Making Old Buildings New

My prior post was about the decline of American industry and the remnants of associated buildings left behind. I saw lots of “beauty” in that regard, and decided while making those photos to take a look at how local community developers and elected officials have decided to improve on that situation. I recently began following a blog written by a couple living in Greensboro, NC who live in a renovated textile plant in that city, which is attracting many young people like them. I decided to take a look closer to home here in Martinsville, VA and what follows is what I saw recently.

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For years I drove by a somewhat rundown brick building that once was home to the Martinsville Novelty Company. What’s a “novelty” you ask. Good question and certainly not something we see anymore with that title. Wikipedia defines this as “A novelty item is an object which is specifically designed to serve no practical purpose, and is sold for its uniqueness, humor, or simply as something new.” I remember as a kid seeing ads in comic books that touted many “novelties” each of which captured my attention. Anyway, I digress. Several years ago a developer purchased the building and turned it into a very nice apartment complex with lots of amenities. The adjacent parking lot was crowded the day I visited to make this photo. Success number one!

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Success number two. The historic Henry Hotel sat for years in the center of Martinsville, and served its purpose well. Then it closed years ago. Recently another developer gave the building a new chance in life. Martinsville’s Historic Henry Hotel is now The Henry, a 25-unit downtown loft complex. Small businesses were attracted and that has helped put a bit more vibrancy into the city, previously impacted by closures of many local major industries.

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Lastly, and perhaps most significant is what has happened to the main production facility for Tultex, Inc located here in Martinsville. The city was once referred to as “the sweatshirt capital of the world”, due to Tultex’s production of athletic and other popular lines of clothing. Then along came China to compete, and “boom” Tultex and many companies like it shuttered their facilities. The loss of jobs had a obvious significant impact on Martinsville, but left behind was a very large multi-story brick building. That changed due to forward-looking and wise action on the part of many people. A portion of the plant has been converted to office space with large meeting/conference facilities, that have over the past several years, added a lot to the community. Here’s what it looks like today in its new life.

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I’m proud to have been witness to the transformation processes related to each of the three examples I cited above. I already mentioned one such success in Greensboro, plus I’m aware of many other examples elsewhere in North Carolina and Virginia. It makes me proud to see what’s happening. We Americans are indeed adaptable.

Beauty in the decline of industry

We live in the Piedmont Region of Virginia and North Carolina. Once, this area was a major source of economic progress for the United States. Especially textiles, furniture, and tobacco. For various reasons, our politicians helped drive those industries into partial or full decline. My purpose here is not to judge all that, it’s done. However, I do want to share some photos I made recently that show the remains of some of those industries, namely textile and furniture near where we live. Martinsville VA (textiles) and Bassett VA (furniture). I find black and white presentation to show best what I want. There is a bright 9colorful) side to all this, but I’ll make you wait until my next post for that.

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Door One or Door Two

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I saw this scene in Madison, NC yesterday in a dry goods store, operating out of an early 1900s building that once housed a hotel in one half, while the other half was a hardware store. It’s a rustic and very enjoyable place to shop, and to make photos. These two rooms were for trying on clothes. The scene definitely caught my photographic eye.

Trains don’t stop here anymore

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I’ve written many times that I love trains and most things associated with them. Especially old depots such as this one in Madison, NC. Trains still use the adjacent tracks, and that’s good. It’s just that they don’t stop here anymore. When I visit such locations I like to imagine what it was like living here during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s in America when passenger and freight trains were the main mode of transportation, and many small cities and towns like Madison were serviced daily. When I was a young boy I recall traveling about on passenger trains with my parents, going from city-to-city. It was exciting, albeit a bit daunting, to have to walk along a passenger and baggage platform that ran in between train depot tracks, where massive locomotives sat waiting to depart. The steam engines hissed and rumbled above me as we walked along. But I began to relax as we boarded our train, with a friendly uniformed Conductor helping me climb the steep steps into our assigned car. I always had a window seat with my face plastered to the glass most of the time, peering out at passing sights. These are memories I’ll never forget. I guess that’s why I like making photos at places like this old depot.

Madison’s Dry Goods Country Store

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We live about fifteen driving minutes away from Madison, NC. The small town of about 2000 is located in the Piedmont Region of Virginia and North Carolina, and its downtown business district is a favorite place for me to visit. Always with my camera. In that regard I offer up Madison’s Dry Goods Country Store.  I love visiting and shopping in stores like this, and believe me I’ve been in many. The unique thing about here is the friendly atmosphere, and quality clothing and other goods sold, at reasonable prices. Here are some photos I made to give you a taste. If you are in Rockingham County NC,  I encourage you to visit Madison, as I did this past week, leaving with a just purchased nice flannel shirt and fleece vest. I’m ready for winter now!

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Farming in the Virginia Mountains

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Farming above 3000 feet can’t be easy. Living in an environment with rocky soils, harsh weather and relative remoteness in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, hearth folk have thrived for hundreds of years. I love driving along ridge lines and through winding valleys, capturing what I see with my cameras. These images were made last month and reflect the unique beauty of it all.

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Exploring in Alaska

I’m no expert by any means when it comes to locations to visit in Alaska. However, I have been there five times since 1999 (most recently last month) and I’ve seen quite a lot of territory via air, sea and land transportation. I’ve traveled on 1-2 week small ship organized tours, organized land tours; and most recently on my own, unencumbered by departure schedules and limited time to devote to any single destination. We simply flew to Anchorage, rented a car and off we went exploring. Here’s a tip if you decide such an option is for you. Definitely drive about an hour north from Anchorage and visit the Historic Independence Gold Mine. I don’t believe it’s on most organized tour itineraries, and that’s what made it so special to me. The photos below are what we saw, spending a leisurely half-day walking around over marked trails, easy and less so. That afternoon we drove up the winding Hatcher Pass road to Summit Lake (another incredible destination not on your typical organized tour). I’ll post photos from there in a future blog post.

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Mountain Market

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It’s the time of year here in SW Virginia when mountain area markets display outside all kinds of produce and other items that tempt visitors to grab their wallets and buy. Like the five-foot high, painted metal roosters above. What I’d do with one is a good question, but it’s still interesting. And no, I didn’t buy one. Fresh-picked peaches, apples and other farm produce fill baskets outside the market. It’s one of my favorite places to visit during the spring, summer and fall seasons. The locally-made, hand-sized Fried Apple Pies sold there are a great treat.

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Rustic Log Cabin

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I found this really neat log cabin in Danbury, NC recently and it was very nice being able to walk around it, making photos from various angles. Whenever I find such structures, my mind begins to ask questions. Such as: when was the last time anyone lived here, who were they, what did they do to make a living, and is there buried treasure nearby (just kidding). I love American history like this. Enjoy seeing what I saw.

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Danbury, NC — Small but Historic

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Danbury, NC was not a location of American Civil War battles but it was, toward the end of the conflict, part of Union forces forays through the state, destroying Confederate facilities that had some relation to sustaining the war. The iron works near the town were one such target, as were rail lines. Today, Danbury is home to some historic and beautiful buildings such as the old Stokes County Courthouse (above-below) and the adjacent Moodys Tavern (third image) which was headquarters for Union Army forces in the area. Part of the old building is now home to a few of the approximate 200 residents of the town, and it still has the “look” of what it once was. The next photo I liked very much, because I was not expecting to find such a building there. It’s a nicely designed small building used by the town’s present day government, and it fits in very well with surrounding facilities. Last, is a small church I found a bit of a walk away from the courthouse. I liked the wooden cross at ground level by the freshly painted white picket fence. Danbury isn’t a place most folks would travel “to”, but mostly “trough.” I’m glad I stopped.

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