Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Mississippi Delta 29: Baptist Town, Greenwood (B&W film)

Stevens Avenue, Baptist Town, Greenwood, Mississippi
Shotgun houses, Stevens Avenue, Greenwood, Mississippi
Baptist Town is a historically African-American neighborhood east of downtown Greenwood. According to the Mississippi Blues Trail:
Baptist Town, established in the 1800s in tandem with the growth of the local cotton industry, is one of Greenwood’s oldest African American neighborhoods. Known for its strong sense of community, it is anchored by the McKinney Chapel M.B. Church and a former cotton compress. In blues lore Baptist Town is best known through the reminiscences of David “Honeyboy” Edwards, who identified it as the final residence of Robert Johnson, who died just outside Greenwood in 1938.
I was unaware of this historic neighborhood until a faculty friend at Mississippi Valley State University showed me around.
Baptist Town, from
West Pelican Street, Baptist Town (click any photograph to enlarge)
While my friend chatted with some shopkeeper friends, I wandered around with my Hasselblad and tripod. The residents seem comfortable with tourists, and most waved and said hi. Signs related to the Blues traditions have been erected, like this one about the great artist Robert Johnson, who died in 1938.
214 Young Street, Baptist Town
214 Young Street, Baptist Town, 80mm Planar lens
204 Young Street Baptist Town, 80mm Planar lens
The reception center on Young Street was closed, so I could not check inside.
Shotgun house, Stevens Avenue
Stevens Avenue is a major street through the neighborhood, lined with these little traditional shotgun houses. I have tried to document remaining ones in other towns in Mississippi. Many have disappeared in the last few decades from all around the United States.
301 McCain Street, Baptist Town
Mr. Chow's grocery store is just east of Baptist Town. It is no longer open.
Ditch off Pelican Street, Baptist Town
View west to downtown Greenwood, W. Pelican Street
Baptist Town is an interesting place and an architectural example of early 20th century housing in reasonably authentic condition. I will return some day when the light is softer, maybe with color film.

These photographs were taken on Kodak Panatomic-X film (expired in 1988), exposed at EI=20. I used a Hasselblad 501CM camera with 80mm and 50mm lenses, all tripod-mounted. I scanned the film with a Minolta Scan Multi medium format film scanner controlled by SilverFast Ai software.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

At the Port of Vicksburg (B&W film)

Many people today forget (or did not know) that Vicksburg is still a major river shipping port. Unlike the 1800s, when the river passed right in front of town and riverboats unloaded at the waterfront, most port activity today happens at the industries and refineries at Haining and Industrial Roads. The river activity is out of sight unless you specifically go there.
Yazoo Canal and Port of Vicksburg in 1997, view northwest, Nikon N90 camera
In the 1997 photograph above, the aircraft is over North Washington Street and the view is to the northwest. The curved road is Haining. The industries are to its left or south, while the land to the right is mostly forest and some farmland. The port is on artificial land and is high enough to be above flood waters. But the forest to the north is hardwood bottomland and does occasionally flood. The road turning off to the right (upper left of the photograph) is Industrial Drive. You can drive out on the roads (I ride my bicycle here regularly), but you cannot enter the facilities or walk out to the water's edge. This is a contrast to the 1980s, when security was much more casual and you could walk around more freely.
City of Vicksburg water treatment plant, view approx. north, Nikon F3 camera
We will take a quick tour from east to west
Former Anderson Tully wood processing plant, now Vicksburg Forest Products LLC (click any picture to enlarge)
The wood mill is surrounded by its own levee. In the high water of 2017, we canoed along the levee. The plant inside remained in operation.
Vicksburg Southern Railroad (VSOR) tracks
City of Vicksburg water wells
The city's water wells are north of Haining road. As of January 2019, the woods here were flooded.
Mississippi Lime, 1543 Haining Road
Ergon BioFuels, 1833 Haining Road
Ergon BioFuels refined corn into ethanol, I assume mostly for use in motor fuels. The plant was scheduled to close in December of 2018, but I am not sure of the status. Often, tens of 18-wheeler semi trucks would park along the road, awaiting their turns to enter the plant and unload corn. The blackbirds liked the spilled corn kernels.
Vicksburg Southern Railroad (VSOR) tracks, view west
Ergon Ethanol
Rail cars can access all of the port via Vicksburg Southern Railroad's (VSOR) tracks. In the last couple of years, workmen have been replacing ties and adding new bedding. The tank cars above are at the ethanol plant. The refinery has a bright orange shunting truck/locomotive to push rail cars around. It has rubber tires so it can drive across a parking lot.
Falco Lime
This mountain of lime, which looks somewhat like a sand dune, grows and shrinks depending on the number of trucks that come and haul the material away. The rails along here have also been repaired recently. I am not sure if rail cars bring in the lime or if it comes from barges.
This is a crop from the original full-size TIFF file of the negative above. I am impressed with the resolution of this little 1957-vintage 50mm f/3.5 Color-Skopar lens. This was hand-held with a yellow filter.

The 2018 photographs are from Ilford Delta 100 film exposed through my 1957-vintage Voigtländer Vito BL camera with 50mm f/3.5 Color-Skopar lens, most with a yellow filter. This is a coated Tessar-type lens with 4 elements in 3 groups. It is unit focus, meaning the entire lens group moves as a unit (as opposed to front element focus). You can read my review of the Vito BL at the 35MMC blog. It has remarkable optical quality for such a simple optical design. I scanned the film with a Plustek 7600i film scanner.
Voigtländer Vito BL camera

Friday, February 15, 2019

From the Archives: Tourist Pics of Vicksburg, Mississippi 1985-1992

While looking through a box of old negatives, I saw a film from my 1985 job-hunting trip. At the time, I lived in Houston, Texas - absolutely flat and topographically boring. But Vicksburg was an interesting place, with its history and its setting on the bluffs above the river. Not knowing if I would move here, I took snapshots around town. This will be a quick tour of some of the places a new resident might see. 

Driving from the east, many visitors first see the Big Muddy from the Mississippi Visitor Center. The scene is timeless - these photographs could be 1985 or 2019. I had driven here from the west and had therefore crossed on the I-20 bridge from Louisiana. In the late-1980s, the old bridge was still open to car traffic.
Walking on the Old Mississippi River Bridge, Kodak Stretch camera
By 1990, as I recall, the old bridge had been closed to traffic, but pedestrians could walk on it. This is a negative from a Kodak Stretch, which was a single-use (i.e., disposable) camera which purported to be a panorama format. That was deceptive: it had a 2-element, 25mm f/12 lens lens that projected onto a narrow strip of the 35mm frame, about 13×36 mm. However, I am surprised how well the Kodak Gold 200 film did with this crude lens. The APS film system also tried this fraud: the so-called panorama was just a thin strip in the middle of the frame. The entire frame was exposed but the processing lab automatically printed the thin strip.
Mississippi River north of the old bridge, Kodak Stretch camera
Mississippi River Bridges, Vicksburg, Fuji GW690II camera
The view from the overlook north of the Visitor Center is different now because the Ameristar Casino is in the foreground at the river's edge.
Mississippi River, Kodak VPS film, Rollei 35S camera, 40mm Sonnar lens
This is the bend in the Mississippi where the Yazoo Canal comes in from the north.
June 1991 view of former Vicksburg Hospital, Fujichrome 50, 4×5" Tachihara camera, 180mm ƒ/5.6 Caltar IIN lens
View north from Vicksburg Hospital, Ektar 25 film, Fuji GW690II camera, 90mm lens
In the 1980s, the old Vicksburg hospital was a concrete shell, standing where the police department is now located in a modern building. The view north to the City Hall and Post Office was rather boring. The architectural abomination on the right is now BancorpSouth Bank, but I am not sure what it was called in the 1980s.
Continuing north, this is a view of Clay Street at the intersection with Monroe. The Aeolian Apartments in the upper center were still rented as apartments in 1992.
This is Walnut Street looking north. I am not sure which of these houses are still extant.
Washington Street view south, Rollei 35S, 40mm Sonnar lens
Grove Street from Washington Street, Rollei 35S, 40mm Sonnar lens

Velchoff's Corner Restaurant & Miller's Still Lounge formerly occupied the building at the corner of Washington and Grove Streets (Summerlin and Summerlin 1995). I only ate there once and cannot remember when it closed. Look up Grove Street and you can see a car repair shop on the left. That building is gone, and again, I do not recall when it was demolished. The lot on the left was once occupied by the Masonic Temple, which was torn down in the mid- or late-1970s.
In front of the 61 Coffeehouse, view north, December 2018, Ilford Delta 100 film, Voigtlander Vito BL camera
61 Coffeeshop, 35 mm f/3.5 Super-Takumar lens, Pentax Spotmatic camera
Today, the corner building houses Attic Gallery and the 61 Coffeehouse. Daniel Boone runs 61 and provides the best coffee in town (except at my house....). And he employs charming coffee ladies. Look north along Washington Street and you see a building in the distance. Decades ago, this was a club and various other businesses.
Washington Street, Kodachrome 25 slide, Pentax Spotmatic camera, 150mm f/4 Super-Takumar lens
No. 913 Washington Street was once an automobile showroom. The second building, possibly a 7-Up bottling plant at one time, was unceremoniously demolished by City of Vicksburg in 2007.
Washington Street, Fujichrome 50 film, 4×5" B&J camera, 20" lens (presently the site of the M/V Mississippi on land)
The 1985 photographs are from Kodak VPS color negative film using a Rollei 35S camera. Its 40mm f/2.8 Sonnar lens was top quality for such a compact camera.


Summerlin, C. and Summerlin, V., 1995.  Traveling the Trace: A Complete Tour Guide to the Historic Natchez Trace from Nashville to Natchez. Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tennessee.

UPDATE 2021. Here is a photograph on the Mississippi River Bridge during the 2021 Bricks & Spokes bike ride. This is one of the few times that the bridge is open to the public. It is fun to bike over the river.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Mystery School in Flora, Mississippi

In late December, my wife and I drove through Flora and explored some side streets. On NW 4th Street, we saw a formal Works Progress Administration-style building with eagles. Quick stop, check it out.
A modern sign stated Superintendant's Office. An older sign showed "Flora Middle School." But the building is clearly older than the era of middle schools. Back then, if students in the middle grades had their own building, they were in a junior high school. So how old is this building? Who was the architect? The building is unoccupied now, the main hall behind the door a dusty mess.
Come to find out, there is a mystery as to the exact age of this building. My friend, Suzassippi, wrote about the conflicting origins in her post in Preservation Mississippi. This may be the former high school from 1922. Or, it may be a 1937 building designed by the architect, Overstreet. The high school was torched by the night policeman. Maybe what we see if the remnant of the 3-floor high school, but only partially rebuilt with one floor remaining. Read Suzassippi's article for a much more in-depth review of this building.
This is the 1938 high school, but it looks like a different building to me. The eagles and door mantle are up on a second floor level. Were they moved down one level?
The eagles and medallions look like the decorative elements you see on many Works Progress Administration buildings around the United States. As written in Wikipedia, "the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States, while developing infrastructure to support the current and future society. At its peak in 1938, it provided paid jobs for three million unemployed men and women, as well as youth in a separate division, the National Youth Administration." In older posts, I wrote about the National Youth gymnasium in Edwards. Regardless of the mystery surrounding the origin of this building in Flora, we see how infrastructure projects in the past helped set the stage for our current society.

These frames are digital images from a Moto G5 mobile phone. (Sorry, no film photographs this time.)

Monday, February 4, 2019

Return to the NYA Gymnasium, Edwards, Mississippi

NYA gymnasium, Fuji X-E1 digital file, 14mm Fujinon lens.
Kodak BW400CN film, Leica M2 camera, 50mm Summicron (Type 4) lens.
The National Youth Administration (NYA) gymnasium, formerly part of the Edwards High School, is continuing to deteriorate. The roof is beginning to fail, and in this climate, you know what that portends. I have photographed here before, but the building interests me, so I returned a couple of times in 2018 with different cameras. My friend, Suzassippi, provides some history of the gymnasium in her 2016 article in Preservation Mississippi.
Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 501CM camera, 50mm Distagon lens.
The big old gymnasium smells wet. Part of the roof lets light through.
Panatomic-X film, Hasselblad 501CM camera, 50mm Distagon lens.
The rooms in the rear, including the former shower room, is open to the sky. I took this photograph by placing the Hasselblad on a ledge and stopping the lens down to f/11 or f/16.
Kodak Ektar 25 film (expired), Rolleiflex 3.5E camera, 75mm ƒ/3.5 Xenotar lens.
Black and white is great for these old buildings, but the infamous institutional green is worthy of recording for posterity. This grotesque green was (is still) found in thousands (millions?) of institutions around the United States. Yuck. The photograph above is from a roll of Kodak Ektar 25 that I bought on eBay. It was long-expired and almost ruined, but I managed to save part of the roll. Sadly, Ektar 25 is no more.