Blue Ridge Store

This restored General Store and ESSO filing station is a popular place to visit, for those with photography in mind. There are others like it where we live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I give great credit and thanks to those who maintain them with “period” signs and fresh paint. If you find one like it where you live, go get it!

Finding and photographing our past

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I made this photo last summer. It’s a favorite, and had I not taken a dirt road I’d not have found it. Exploring can be rewarding. For a couple of reasons, I’ve been side-lined from my usual road trips seeking such photo treasures. Winter weather in April being one. So, I decided to publish some from 2017.  This cabin held many secrets, all based only on my imagination. Who lived here? When? Why is there a fireplace hearth outside on the chimney? There was evidence of a rock foundation near and perhaps it served as an enclosed cooking area. It’s fun to imagine. Here’s another example.

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This old structure appeared to have served several roles. A home and I suspect a small store based on the drive-through front. From all the junk around the place, I think it was most recently a location selling antiques. It was as you can see a dreary day and the house fit that mood perfectly. The rusty metal roof added to that. Why the cut logs? More questions remain unanswered.

I’m fortunate to live in SW Virginia where many photo opportunities such as these two are plentiful.  I just need to get out and about and find them. Summer 2018 approaches.

 

A Window

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When I find an old farm house, unoccupied of course, I always look for a window with tattered curtains, thinking what lies behind. Ghosts of past occupants? Nothing but junk? I suppose I’d jump out of my skin if a face suddenly appeared. This photo represents one of the best I’ve found lately … although I have many other nice ones in my collection. I love the texture of the wood siding and the faded tin roof.

Backyard Barns

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We live in a moderately “rural” part of SW Virginia, very near my second most favorite state, North Carolina, and one common sight I see all over both states down here are backyard storage buildings, I’m calling them “barns.” People do a lot of yard and garden work and for that a suitable place to store tools and such is required. Here are two just up the street from our house. I really like the red one best. Just because. Here’s a close up.

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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.

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.

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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Graveyard or Cemetery

I’ve been fortunate to have lived and traveled throughout Europe, and it was during one visit to England when I learned there is a difference between a “graveyard” and “cemetery.” It’s all related to a church. This United Methodist Church in southern New Jersey in the United States, illustrates my point. In the 17th Century, burial places located on church property in Europe were called graveyards, but as the population grew significantly in the 18th Century, church yard space was filled and thus burial locations were located some distance away and … cemeteries were created. I’m happy that the United States has so many close historical ties to Europe, especially Great Britain.

Colorful Cape May

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Cape May is situated along the southern shore of New Jersey and besides the interesting and beautiful Victorian Style homes, private and rental, the colors and welcoming atmosphere is what made it enjoyable for me last week. Here are a few images made that might make you want to visit. Very unique “beach” location.

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Historic Wright Tavern

Per North Carolina Historical Marker online research: “The Wright Tavern is a landmark in Rockingham County that has successfully been restored to its nineteenth century condition. Construction on the inn commenced around 1810. The building remained in the Wright-Reid family until it was sold to the Rockingham County Historical Society in 1967. “I’ve visited the site several times, and each time I do I see more than I’d seen before.

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I like to “get close” after making an overview photo, and by so doing I’ve been transported back in time. I especially liked the open “walk through” area between adjacent living areas, with the old stairway to the second floor..

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Details of the historic structure, and out-buildings made me smile. I’m even more pleased when I see the results of volunteers and others renovating rare buildings such as Wright Tavern, and by doing that they bring great credit to the locality involved.

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