Thursday, August 6, 2020

Major Loss: Beautiful 1903 Steel Arch Bridge over Jackson Road, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Old-timers remember when Confederate Avenue in the Vicksburg National Military Park crossed Jackson Road on a steel arch bridge. It was a beautiful example of early-20th century engineering - light, airy, and strong. I posted low-resolution contact sheet scans before, but as part of my National Park project, I scanned these 2002 negatives individually at 2400 dpi. In the 1980s, pedestrians could still cross the old bridge, but traffic was routed on a modern concrete bridge.

Photographers from the Library of Congress photographed the bridge as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey. According to the Library of Congress:
Notes
-  Significance: The steel arch bridge on Confederate Avenue in Vicksburg National Military Park is significant for its design. It is the only extant steel arch bridge in the State of Mississippi. The structure was included among a number of the state's historic bridges nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
-  Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N479
-  Survey number: HAER MS-12
-  Building/structure dates: 1903 Initial Construction
Look at the last photograph; you can see how a footing has been displaced and has tipped over. But the bridge is still standing, held up by three footings. The structure was not weak. Workmen from Riverside Construction of Vicksburg pulled down the span using a bulldozer and dump trucks on June 20, 2002. They cut up the steel and took it away for recycling.

This is how we lose our architectural and engineering heritage: no one cares, and boneheaded authorities take the cheap and easy way out. For shame.
This is a footing on the north side of the road.

These frames are from Kodak Tri-X Professional film exposed with a Tachihara 4×5 inch wood camera with 75mm ƒ/8 Schneider Super-Angulon or 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lenses. I scanned the negatives with an Epson 3200 Photo scanner and touched up dust or chemical blobs with Photoshop CS5.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Around Vicksburg 1998 (from the archives)

Dear Readers, I recently looked through a box of negatives and found a roll of Fuji NGII film from 1998. I remember a gorgeous spring day during which I was testing my new Leica 35mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron lens. I still have this lens and use it regularly. This will be a semi-random look at Vicksburg some two decades ago. (Click any picture to enlarge to 1600 pixels wide.)
Railroad depot, view north, 35mm ƒ/2 Summicron lens, polarizing filter
This is a popular scene that tourists see when they visit the Vicksburg waterfront and view the murals. The Mississippi Valley and Yazoo Railroad Depot was built in 1907 and now houses The Old Depot Museum. The Vicksburg Southern Railroad (VSOR), owned by Watco, operates these tracks for occasional freight to the Port of Vicksburg and to International Paper north of the community of Redwood.
Mulberry Street, Vicksburg 
Lower Grove Street with the Biscuit Company and Velchof's Corner restaurants
Levee Street, view northeast
I took these frames from an apartment on the 3rd floor of the depot. Some young guys were renting the apartment and they kindly let me go out on their balcony. That was before the depot was restored in 2011-2012 (recall how it flooded during the spring 2011 high water). A kidney dialysis clinic occupied the ground floor and the 2nd floor may have been unoccupied.
Former rail sidings at the site where the M/V Mississippi IV is now permanently mounted. 1990 4×5" Fuji 50 transparency, taken on a B&J camera
Since I took these 1998 frames, a number of changes have come to downtown. 10 South Restaurant has been built on top of the bank building. In the lower picture, the M/V Mississippi IV has been permanently mounted on the old railroad tracks beyond the furniture barn, and the Jesse Brent Lower Mississippi River Museum has been built at 910 Washington Street.
Nice Chevrolet! Corner of Grove and Buck Streets
Ansche Chesed Cemetery, Vicksburg
Anshe Chesed Congregation established this cemetery in 1864 for Vicksburg's Jewish community. In May of 1863, fierce fighting occurred here during the siege of Vicksburg.
Azalea blossoms, Leica 90mm ƒ/2.8 Tele-Elmarit lens
This was a splendid Azalea year, and I could not resist a few "pretty" pictures.

These negatives are from Fuji NGII film. My SilverFast Ai scanning software does not have an NHII profile, so the colors are a bit odd. Resized, they almost look digital, which is not what I am trying to achieve. I think B&W is the more effective way to show the differences between film versus digital capture.

Friday, July 24, 2020

High Water Again: 2020 in Redwood and Eagle Lake, Mississippi

Flood Notes

Residents of the southern part of the Mississippi Delta (not the geologic delta in the Gulf of Mexico, the flat alluvial plain in west central and northwest Mississippi) remember the flood of 2019. The water rose and stayed up, month after month. Thousands of deer and other forest animals died. Crops were delayed or not planted at all. Houses were inundated for months. The Corps of Engineers closed the Steele Bayou flood gates for months, and water in the Yazoo basin rose and rose. It was a messy scene.
Comparison of 2019 and 2020 river level measured at the Vicksburg gage (from US Army Corps of Engineers at https://rivergages.mvr.usace.army.mil/
Unfortunately, 2020 saw another flood. It was shorter but still a mess for residents of the lower Delta. The plot above shows the river level measured at the Vicksburg Gage (they spell it "gage"). The 2019 high water lasted almost four months. While 2020's peak was shorter, it was almost as high at 50 ft. Note that the Corps of Engineers defines flood stage as 43.0 ft.
February 27, 2020 satellite view of lower Mississippi River valley from NASA Earth Observatory. The lower Yazoo basin is the blue region near the center of the frame.
The NASA Earth Observatory published the satellite image above on February 27, 2020. "..the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP satellite acquired an image showing high water along the lower Mississippi, Pearl, and Pascagoula rivers, among others." The Yazoo Basin is the triangular area in the center of the frame, where the Yazoo River flows into the Mississippi.

Eagle Lake

The residents of the little town of Eagle Lake were inundated for weeks in 2019. Many of the homes and trailers became uninhabitable. In December, group of volunteers called Team Rubicion helped demolish houses at no cost to the residents. Most of the members were veterans.
Eagle Lake on a foggy morning is peaceful and scenic. You can hear the ducks and other waterfowl in the distance.
These photographs are from Shell Beach Road. The Rubicon group was efficient in helping tear down damaged structures. But a friend from Eagle Lake told me that months afterwards, the piles of debris were still there and the county had not sent any trucks to take the junk away. I am not sure of the resolution.

Redwood and Floweree Road

Floweree Road is off US 61 north of Redwood. In 2019, I took photographs of flooding on and around the area. My wife and I biked there several times. This year, I returned with my Tachihara 4×5" camera and Tri-X film. This was in April, but there were no other people about and it was not hazardous re. the virus.
These are all taken with a 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens with yellow or green filters. Click any picture to expand to 1600 pixels wide.
Tar shingle house, US 61 (Tri-X film, 135mm ƒ/4.5 Xenar lens, GGr filter)
This little shack is at the junction of US 61 and W Deer Creek Road. It is faced with old-fashioned asphalt tiles (similar to roofing tiles). I have photographed it before, but this year, it looks distinctly more fragile or decayed.

The square photographs from Eagle Lake are from Kodak Panatomic-X film exposed in my Rolleiflex 3.5E camera with 75mm ƒ/3.5 Schneider Xenotar lens. I scanned the negatives with a Minolta Scan Multi film scanner.  The photographs from Floweree road are from 4×5" Tri-X film, most with a 180mm Caltar lens.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Weekend in Vienna - from the Archives 1979

Many years ago - a previous life - I took the train from Vienna to London en route back to USA. It was winter, the best time to tour a city like Wein, when the cultural season is in full swing. I took a few frames with Kodak Tri-X film using my Nikkormat FTn camera. I can't recall who developed the film, but it is a mess of scratches.
Dorky American traveler in the Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna
Schönbrunn Palace Glorietta
Schönbrunn gardens, 28mm ƒ/3.5 Nikkor lens
Schönbrunn gardens, 28mm ƒ/3.5 Nikkor lens
Vienna is full of astonishing cultural and artistic treasures - churches, palaces, statues, concert halls, and museums, many being remnants from the glorious years of the Hapsburg Empire.* And it looks amazingly good. It is not an urban decay place. The photographs above are from the Schönbrunn Palace, the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers.
The Karskirche is a Baroque church located on the south side of Karlsplatz. It is a curious architectural mixture of ancient Greek and Roman elements with Byzantine, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. Vienna is full of sights like this.
Photograph of Strauſs from https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8453822q/f1.item
Vienna is the city of music. Here is Johann Strauſs the Younger (1825-1899). You see him all over town, along with Amadeus Mozart.

As I noted above, European cities are rewarding in the off season when cultural events are in full swing. As I recall, I bought a student ticket at the Weiner Staatsoper and had to stand in the upper balcony for a 5-hour performance of Tristan und Isolde. Note how in those days I traveled with a suit and neckties. Not only that, back then gents wore a suit on the airplane, and ladies were similarly properly dressed. And now we are uncouth swine, especially Americans.

In the future, you will see more photographs from the archives. Despite the flaws in these 1979 negatives, the data is still there. Will our digital files be readable (or even last) 40 years? Think about it - you already know the answer.....

* My grandmother told me she remembered visiting Vienna with her sister when it still was Hapsburg.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Demolition Pending: 2-Story 1920s (?) House, 900 National Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi

900 National Street from bridge crossing Stouts Bayou (Hasselblad 50mm Distagon lens, Kodak Tri-X film)
A 2-story asbestos-clad house at 900 National street has been unoccupied for many years. It has a relatively new steel roof, so it has not obviously suffered the water damage and rot that destroys most abandoned Vicksburg houses. But the windows have been open or rotted, and vines have crept up and into some rooms. Someone does periodically cut the lawn, sort-of.

A February 18, 2020, article in the Vicksburg Post stated that this was one of three blighted houses in town slated for imminent demolition.
The house was clad with asbestos shingles, which were popular in the 1920s and later. The shingles hold paint well, do not rot, and resist fire from external sources, meaning embers from fires. During the turn of the century, many homes in Vicksburg heated with coal. Embers often went up chimneys and landed on roofs. Asbestos shingles solved the hazard of roofs and siding catching on fire.
National Street is pretty grungy now. It is an example of the urban decay I see in so many USA towns and cities - our race to the bottom. As of July 2020, the 2-story house was still standing. Possibly the Trump Virus disrupted the City's plans regarding blighted properties, or possibly someone bought the house and promised to make repairs.
1920s concrete bridge over Stouts Bayou, National Street
Stouts Bayou view north from National Street (Olympus Trip 35, Kodak TMax 100 film)
Stouts Bayou flows through Vicksburg. It was partly channelized in the 1930s as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. It has received minimal maintenance since then.

I took the four 2019 photographs with Kodak Panatomic-X film using my Hasselblad 501CM camera, tripod-mounted. Praus Productions in Rochester, NY, developed the film in XTOL. I scanned the negatives with a Minolta Scan Multi medium format film scanner.

Monday, July 6, 2020

More scenery in South Jackson: E. Rankin Street

Canadian National rail line, view south from E. Rankin St., Jackson, MS (Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 501CM camera, 250mm ƒ/5.6 Sonnar lens)
Over the last few years, I have been exploring the industrial area in east Jackson. As a follow-up, during the winter of 2019-2020, I wandered around East Rankin Street with my medium format cameras. Jackson never disappoints regarding dumpy places to photograph. This part of town was once industrial, but today, many of the warehouses are unused, and I see little evidence of a revival.
There are a number of car repair shops off Rankin, some in business, some comatose. This place repairs the classic square Volvos.
Town Creek, Jackson, Mississippi (Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 501CM camera, 50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens, yellow filter) 
Near State Street, a bridge carries E. Rankin Street over Town Creek. The waterway is revolting, with trash, debris, and stagnant water. A 2013 article in Jackson Free Press described some plans to make the water course a recreational asset for the city:
Many see Jackson's multiple creeks as nothing more than drainage ditches. They are undevelopable space offering only the threat of flooding, bank caving and snakes. Other cities, however, are increasingly recognizing the value that urban creeks can offer as parks, recreational corridors, and in improving water quality and environmental health. 
Town Creek stretches from northwest Jackson (through the heart of the proposed "Medical Corridor"), past the Jackson Zoo, to where it flows under downtown Jackson, day-lighting again just to the south of the Mississippi Museum of Art. Numerous planning sketches have been drawn for the downtown portion of Town Creek, stretching from the art museum to its confluence with the Pearl River. The future of the "Town Lake" and "River Walk" portions of the creek, however, are largely tied to flood-control planning along the Pearl.
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) advisory map for Town Creek, 12 Dec. 2014.
This map from MDEQ shows Town Creek in central Jackson.
Town Creek from E. Rankin Street (Moto G5 digital file)
Auto Platinum, a now-defunct car shop, backs up to Town Creek. These two cars are Cadillac Allanté coupes. These were 2-seaters with bodies made in Italy and final assembly in USA. Platinum must have intended to restore and sell them, but now they sit forlorn and lonely in the grass.
State Street view north, Jackson, Mississippi (Panatomic-X film, Rolleiflex 3.5E Xenotar, yellow filter)
We reach State Street, a major north-south road which eventually connects with US 80 and I-20 a short distance south of the Rankin intersection. State Street is pretty grim in this area. Auto Platinum had an interesting sign with a Corvette perched on top. The fiberglass body was light weight, so a suitable item to perch on a billboard.
State Street view south, Jackson, Mississippi (Panatomic-X film, Rolleiflex 3.5E Xenotar, yellow filter)
This was once car dealership row. I recall the Paul Moak Volvo dealer being across the street, but they moved to a new shop next to I-20 many years ago.

This has been a very brief view of parts of south Jackson. We will continue our survey in the future. For more articles about Jackson, type "Jackson" in the search box.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

On the Dixie Overland Highway, Historic US 80 - Vicksburg area

R.H. Henry Bridge, Big Black River, Bovina, Mississippi (Fomapan 100 Classic film, Hasselblad 501CM camera, 50mm Distagon lens) 
In the previous article, I explored US 80 (formerly the Dixie Overland Highway) in west Jackson. Proceeding west, US 80 went through the town of Clinton and eventually to Vicksburg. It then crossed the Mississippi on the old Mississippi River bridge (now closed to traffic). Once Interstate 20 was built in the 1970s, part of 80 disappeared, and the route is no longer continuous west of Clinton. But from Edwards west, you can still drive on 80 as it crosses the Big Black River and cuts straight through the loess bluffs. Here are some photographs from US 80 east of Vicksburg.
Colored Motel, US 80 east of Mount Albans Road (expired Kodak Ektar 25 film, Hasselblad 501 CM camera, 50mm Distagon lens)
This is the former Colored Motel on US 80. In the 1980s, a sign above the building still showed the name, and somewhere I may have a Kodachrome slide. Regardless, the motel has been unused for 4 decades and the jungle is slowly engulfing the buildings. The pink paint on the stucco walls was rather cheerful and warranted some color frames.
Aluminum lady, somewhere on US80, Vicksburg (4×5" Tri-X film, 180 ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens) 
The aluminum lady was so sweet. She was always impeccably dressed. She never objected to having her portrait taken. She was quiet. And then she went away without a word. I did not record the address in 1989 and do not know exactly where she stood, but I hope she proudly graces another home now. If any of you readers recognize her, please let me know.
Oops, minor problem, US 80 (Kodak Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 501CM camera, 50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens, yellow filter)
Just west of Mount Albans Road, the soil under part of the roadbed washed out during the January 2020 rains (rain fell for a solid month). As of May 2020, the MSDOT highway department is in the process of purchasing land and settling contracts for the repair.
Pinewood Motel, US 80, Vicksburg (Tri-X film, 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens)
A short distance west, closer to Vicksburg, was the former Pinewood Motor Court. I took pictures there over the years and wrote a blog article about the Pinewood in 2019. Preservation Mississippi covered the Pinewood in a 2014 article. I included a 2006 photograph to remind you what the old motel looked like. As of early 2020, all the buildings have been demolished because the site may be used for a new Warren County jail.
No more pecans here, Hwy 80, Vicksburg (Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 501CM, 50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens)
A long-unused steel warehouse sat on the south side of the road adjacent to the Pinewood. At one time, it may have been a car repair shop as well as a pecan shed.
The junk pile was pretty trashy. A few friends like the pickup truck perched on top of a Honda.
Some abandoned houses/trailers are in the woods south of the road. Once the foliage comes out in spring, they are hard to see.
A driveway drops down into a gully and leads off to a house somewhere. I liked the old real pickup truck.
Shed off US 80 near Anderson Road, Vicksburg (Kodak Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 501 CM camera, 80mm ƒ/2.8 Planar-CB lens, green filter)
Once you reach the junction of 80 and MS 27, the scene becomes totally boring strip America, with gas stations and cheesy strip malls. It is un-photogenic. From here, Clay Street leads downtown, but there is no real US 80 connection to the old Mississippi River Bridge any more.
We will close with a photograph of the old Mississippi River Bridge in 1993 during construction of the Ameristar Casino. The company had to install a serious amount of geotechnical protection to reinforce the bluff and stabilize the road leading down to the casino. By 1993, the old bridge was already closed to car traffic. It may, one day, become a walk and bike trail. I wrote about 80 in east Louisiana in an earlier article (click the link).

This ends out survey of US 80, the former Dixie Overland Highway. Thank you all for reading.