Thursday, May 28, 2009

A quarter of Maine

Here's something I learned today.

The lighthouse on the Maine quarter is a real place. Not only is it a real place, but we inadvertently visited it on an exploratory drive.

The lighthouse is at Pemaquid Point, a remote coastal location about 45 minutes from our bed & breakfast in Boothbay Harbor. Of course, it's on the Historical Register (I think probably the entire state of Maine is on the register). The perilous point was the site of a couple of late 1600s shipwrecks, whose passengers went on to settle in places like New York and Massachusetts.

Once you get into the lighthouse, which we didn't expect to be able to, since the brochure said it was closed on rainy days, you see this:

Most of the complex is a museum these days, but the 1856 fourth-order Fresnel light is still used to ward ships from impaling themselves. Members of the coast guard arrive every now and then to replace the bulbs. Once at the top of the tower, the viewer sees this:

The view would be grander on a clearer day, but the ocean never changes. Outside the lighthouse tower is another unusual building:

This mid-1800s building once held the lighthouse's bell. These bell towers are now a rarity, and Pemaquid's is one of the last remaining. Hurricane Bob knocked it over in the 90s, but it was repaired.

Whew. I tell you what, Maine is far too easy. Everywhere I turn there's beautiful stuff, weird stuff, ancient stuff. Some of them I can't believe I missed when I was little. Expect to see more.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fill 'er Up

Readers may remember when I mentioned all of the abandoned gas stations lining highway 367. Old gas stations are one of my favorite subjects, simply because they are positively everywhere. They also tend to be cunningly hidden, which presents a fair challenge. Highway 367 is brimming with them if one knows where to look.

Our good friend the metal dinosaur (now painted green!) heralds the start of the gas station parade. Most old stations were quite small, featuring one or two garages, an office/supply shop, and usually no more than two pumps. As more and more people bought cars, and the larger gas companies started building convenient stores and restaurants into their stations, the smaller ones became outmoded. Many, however, remain viable businesses, but no longer retain their gasoline-selling identity and are devoid of pumps. In fact, the car dealership to which metal dino belongs is a former station.

The telltale sign is the concrete island to dino's left. This is the structure which originally would have housed the two pumps: note the overgrown hold just to the right of the pole. Upon closer inspection, the hole contains many tubes which once would have connected to a pump.

Here are a few more old stations seen between Searcy and Bald Knob (click to enlarge):

All of the above stations are either completely abandoned or are still being used as auto repair shops. Sometimes, though, they take on an entirely new identity.

This station, only identifiable by its 60's or 70's wavy canopy, seems to have become a lumber yard and is completely fenced off.

This one, one of my favorites for its gigantic triangular canopy (seriously, that thing looks deadly), now houses a pecan business. We found this antique scale sitting outside:

The birds living in a hole somewhere in the ceiling haven't treated the scale very well.

This station's canopy peeks over the owners' burgeoning fruit and vegetable stand. Ever wanted to buy fresh tomatoes at a gas station?

This one (possibly an old Sinclair station) has been granted the unlikely job of Bald Knob Fire Station. It's right next to the Bald Knob Farmer's Market.

Sometimes it's pretty hard to know what these buildings used to be. I think the structure bulging from the right side of the building is added on and may cover what was once a garage. The only way I figured this one out is because of the distinctive curved filling station light post, seen on the far right of the frame. These particular light posts are present at an alarming number of gas stations, and some still linger in places where they have become meaningless. I still have yet to figure out the significance of these guys.

I love these old stations, but my favorite is one which I've mentioned before.

This is clearly the oldest station on the stretch, demonstrating its age with a highly individual architectural style including a decorative gable (closeup pictured at the top of the entry) and wooden garage doors. It's another one which is suffering from an identity crisis, having been transformed into a hair salon. But I'd rather have it house some business than none. It's listed on the national register of historical places, along with the cafe next to it which was designed by the same architect. Here's a closeup of the beautiful wooden garage doors:

Given the sheer number of stations on 367, It's clear that the road was once a heavily traveled thoroughfare. Now, the stations are just relics of a time when drivers could see more than just trees and 100-foot-tall signposts from the road.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ghost Town at Twilight

When Jenna and I traveled to Calico Rock, a tiny, but beautiful town situated around 15 miles northwest of Mountain View to shoot a wedding, the last thing we expected to find there was an honest-to-God ghost town. But find one we did.

The above picture is the functional half of Calico Rock, which includes a gorgeous cafe with a restored soda bar and a number of buildings with prominently displayed historical markers. The whole town is on a cliff overhanging the White River, which once brought steamboats to unload at the town's other half: the ghostly east side.

The town even goes so far as to acknowledge East Calico Rock's (AKA Peppersauce) undead condition. An iron bridge crosses the (notably unhealthy and non-steamboat-worthy) river into the east segment. A sign to the left gives a quick history of the once-thriving town, describing scenes such as swarms of vigilantes ridding the town's tavern district (Peppersauce Alley) of its scalawags once and for all (!) and the formerly busy Walnut Street thrumming with the noises of the factories and mills which made up the heart and lifeblood of Calico Rock. These factories, by the 1940s, had become unprofitable, and the buildings of East Calico were deserted. Here is Walnut Street at the present day, in its ectoplasmic preserved-but-not-quite-preserved glory:

Please forgive the poor lighting: we were ahead of dusk by only a few minutes. The tall building dominating the right side of the frame was a grocery store; the crumbling lot immediately to its left was once a movie theater; the next building was a barber shop, part of which seems to have been restored and moved into by an individual (we could hear the telltale sounds of television from within).

Closer to the river is this tiny "city jail," which I can only hope was once stuffed full of scalawags fresh from their troublemaking in Peppersauce Alley. I understand there are more town jails like this around here, and I intend to find them at some point.

Across from the city jail is this old feed store, which was covered in faded "Purina Chow" logos.

Many abandoned warehouses line the streets, each containing whatever dark machines the inhabitants of East Calico have left behind since the 40s.

Emerging from the foliage behind another warehouse is a menacing structure the map deliciously labels as an "incinerator."

Finally, at the end of Walnut Street, peeking through the trees, is what I learned to be a former church/schoolhouse. I discovered this particular building before the wedding and was able to decipher its identity from the preacher. Here is a final picture of it, from closer:

All in all, we didn't have enough time to fully explore Calico Rock and Peppersauce with justice. At a future date, I plan to return and shoot some more photos of the ghost town and some of its other buildings (like, apparently, a cheese factory).