Let me reset the table here, and remind you what this feature is all about. It’s about taking up space on the Internet with captioned pictures, thereby giving you something to snack on. But more than that, it’s a way to fill up the page so it seems like a substantial contribution to the daily flow of information.
Let me reset the resetting, since I appear to be stuck in some ridiculously “honest” mode. Like all other below-the-fold features, it started as a one-off; I had an old grocery store ad, and looked up the address. I saw a picturesque old town that had gone to seed - boarded up buildings, empty windows, tired old architecture that told the story of 20th century styles. Having boundless nostalgia for small towns and their little commercial centers, I thought this would be an interesting thing to explore. In short: what happened? What’s left? How many downtowns got hit with the retail neutron bomb, and how many boomers drive down these streets and think of the times they went shopping with Mom for school clothes, or bought candy at the Woolworth, or got a goldfish at the pet store?
This stuff makes me angry, and sad. It’s not a reaction I expect you to share; touring one broken-down (or trending up) small town after the other may seem like a strange and obsessive thing to do, like a parade of wrecked cars.
Let’s start with an old postcard.
Here’s the scene today.
The building on the right is occupied by the same firm: a furniture store. The rest of the block has suffered, obviously. Let’s zoom in:
VFW. Now square that picture with this:
VFW. Huh? Well, google away, and you find that the building - which looks like a 1950s structure - is actually the 1908 New Bjiou. And it’s falling apart.
Now let’s look across the street. Wow:
The Electric Building. Watch this.
All those bulbs must have looked fantastic.
Let’s turn around the corner and check another postcard view . . .
The building on the right, down the street, from another angle:
t looks the same. That has to be a rehab; we had the same colored panels in Minneapolis on the old Penneys store. But what was it? It’s so oddly proportioned. The second floor seems to indicate double-height space.
It didn’t age well, this style. It has nice green marble pasted on the bottom floor, the same kind as we have here on the NWL building. It’s falling off in spots.
A regrettable offshoot of Buckaroo Revival: the full enwoodening of facades.
Bollards keep people from running into the building if they've had a few.
I . . . OOF! International Order of Friends, of course. 1919, the hopeful year.
Strange ground floor, but the upstairs? Imagine what that meeting room was like.
The town has a row of ugly banks. This is a classic of the genre, let's say.
They loved those recessed windows, the architects of the day.
The people who worked inside, probably less so.
What a strange, bizarre little building. A church now - but was it once a movie theater?
Behold, the Crother-Wodding Block!
From Pinterest, an old picture of a much more interesting street:
The Pinterest caption says it's the home of "the legend of Billy Ghol and the Ladies of Aberdeen."
He'd shoot them and dump them in the river.
About the Ladies, I don't know.
Trees and low deep awnings: I suppose the latter helped with the rain, but they still the street look as if it has its cap brim pulled low over its eyes.
When I saw this vista, I wondered what the building in the foreground had looked like; surely it was brick, and they covered it with wood for some reason.
Then I thought: what's the abandoned structure in the background, behind the vacant lot that no doubt once held some buildings? Yes, I thought it exactly like that.
Well. There it is. The abandoned hotel.
That's not upside down.
Here's the good news:
That's from the hotel's website. And that's not all the good news. It's one of those towns that seems determined to bring it back and push it all forward.
Take a brief flight. Chances are you'll recognize some of the buildings, too - because now you know a bit more about a place you'd never thought about before.
Speaking for myself, anyway.
Oh: one more thing.