Friday, July 27, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 12, Las Vegas, New Mexico

Santa Fe was very interesting. But it is time to continue our trip on Route 66. Press the clutch, put the gear in first, and head southeast.
Bridge Street, Las Vegas, New Mexico
Las Vegas (the town in New Mexico, not the gambling mecca of Nevada) is east of Santa Fe and was not directly on the 1920s version of Route 66. But a short side trip is rewarding because of its amazing western architecture. The town of Las Vegas was founded in 1835, but the area had been inhabited for four centuries by native Americans, Anglos, Spanish conquistadores, robber barons, and gangsters. The town is an architectural treasure, and boasts more than 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Prosperity came to Las Vegas in the late 1800s via the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, which built significant rail infrastructure in town. This included a handsome mission-style depot. This now serves as the Las Vegas-San Miguel Chamber of Commerce.
The now-closed La Castaneda is a former Harvey House (hotel). This is described as early mission revival style. The Harvey Houses were a well-respected institution along the rail lines in the US southwest. According to Wikipedia,

Before the inclusion of dining cars in passenger trains became common practice, a rail passenger's only option for meal service in transit was to patronize one of the roadhouses often located near the railroad's water stops. Fare typically consisted of nothing more than rancid meat, cold beans, and week-old coffee. Such poor conditions understandably discouraged many Americans from making the journey westward.
The subsequent growth and development of the Fred Harvey Company was closely related to that of AT&SF. Under the terms of an oral agreement, Harvey opened his first depot restaurant in Topeka, Kansas in January 1876. Railroad officials and passengers alike were impressed with Fred Harvey's strict standards for high quality food and first class service. As a result, AT&SF entered into subsequent contracts with Harvey wherein he was given unlimited funds to set up a series of what were dubbed "eating houses" along most of the route. At more prominent locations, these eating houses evolved into hotels, many of which survive today. By the late 1880s, there was a Fred Harvey dining facility located every 100 miles along the AT&SF.

Manu of the Harvey Houses featured spectacular architecture. The El Rancho in Gallup, where I stayed on my 2016 Route 66 trip, was not a Harvey House.
Many of the old stores on Bridge Street have been repainted, but I am not sure how many are occupied. 
In the southeast part of town, off US 85, also known as the CanAm Highway, I found an intact roundhouse. Many of these around the country have been town down, so it is rewarding to see an intact example. The turntable was gone. I think a trucking company used the roundhouse for truck storage.

Las Vegas was a decent overnight stop. From here, we proceeded south and then east on Route 66.

Photographs are from an Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera with various Fuji lenses.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Travels on the Mother Road, Route 66: Part 11, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dear Readers, let us return to the Mother Road, the famous Route 66. When it was originally mapped out in the mid-1920s, Route 66 entered Santa Fe from the south after leaving Albuquerque. It then headed east and southeast through the mountains. But in 1937, Route 66 was rerouted to bypass Santa Fe (political posturing - who would have guessed?). Today, a traveler today can choose to travel on the older original 1920s routing or just drive east-west through Albuquerque. Regardless, Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, is one of the oldest cities in the Unites States and is ripe with interesting architecture, the arts, a famous opera, and cultural activities. The Georgia O'keefe Museum is amazing. My pictures below are a semi-random view of town. The standard tourist sites have been photographed millions (billions?) of times; I don't need to repeat them.
New Mexico Museum of Art, West Palace Ave.
Maria's Kitchen, West Cordova Ave.
Coming from parts of the country with predominantly wood architecture, I found the adobe architecture of New Mexico to be very interesting. It is ideally suited to the hot summers because the thick clay walls keep the blazing sun at bay.
Spanish festival, Sanat Fe Plaza
There is no end to cultural activities and fun. The Santa Fe Plaza has been the social, commercial, and political center of the city since about 1610 (remember, this is one of of the oldest cities in the United States, only matched by St. Augustine in Florida). The Plaza is a National Historic Landmark.
Glass fruit at the famous 109 East Palace Ave.
Just off the Plaza is a block of 1600s adobe buildings. One of these was the security and clearing office for the Los Alamos scientists and engineers during the early phase of the Manhattan project in World War II. Newly-arrived workers entered a perfectly ordinary-looking door and met the formidable Ms. McKibbin, who issued their passes. Then they exited out the rear to a bus, which took them up into the mountains to the new Los Alamos facility. From the Atomic Heritage Foundation:
After arriving in Lamy, the scientists, SEDers, and families were directed to 109 E. Palace Avenue in Santa Fe. The building, constructed as a Spanish hacienda in the 1600s, is located just off the plaza in downtown Santa Fe. During World War II, it was the administrative hub of the Manhattan Project.  
Dorothy Scarritt McKibbin was the first reassuring face the fatigued newcomers saw. At 109 East Palace, McKibbin informed them that their journey continued another 35 miles along the winding road up to the Pajarito Plateau. In the early months, she dispatched an average of 65 people each day to “the Hill,” as Los Alamos was called. The steady stream of arrivals meant the office was often “bedlam,” as McKibbin described it. She issued passes and IDs and directed newcomers to their homes, received shipments of household items to be distributed to the Hill’s residents, and tended to personal matters as needed.  McKibbin was the perfect person for her job and quickly became indispensable as the “Gatekeeper” at 109 E. Palace Avenue and a close friend and confidante of Oppenheimer. She had a warm smile, an engaging personality and was reassuringly calm and efficient. In recognition of her contribution, McKibbin was awarded the title of “First Lady” of Los Alamos and declared a Living Treasure of Santa Fe. 
Today, 109 E. Palace houses gift shops and sells glass fruit and other artsy items.
A family friend generously let us stay in his guest cottage. He has interesting items in his yard, along with resident bunnies.
Aspen Vista trail, approx. 10,600 ft altitude, Nexus 4 frame reprocessed with DxO FilmPack 5.
Buy a hiking guidebook and try some of the trails around Santa Fe. Many are less than a hour from town.
Valles Calders National Preserve, Olympus Trip 35 exposure on Kodak BW400CN film.
Head north into the mountains to the Valles Caldera National Preserve (established by president Clinton, part of the National Park Service). The high altitude air is clear and crisp. View this ancient supervolcano and watch elk grazing in the pastures. Listen to the silence (except when some Harleys come thundering along).
The composer, Igor Stravinsky, conducted regularly at the Santa Fe Opera from 1957 to 1962. This bust is on the Stravinsky Terrace of The Santa Fe Opera. The opera, on a stunning site north of town, is a fabulous venue for top-class opera. Make a point to attend a performance!

Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains are a fantastic vacation destination, highly recommended!

The square photographs are from Tri-X 400 film in a Hasselblad camera. The rectangle frames are Kodak BW400 film from a Yashica Electro 35CC camera (a convenient travel camera with a top-quality 35mm f/1.8 Color-Yashinon lens). The view of Valles Caldera was taken with a Olympus Trip 35 camera with a polarizer to emphasize the clouds. You can click any frame to see the larger photograph.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Mississippi Delta 8b: The I.T. Montgomery House, Mound Bayou (B&W film)

Mound Bayou is a historic town in Bolivar County, Mississippi.
I.T Montgomery house, W. Main  Street, Mound Bayou, Mississippi
The always-informative Preservation in Mississippi blog recently wrote that the National Trust for Historic Preservation had announced its annual “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” for 2018. Isaiah T. Montgomery's House in Mound Bayou was on the list. From the National Trust:
"Isaiah T. Montgomery House Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Established by former slave Isaiah T. Montgomery, Mound Bayou was one of the earliest all-black municipalities, located in the Mississippi Delta following the Civil War. Today, Montgomery's home is in urgent need of stabilization and rehabilitation."
I wrote about Mound Bayou in 2012, and at that time, I.T. Montgomery's house looked intact, although I was not able to see inside.
Undated photograph of I.T. Montgomery house from Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
During an April 2018 drive through Mound Bayou, I saw some workmen installing heavy timbers abound the periphery of the house to prevent the walls from collapsing outwards. They did not know if other preservation work would follow. The lower floor of the house served as a clinic in the early 20th century.
Edwards Ave. (Old Hwy. 61), view south, Mound Bayou, Mississippi
Today, Mound Bayou looks rough and beat-up. The main road through town, Edwards Avenue, has the standard closed shops and shop-a-minute gas stations.
The former bus stop on Edwards Ave. is an early-20th century shop with square front.
Willie's transmission appears to be closed. You can see the I.T. Montgomery house a block away on the left.
This building at the corner of W. Main and Green Streets was the Bank of Mound Bayou, founded by Charles Banks in 1904, the first Black-owned bank in Mississippi.

The historic Taborian Hospital was closed for decades, then restored, and now is closed again. It is sad.

The history of Mound Bayou is a story of determination, back-breaking hard work, and a dream of creating a better life for African Americans in an era when they were treated brutally by the Southern white political establishment. National Public Radio featured Mound Bayou in one of their 2017 Our Land series. Booker T. Washington wrote a fascinating description of Mound Bayou's founding and early history in an article titled, "A Town Owned by Negroes, Mound Bayou, Miss., an Example of Thrift and Self-Government," July 1907 (archive from from Johns Hopkins Press).

The black and white photographs are from Kodak TMax 100 film, exposed with a Pentax Spotmatic camera (1971 vintage). I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner controlled with Silverfast Ai software.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Mississippi Delta 27: Itta Bena

Itta Bena is a small agricultural town a few miles west of Greenwood, in the central Mississippi Delta. The railroad goes through the center of town and once likely served as the town's main source of prosperity by carrying agricultural products to Greenwood or other markets.
Former Ralph Lembo store, Humphreys Street, Itta Bena
Humphreys Street parallels the tracks on the north. You can tell this was once a prosperous commercial strip with one- and two-story brick commercial buildings. Now many are closed and unoccupied. Of interest to Blues fans, the little store at 114 Humphreys Street was operated by Ralph Lembo in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He brought in many now-famous blues musicians. As of March 2018, the store was boarded up.
Front Street is south of the railroad tracks. Here, too, most of the shops are closed, but the L&T Food Market was active.
My friend, who is a professor at the Mississippi Valley State University just north of town, showed me a small building he called the Blue Store. I love the outside seating.

I took these photographs taken on Kodak TMax 100 film with a Pentax Spotmatic camera (1971-vintage). Many of the frames were with the 135mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lens (tripod-mounted). The light was harsh and glarey, difficult for architectural work. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner operated with SilverFast Ai software.

July 2018 update: Suzassippi wrote about the Ralph
Lembo store in Preservation Mississippi.

July 2021 update: Suzassippi has written two interesting articles about an Italian immigrant family that moved to Itta Been and operated a restaurant:  Part 1.  Part 2.  (click the links)

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Mississippi Basin Model - 1975 Booklet

Dear Readers,

I have written about the famous US Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Basin Model before. If you click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the article, you will see links to older posts. The City of Jackson neglected the model for over a decade. But the Friends of Mississippi River Basin Model (Facebook: @FriendsofMississippiRiverBasinModel) are now cleaning the trees and debris at the site in Buddy Butts Park in Jackson. 

Aerial view of the Mississippi Basin Model with red outline showing area that has been cleared and cleaned as of June, 2018 (from Friends of the Mississippi River Basin Model).

For more information on the design, purpose, and background, the Waterways Experiment Station prepared a booklet that described the Basin Model. The booklet is a .pdf file that the link will open. It is well-written and illustrated; please take time to read it.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Fate still unknown, the Carnation Milk Plant, Tupelo, Mississippi

The former Carnation Milk evaporated milk plant sits just south of downtown Tupelo off Carnation Street (where else?).
Postcard, unknown date, title "Carnation Plant looking west, Tupelo, Miss. [graphic]", from the Cooper Postcard Collection, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
The 36,000-square-foot plant opened in 1927. According to the Daily Journal,
It opened Saturday, May 14, 1927. Tupelo threw an unprecedented celebratory parade and party, attended by some 15,000 to 20,000 people. It was a big day; it was a historic day. 
For nearly all of the next 45 years, the Carnation Plant lived up to expectations. The dairy industry flourished in Northeast Mississippi. Thousands of dairy farmers enjoyed consistent income, even through the Great Depression. Two and a half generations of workers made the Carnation Plant a part of their memorable and proud careers. The aging plant finally closed its doors in 1972.
But because of its solid, well-built construction, the old building has been considered for many other uses since it was shuttered 39 years ago – a police department and jail, city offices and even a history museum.
There have been numerous studies and plans drawn up to move the Oren Dunn Museum into this once-proud but now-lonely building. Currently, however, those plans simply gather age and dust – just like the Carnation Plant itself. For now, it is remembered only for what it once was, not for what it could be again. The once-shining example of hope and promise in Tupelo 80 years ago simply grows old, both in reality and in all of our Southern Memories.
The nomination for the National Register of Historic Places states that the plant closed in 1965.

As of 2018, the old factory is closed and unused. The Oren Dunn City Museum proposed to refurbish and use the plant, but the cost would have been $ millions, and in 2012, the museum abandoned plans to move its collection to the factory. The site has lost some of its outbuildings. Despite being on the National Register of Historic Places, city workers demolished a storage building and the manager's office.
One sunny afternoon in May, I looked around briefly. The building was secured, or at least there was no obvious access.
Some of the old architectural elements were photogenic. These frames are from a Motorola Moto G5 phone, but one day I need to return with a film camera.