a bunch of family-friendly attractions around Union Station, and we returned later that day with Jonah to go up in the Ferris wheel. The wheel stands 200 feet tall and provides some great views of Union Station and downtown St. Louis.

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Sunday, August 22, 2021

Gateway Arch National Park

As a special treat before Jonah started kindergarten, we decided to take him on a little trip up to St. Louis for a few days. We hit a lot of the kid-friendly places there, like the St. Louis Zoo, the City Museum and a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium. Thanks to the Delta variant, it wasn't the best time to travel, but we wore masks and did our best to social distance from people whenever we could. We booked a hotel downtown, which provided this view of the place that Jonah said was his favorite place on our trip - the Gateway Arch.

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We also had this view, looking down at the busy intersection of Broadway and Washington.

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And I did bring the infrared camera with me, so I got this shot from the hotel window too.

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And I also brought the infrared camera with me when we walked to the Arch (my apologies to anyone who is tired of seeing infrared pictures!).

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It had been about 15 years since I had last been up into the Arch. A lot has changed since then - the grounds of the Arch have been competely redone and improved. A cap has been placed over the freeway that divides the Arch from the rest of downtown, and a brand new visitor's center has been built.

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The other big change is that the Arch is now a National Park, which happened in 2018. By doing so, the Gateway Arch took the designation of the country's smallest National Park away from Hot Springs. Gateway Arch is only 192 acres, compared to Hot Springs' 5,549 acres. They are both miniscule compared to the country's largest National Park - Wrangell St. Elias National Park in Alaska with its 8.3 million acres.

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We went through the visitor's center and then walked through the museum underneath the Arch (which has all been redone). Thanks to Covid, only a limited number of people were allowed to go up to the top, and could only be up there for 15 minutes. Before going in we were nervous that Jonah would get freaked out while riding the tiny and cramped elevators that go up to the top, but he thought it was like a ride and was excited about it. After a few minutes we were at the top and we hurried to one of the windows to see the view...

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I only brought the infrared camera with me, but I did get this shot using the wide angle on the Iphone.

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And then our time was up and we had to make our way back to the elevators and then onto the solid ground. On the walk back to the hotel I got one last shot with the infrared:

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After putting Jonah to bed, I headed out and got a few more pictures of the Arch at dusk.

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And the Arch towering over the Old Cathedral, which is formally known as the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France. The cathedral was built in 1834 and was the first cathedral built west of the Mississippi River. The writing on the front translates as "In honor of St. Louis. Dedicated to the one and triune God. A.D. 1834."

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From there, I headed over to the Old Courthouse and Kiener Plaza. A prominent part of the plaza is the statue of the "Olympic Runner," and which was installed in honor of Harry J. Kiener (a local who was part of the the U.S. track team at the 1904 Olympics, which was held here in St. Louis).

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The plaza has a great view of the Old Courthouse, which was completed in 1864. In 1846, the courthouse was the setting for the infamous Dred Scott case. And up until 1894, it was the tallest structure in the city.

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And another Iphone shot of the Old Courthouse and the Arch, from a rooftop bar where we got a quick drink one evening:

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And one last shot, taken while we were getting ready to check out of the hotel. The light from the rising sun was casting a golden hue on the Arch...

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