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).


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