Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's pronounced "CAR-my"

A long drive to a country town is always a good way to experience the way highways used to function: passing right through the proper of a variety of little hamlets. Since I've been to Jenna's hometown of Albion so many times, a few of the preceding villages are like old friends of mine. Some of them, like Grayville, Crossville and Mt. Carmel have been mentioned on here before.

In fact, I've spoken of Carmi before in my last batch of movie theaters . Their Showtime Cinema was a favorite quick-glance-from-the-passenger-side sight. Recently, we finally got a chance to explore the town.

We've seen it all before, of course. Rows of grandfatherly business buildings, some populated, some renovated tastelessly, many vacant. Very few people--although I grant it was a very cold day. This NOT being Arkansas, however, there was a bit more to see than usual, and quite a few extraordinarily beautiful buildings.

The folks of Carmi call this fantastic collage of late 19th century styles "The Castle." Like most beautiful buildings in this country, it faced destruction in the latter half of the 20th century, but a group of historic historians saved it. It faces the courthouse just on the edge of downtown. Take a look at the little winged creatures on the rooftops.

The 1883 courthouse is the seat of Illinois' version of White County. Ours, however, is older (1870s) and commands more of a presence in Searcy's square. Carmi's downtown is more a thoroughfare, however, whereas Searcy's is a square.

Oh! There are some ghost signs.

"TIMES" probably stands for "Carmi Times," whose building is close to the river. Take a look at this picture of their amazing streamline modern sign on their current building (from my old favorite Roadside Architecture; good LORD she's been everywhere).

The entire side of this building was once a sign. "GRADE CHEWING" of course stands for the stuff stuck between Babe Ruth's teeth.

Not really a ghost sign, I know. But it is a beautifully sculpted logo on the side of a (I believe) vacant building that was once a Ford showroom. Wow! Back from the days when car showrooms actually fit INSIDE of our towns. "The Universal Car" is apparently what Henry "in the year of our" Ford dubbed his inventions way back in 1908. This sign may be that old.

Here are some more photos from in and around the business district.

A residence (I believe now used as a funeral home) with some serious Ionic columns. The fountain out front tends to freeze in a picturesque fashion in the colder months. Here is a fantastic picture of the latter.

A very 1960s exterior job on one of the downtown buildings. This business no longer exists but the neon work has been preserved.

A radio station now lives in what once was a neoclassical bank.

This is a very old-looking and well-kept house a few streets over from Main. The steel roof is unfortunate, but at least is colored tastefully. I wouldn't be surprised if this were one of the older buildings in town.

Evidence of train industry is still moldering a few blocks away from Main. There are a few abandoned factories and warehouses, including some old ghosts like this one. I couldn't find a depot at all; it may be lurking somewhere back there, but wind burn precluded a more thorough search.

On the way back to Albion, we stopped in a mucky drive to take this final picture:

These are the bones of a drive-in theater screen. The grounds nearby are mostly home now to a selection of rusting vehicles and other trash. I wanted to go farther back and see if any more of the theater remained standing, but there was the aforementioned wind burn and muck, so we retreated.

Until our paths cross again,

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