Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shotgun Shacks on Grammar Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Grammar Street is another one of those semi-hidden streets in Vicksburg that most people do not know exists unless they live there or have a specific reason to visit. There are two parts to Grammar. The east section is approximately parallel to Harrison Street and runs from Court Street to the Stout's Bayou. There is no bridge, but on the opposite side, Grammar Street picks up again and proceeds uphill to the west to Martha Street. See the circled areas on the map.

The photograph above shows the opening to Grammar street when standing on Court Street. This little house is still present but has been painted since I took the photograph in 2000.

The east part of Grammar was once a typical Southern "court," lined with identical shotgun shacks. The white house being engulfed with trees is no. 1318 and has been demolished.

Proceeding west, we come to nos. 1314 and 1312. Obviously, 1312 was a mess and ready to be demolished.

The next two were nos. 1310 and 1308. The latter is still standing.

No. 1306 had the faded green paint.

No. 1304 was already gone in the early 2000s, when I took these photographs, but 1302 was present. In the 2003 photograph, 1302 was pretty rough looking, but by 2006, it had been painted and had flowers on the front porch.

No. 1300 was the last house before you reach Stout's Bayou. I am not sure if it ever floods on this part of the street.

Across the street is a cottage, which may be no. 1301. All in all, this was a pretty rough street. Around the corner on First North, I met a lady who grew up on Grammar. She said she remembered when a bus would come to pick up workers to go to the cotton fields. She thought that was 30 years ago, but I think it must have been at least a decade earlier because by 1980, most cotton harvesting was mechanized.

Across the bayou to the west, the neighborhood was a bit higher grade and older, possibly late 1800s. The tall handsome house is no. 1228, and is still standing.

No. 1213 is more modern. Vicksburg has more hidden streets like this steeped in history.

Film note: These are all scans of Kodachrome 25 transparency film. The first photograph was taken with a Minox 35 compact camera, the rest with Leica rangefinders using Leica Summicron lenses. Kodachrome 25 was the finest-grain transparency film, and it really shone when you used the best prime focal length lenses (like Leica) to record fine details. But, its slow speed almost insured that you had to use a tripod. Many photographers disliked Kodachrome, but it had a unique color palette and rewarded deliberate workers. It also had excellent archival properties, and the colors remain vivid for decades.

Scan Note: I scanned these on a Nikon Coolscan 4000 at 3000 dpi and saved them as TIFF files. It is difficult to scan K25, especially if the frames contain dark areas. With a Nikon unit, you have to manually increase the gain significantly. Also, the color balance is difficult to correct at dusk. Unlike modern digital camera, color film recorded the color as it was. If the day was overcast and the light was cool (blue), the pictures looked blue. Commercial photographers used color-correcting filters, but most documentary photographers did not bother.


  1. Hi Kodachromeguy, I'm a professor at Elmhurst College, in Elmhurst Illinois and our theater students are performing a play that has a scene that is set in front of a shotgun house like the ones that you have so-beautifully represented in your blog. I have designed the set of this play so that all of the "scenes" are images projected onto screens behind the actors. Is there any way that you would give us permission to use two of your images? We would of course give you credit for the photos in the production credits accompanying the performance. The performance starts Tuesday Feb. 21st and only runs for one week. Thanks for your consideration.

  2. You certainly can use them. Let me know how to contact you. Also look at some of the older posts. For example, Avenue E had several shotgun shacks.