Oh how nice it might be, to go back in time to shop in stores where just about everything was hand/machine made and locally grown in America. Not that foreign made goods and produce are not acceptable today, they certainly are, overall. My point is that life seemed much simpler early in the 20th Century. Choices were much more limited than they are today, and people interacted with store owners and employees more than they do today, such as standing in line at a chain grocery store check out, with automated scanners and payment terminals. I share with you some recent photos I made at two General Stores in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Enjoy.
Category Archives: America’s Past
Sadly, in my opinion, we no longer receive advertising sales pitches out-of-doors, on signs mounted or painted on billboards, structures and whatnot. I remember as a kid looking for such signs as we traveled in our old Ford Coupe along two-lane roads, slowly making our way to whatever destination it was. For a kid, told to “be quiet” in the back seat, this was great entertainment, especially when we found some sign that had humor in it. I miss those days, but I have to admit that my iPhone does a pretty good job keeping me entertained while traveling in our car today, so long as I’m not the driver. Enjoy some signs from our past.
As I travel short distances in the Blue Ridge Mountains I am impressed by the amount of labor early settlers had to exert to make homes, farm buildings and fencing to keep valued livestock contained. Hand labor using axes and saws after felling tree after tree resulted in fairly complex designs, all seeming to make the best use of what they had. Here are some examples I saw recently along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.
Starting with this old “stone” church in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there remain today an almost endless number of historical structures and objects, which are often referred to by photographers as views of “Americana.” Perhaps the modern roof on the church makes it less “historical” but the amount of loving labor it once took to haul and place thousands of mountain rocks together to make the walls and framed windows is impressive.
Looking at some more from our past, it seems as if old wooden barrels will never be replaced with metal or plastic. Thankfully, since I love the rustic nature of the wooden containers, holding fresh tomatoes or flowers.
And then there are many old wagon wheels just waiting for my camera.
And lastly, many “general stores” still operating today sell all sorts of fresh and homemade mountain goodies, with tables waiting to be used by visitors, especially during harvest time.
There are some photos which (for those having lived in the southern regions of the United States) might be recognized as being taken “down south.” My first photo involves a question. Why do old bank buildings look basically the same down south? Sadly, they no longer have the purpose they once did.
If you’re familiar with the Piedmont Regions of Virginia and North Carolina, you will recognize tobacco plants growing, soon to take over fields like this one. This crop is far less prevalent than it once was. That’s a good thing for many, not so much for others who make their living on the farm. Some of you may have labored picking tobacco leafs, which I understand was very hot and dirty work.
And then there are the numerous ponds and small marshy areas in the south. In their own way they are very beautiful with their vibrant colors at this time of year.
And lastly, it’s not hard to find old log-crib type farm structures down south, if you look for them. When I make photos of them, I like to look for a different view. Like this one.
Danville, Virginia has a vibrant railroad past, and it still has a passenger Amtrak line and busy Norfolk Southern freight line which pass through; Amtrak being a nice way to travel to New York City to the north, or New Orleans to the south. The first image below is the concrete arch railroad bridge crossing the Dan River. There are several auto and truck traffic bridges across the river at Danville as well.
The bridge which has always attracted my attention, however, is the original, steel-truss, Civil War era railroad bridge, that has been converted into a walking, biking and jogging path, for thousands of people annually. The details of the old bridge have always been of interest to this (not so old really) Army Engineer, and I suspect there are many just like me with the same opinion. Enjoy seeing what I saw.
One of my favorite locations to visit nearby with my camera is the old tobacco warehouse district in Danville, Virginia. There is a large project underway to renovate many of the old warehouses and administrative brick buildings into residential property, which is a good thing, but from a historical standpoint, I prefer to capture how it “once was” rather than how it “might be.” I am always on the lookout for interesting views there, and found some nice compositions recently “in between” two structures. I wonder what sort of vehicle, truck or train, once passed over the old timber roadway.
Here are two wider angle images that show the sort of buildings involved. This area was once a thriving business center that served the tobacco industry in the Virginia, North Carolina region.
Ferrum College created the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum in the early 1970s to document, interpret, and present the folk heritage of the Blue Ridge region. Since that time, the Institute has grown steadily, expanding its work throughout Virginia and Appalachia while maintaining an emphasis upon the western portion of the state. The Institute is located near Rocky Mount, Virginia. Not only are the exhibits educational, but they provide a great place for photographers. Buildings on the grounds have all been brought to the location and assembled or renovated using vintage techniques and materials. On certain weekends during the year, volunteers wearing hand made clothing of the style once worn in the region, engage in farming, cooking and other activcities all the while making themselves available to relate to visitors about their experiences.
Below are several examples of what’s available there. Truly, this is one of my favorite locations to visit with my camera. I seem to always find some new composition I’d not seen before. That’s what makes this so much fun. For those interested from a photographic standpoint, it’s a good idea to include some nice close-up views during a photo shoot such as this. It adds to the story you’re telling visually.
Henry, Virginia is really just a name and Zip Code, more than it is a small settlement, town or city. In fact, one of its few main remaining buildings is not much more than a great photo opportunity. The main draw for me are the train tracks that pass close by to that building, and the manner in which the vacant tracks pass into the distance, giving some nice perspective views. That was my mission the day I visited recently, to photograph the tracks with some interesting perspective views. As I was standing in the middle of the tracks with my camera in hand, I heard in the distance the soulful sound of an oncoming train, as it passed by distant road crossings I could not see. I was excited because this meant I’d be able to get a close up photo of the Norfolk Southern train engines as they passed by me, standing a safe distance of course. It was a very long coal train and since I was headed in the direction of the side of the tracks I was on, I decided to drive on with some nice photos. Before I left, however, I snapped an image of the town’s historic building. I have a lot of photos of that building which I’ve taken over the years. Henry, though very small, is one of my favorite locations in the Blue Ridge region.