Friday, February 28, 2014

Still Open: Gibbes & Sons Grocery, Learned, Mississippi

Most of the country stores we have looked at in previous posts are closed, victims of changing times and loss of nearby residents who once patronized these stores. But in the little town of Learned, Mississippi (near Utica), the H.D. Gibbes & Sons grocery is still open for business.
Learned is a nice little town, clean and neat. The grocery is at the corner of Main and Pine Streets.
Lunches are served on these polished tables.
Walk on in - it is visual delight. All sorts of old-fashioned stuff greets you: bottles, signs, displays, antlers. But this is a working store, so ask the nice-looking young lady for a drink, candy bar, or even some groceries. One side of the store has a ladder on a rail so the shopkeeper can reach high shelves. The store has an active restaurant on Friday and Saturday, well-known for steak (a carnivore-type of place).
Learned has some more square-front buildings that may have once been stores.
Tired? Find a rocker and put your feet up.

Interior photographs taken with a Panasonic G3 digital camera with Olympus 9-18mm lens. Exterior photographs taken with a FujiFilm X-E1 camera. I reprocessed the raw files with PhotoNinja software. This is the type of place to revisit with real film.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Historic Sweet Olive Cemetery, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The historic Sweet Olive Cemetery is said to be the oldest African American burying ground in Baton Rouge. At South 22nd Street and Louisiana Avenue, it is just north of Government Street, north of the Garden District. In 1990, this was a rough neighborhood, and I did not wander too far from the car. Then, many of the stones were displaced and tree roots had damaged many graves. It deteriorated even worse over the following decades until Freshmen from the Louisiana State University Honors College initiated a cleanup effort. One of their sessions was in 2006, and they have probably come back several times since then.
Now (February 2014), the cemetery is still overgrown in some areas, but many of the stones have been re-erected and some of the mausoleums re-plastered (or at least white-washed). Much of the ground has been cleared. The neighborhood now seems reasonably safe.
There are interesting patterns, shapes, and shadows if you are a photographer. I met an art student from Louisiana State University whose project was to visit every week and record and sketch changes over time. She did not seem to have a problem coming alone every Sunday.
Some of the huge old trees (or remaining trunks) are pretty interesting. Do visit; it is one of Baton Rouge's more interesting historical sites.

The two 1990 color photographs were taken on Kodachrome film with an Olympus OM-1 camera. The black and white views were from a Fuji X-E1 camera, with RAW files processed in PhotoNinja software. For most, I used a 1949-vintage Leica 50 mm f/2.0 Summitar lens, which works very well in black and white. These older lenses have character.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Return to Rodney - Semi-Deserted Mississippi River Town

Rodney, Mississippi, is a semi-abandoned town in Jefferson County, Mississippi, about 30 miles north of Natchez. It was once a thriving river town, but the river changed its course in the early 20th century, and the town declined rapidly. According to Wikipedia, the Rodney Center Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
One way to reach Rodney is to drive through Alcorn State University - literally through campus - and take the back gate on the west side of campus to Rodney Drive.  It is gravel much of the way and winds through loess hills and woods.  Soon you reach the remains of town.
Mt. Zion No.1 Baptist Church, Rodney
Entry hall, Mt. Zion No. 1 Church
As you enter town, the elegantly simple Mt. Zion No. 1 Baptist Church is ahead of you one block.  It is open via the front door and looks like it had some tender loving care a few years ago.  But rain and decay are taking their toll.

Rodney looking east from Mt. Zion No. 1 church
Look east  towards the town and you see some fields that may occasionally be mowed and a few deserted buildings.
On the right when looking out of the Mt. Zion church is an old store, a substantial brick building, but now decaying badly.
At the corner of Rodney and Muddy Bayou Roads sits the old Brumfield Grocery. In 1985, it must have only recently closed because it had a fairly modern gasoline pump out front.  Today, it has some fencing to keep out visitors or vandals.
At the north side of Rodney Road is an old house with a well.  The structure is still standing but will not be for long.
Two more abandoned farms are on the south side of the street (the same side as Brumfield Grocery). One is almost engulfed with vines. Oddly, just a short distance away is an active farm with some handsome cows, so Rodney does still have residents.
Rodney Masonic Lodge (Kodachrome slide).
Rodney Masonic Lodge, Rodney, Mississippi, 1985 (Kodachrome slide).

A short distance north on Muddy Bayou Road is the old Masonic Lodge. In 1985, it still had a lodge sign, but that must have been stolen decades ago.
Old Rodney Presbyterian Church, Muddy Bayou Road 
The Old Rodney Presbyterian Church is one of the most commonly-photographed buildings in town. Preservation groups are trying to maintain or restore it, but am not sure of the status.
Continue north on Muddy Bayou Road, and there are more abandoned houses.
Hunters like Rodney. One hunting camp is the old railroad car. Another occupies an old house. I was there on New Year's Eve, and the camps had occupants ready for a good party. We saw a couple of well-dressed city ladies in high-end SUVs and high heels come into town - I think they were hunting (but not for deer).
On the way back to Port Gibson, take the Old Rodney-Port Gibson Road, cut deep into the bluffs in some sections. Rodney is a fun place to visit. Go in winter, before the jungle and poison ivy takes over. For more information, The Southern Lagniappe blog has an nice 3-part article on a 2011 visit to Rodney.

1980s photographs taken with Leica cameras on Kodachrome film. The 2013 photographs were taken with Fuji X-E1 and Panasonic G3 digital cameras.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cottages on Farmer Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Farmer Street is one of Vicksburg's historic streets, lined with late-1800s and early 20th century cottages. Some are nicely restored, but some are dilapidated. But at least it is vibrant - people live here, and only a few properties are abandoned.  Let's take a tour, starting at the corner of Farmer and 1st East Streets, and proceed north.
735 Farmer Street, Vicksburg
No. 735 is a substantial house with long porch facing Farmer Street.  Although the address is Farmer Street, the main entrance is unused and a sign directs visitors to the side entrance on 1st East.
728 Farmer Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi
Interior of 728 Farmer Street
Parlor of 728 Farmer Street
The old house at 728 is abandoned.  This house resembles many others in hilly Vicksburg: the main door faces the street on the upper level, while the rear of the house is way up off the ground.  In some cases, the main floor was elevated on posts, while others, like this one, had a partial basement.  In this house, the walls were brick with a facing of plaster, and the original small fireplace is still present.  This would have been for a coal insert.  Vicksburg, being a railroad town, had coal available for winter heating. (This led to burning embers in the air, which led to roof fires, which led to the widespread adoption of  asbestos roof shingles in the 1920s and 1930s.)
726 Farmer Street, Vicksburg
726 Farmer Street is a duplex, now rather rough. The roof eave is faced with asbestos shingles, probably installed in the 1920s or 1930s at the same time that the roof was covered with similar shingles. Asbestos shingles (really a concrete matrix strengthened with asbestos fibers) were popular because they were fireproof, held paint well, and needed little maintenance. The siding is newer aluminum, now peeling off.
725 Farmer Street, Vicksburg
The cottage at 725 has a screened porch, and you can't see details of the house.
507 Farmer Street, Vicksburg
507 is a handsome Victorian-era cottage with nicely-done paint.  The shingles in the eaves may be original. Hmmm, will a contemporary McMansion still have its original siding in 120 years? Will it even be standing?
618 Farmer Street, Vicksburg - possible haunted house?
Around the time when I took the photographs of 618 (on Kodachrome film with a Nikon camera), an article in the Vicksburg Post said the house was reputed to be haunted.  I think someone planned to give tours, but I am not sure if they ever happened. Regardless, it was a substantial Victorian-era house in need of restoration.  Note this is another example of a house built on a steep hill where the front door is on the upper level.
506 Farmer Street, Vicksburg
One block north is the 500 block. 506 is a nice little cottage behind a huge cedar tree.
504 Farmer Street, Vicksburg
504 is a well-used, with cars parked on the yard.
502 Farmer Street, Vicksburg.
502 was occupied by one or more families with energetic basketball players. The  kids asked me to take their portraits.
My friends from Farmer Street.
This fellow wanted his portrait, too.
I made prints for the kids and took them to their house.
417 Farmer Street, Vicksburg in 2013.
417 Farmer Street in 2003 (Kodachrome film).
417 Farmer Street is an immaculate little cottage. Now it is yellow, but in 2003, it was a cheerful green.
415 Farmer Street, Vicksburg
413 Farmer Street
413 and 415 are on the east side of the street.  The land rises on this side, so the houses have steep yards.
1207a Randolph Street
On Randolph Street, a couple of shotgun shacks have been restored and are available for rent. This neighborhood proves that older houses can be restored and used. Isn't this better than tearing them down?

All 2013 photographs taken with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera with Fuji 27mm lens or a manual-focus Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/3.5 Auto-Macro lens (amazingly sharp).  Some frames processed with PhotoNinja software.  The 2003 photographs were Kodachrome 25 taken with a Nikon F3 camera and a 35mm PC-Nikkor lens.