Thursday, September 29, 2022

More Wide View in West Jackson/Hwy 80 (Xpan 10)

Dear Readers, I have inflicted photographs from west Jackson on you before. Highway US80 was once a major commercial artery with factories, restaurants, hotels, and motels. Today it is rough. Traffic buzzes past empty warehouses and factories. Motels look like dives.

Not much discounting any more (30mm ƒ/5.6 lens)

The former Gipson Discount Foods is an example of the type of abandoned warehouses that you see along 80. It has some elements of post-war moderne decoration, possibly not too bad when new. And the yellow paint was cheerful.

Former employee entry to Coca-Cola bottling plant (30mm ƒ/5.6 lens)

The "Plant" is, I think, the former Coca-Cola bottling factory, originally built in 1949. The complex appears to be unused, but I recently saw a new fence. Possibly it is an attempt to exclude homeless people. According to a 2010 article in West Jackson:

The plant was a mainstay on Highway 80 for 58 years. Then, in 2007, the company vacated the aging facility and moved into a newer building in the Northwest Jackson Industrial Park near Interstate 220. The bright spot in this story: at least they didn’t leave the city. However they did leave 143,000 square feet of building space to rest vacant and lonely on the west side.

Kodak Super-XX film, 180mm Caltar II-N lens, yellow filter

The 1949 architecture was considered modern in the post-war era. A Tulsa real estate brokerage company auctioned the site in 2016, but I did not see on their web page who (if anyone) bought it.  

Jackson Southwest Hotel, 2649 Hwy 80 West, Jackson

The Jackson Southwest Hotel, possibly a Holiday Inn at one time, sits empty and vandalized on a hilltop just west of Ellis Avenue. According to WLBT News in October of 2020, a grant will help revitalize it into a residence for seniors. I previously wrote about the hotel in 2020.

Hotel O, Ellis Avenue, Jackson

The Hotel O is on Ellis Avenue just north of the westbound ramp to Interstate 20. Despite its modern appearance, vagrants have lived in it for several years and have set fires. You can see fire damage on the right side of the building in the photograph above. It is likely that the building will be razed soon, just like the former Best Western Metro Inn, which was once right across the street. The Metro Inn was crunched up in April of 2021, and nothing is left. 

Is this really what happens in American cities? Build, maximize the tax benefits, let the property decline as it moves down the food chain, abandon it, and then demolish it at taxpayer expense? What a ghastly waste of resources, earth materials, and energy.

The panoramic photographs are from Kodak Portra 160 film via the amazing Hasselblad XPan camera and its 30mm and 45mm lenses. Click any frame to see details at 2400 pixels wide.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

More Wide View in Central Jackson (XPan 09)

We continue our Hasselblad XPan tour of Jackson, Mississippi.

Jackson was, and still is, a major railroad junction town. I like railroad photography and am always impressed by how massive the railroads build their bridges and infrastructure are. In the previous article, you saw the rail overpass on South Gallatin Street. If we drive north, we reach  Pascagoula Street. Turn right (east) and the road drops under the tracks.

Near the Pascagoula Street rail overpass, Jackson (30mm ƒ/5.6 lens)

The Amtrak station is just north of where I took this picture, just beyond the King Edward Hotel (now comdominiums). I later found out that I am not supposed to have clambered up to the embankment ("No trespassing").

Waste land south of Pascagoula Street (30mm ƒ/5.6 lens)

The tall building in the photograph is the 1929 Art Deco Standard Life Building. According to the National Park Service,

Originally built as a tenant office building with a retail annex, the building and annex have undergone a successful $27 million rehabilitation providing retail space on the first floor of the tower and 64 desirable market-rate housing units. The limestone, brick and terra-cotta exterior has been meticulously cleaned, the transoms of the storefronts, display windows and entrances uncovered and restored. The elaborate Art Deco marble, terrazzo floor, limestone wall panels, geometrically shaped storefront windows and decorative ceilings have been retained while finding a popular new use for this Jackson architectural treasure.

I have never been in it and need to make a trip there. 

The low building beyond the white car is an abandoned lock store. I photographed there in 2015

North Mill Street view north from Woodrow Wilson overpass (45mm lens at ƒ/8)

The Woodrow Wilson Avenue overpass provides a good view of the Canadian Pacific rail yards and tracks below. The public is not allowed in the rail yard, but from the overpass, you can see locomotives moving rail cars back and forth. I usually park near Mill Street and walk on the sidewalk. Cars rush by but no one cares. Many of the warehouses on the east side appear to be unused. 

Mill Street is pretty rough, with closed gas stations, warehouses, and what may have been manufacturing operations. Many of the warehouses once had tracks leading onto the properties. I wrote about Mill Street in 2016 (click the link).

Abandoned oil mill from under Fortification Street overpass (45mm lens)
Fortification Street overpass view west

The next road crossing to the south over the rail yard is Fortification Street. Just to the south is a complex of sheds and tubes, an unused oil mill. With the XPan camera, I liked the view under the overpass, sort of a no-man's land of trash and construction debris. 

These photographs are from a Hasselblad XPan camera with its spectacular 45mm ƒ/4 and 30mm ƒ/5.6 lenses. The film was Kodak Portra 160, which I scanned on a Plustek 7600i film scanner. Click any picture to see it at 2400 pixels wide.

Next time, some scenes in west Jackson. Can't you wait?

Monday, September 12, 2022

The Wide View in South-Central Jackson (Hasselblad XPan 08)

Jackson, Mississippi, is fun for my type of photography because so much of the city is rough (I am trying to be polite). Let's continue our explorations using the Hasselblad XPan panoramic camera. Here are some examples of south Jackson around South State Street and Gallatin Street. This frames are from Kodak Portra 160 film, expired since 2013 but frozen for all of its life. Click any picture to expand it to 2400 pixels.

South State Street view north (45mm F/4 lens at ƒ/11)
Anyone here? 330 S. Rankin Street, Jackson

South State Street was once prosperous and lined with car dealers and various other businesses. Not today. Heading west, South Rankin Street may be even more desolate. I took black and white photographs here in 2020.  

South Gallatin Street view north (45mm lens)
Warehouses, South Gallatin Street
Addison Auto Body, 828 S. Gallatin Street (30mm ƒ/5.6 lens)

Turn north on South Gallatin Street, and there is a bit more commercial activity. The road dips under the early-20th century railroad girder overpass, which is in regular use. I have photographed along here in the past

South State Street (BW400CN film, Voigtländer Vito BL camera, 50mm ƒ/3.5 Color-Skopar lens)

As a comparison, here is the view of South State Street taken on black and white film with my 1959 Voigtländer Vito BL camera and its 4-element 50mm ƒ/3.5 Color-Skopar lens. The XPan's lenses are modern, sophisticated, and amazingly capable on the 68mm wide frame, but this simple 4-element Skopar (a Tessar-type of design) holds its own for the normal 35mm frame. 

Railroad overpass, S. Gallatin at W. Porter Street (TMax 100 film, Rolleiflex 3.5E 75mm Xenotar lens, 1/250 ƒ8, yellow filter)

Here is the north side of the railroad bridge where West Porter Street intersects South Gallatin. This is from my 1959 Rolleiflex camera. Hmmm, how come this "antique" equipment works?

Standby for more Jackson photographs next week.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Jackson's Steel Lustron House - Brilliant 1950s Housing Concept


Lustron House was a post-war innovation to make affordable and durable houses for growing families, many able to buy their first home via the GI bill. From 1947 to 1950, the Lustron company, from Cleveland, Ohio, represented the future of housing. Based on a steel frame and porcelain enamel-covered steel panels, Lustron made these homes in a factory and shipped them around the country. 

These modest houses were termite-proof, highly fire-resistant, and low maintenance on the exterior. They were complete with appliances and plumbing. Many mid-century gasoline stations used similar enameled steels exterior panels, which require no repainting and are clean and colorfast for decades. 

Jackson, Mississippi

Jackson has at least one steel Lustron House at 144 W. McDowell Road. 

Lustron House, 144 W. McDowell Road, Jackson, Mississippi

Preservation in Mississippi wrote about the McDowell Road Lustron house in 2010. Shortly after the article came out, I drove to McDowell Road to see the house. A neighbor said it had been unoccupied for two months. 

Note raised slab foundation and gutter channeled down decorative overhang support
Original front door matched exterior tile color; add-on burglar bar outer door
Contrasting steel window trim and steel roof tiles
Handsome bay window marred by ugly burglar bars and nasty awning

I am awed by how well this house had survived the years. When I photographed it, it was at least 60 years old. The siding tiles are immaculate. Considering the neighborhood where it is located, I doubt the  occupants do much maintenance or washing. The nearby conventional houses looked pretty rough in 2010. The April 2022 Google Maps photograph shows trash and filth strewn on the yard. 

1948 publicity photograph (from Flickr). Note modern fluorescent lights and linoleum floor

Albany, New York

My friend in Albany took the following photographs of the charming block of Lustron Houses on Jermain Street Historical District. They are on the National Register of Historic Places. A Wikipedia article describes their history. The first one below has been re-sided, but the others have their original enameled steel panels. Seventy years later and they are still shiny and bright. Astonishing.

Closing Thoughts

It is a pity that this experiment in steel housing did not thrive. A Flickr page shows Lustron houses from around the country. I do not know how many are standing.

The Wikipedia article notes:

The Lustron design was created to adapt it to mass production. A steel framing system was devised consisting of vertical steel studs and roof-ceiling trusses to which all interior and exterior panels were attached. The concept of prefabricated housing was well established by firms such as The Aladdin Company, Gordon-Van Tine Company, Montgomery Ward, and Sears in the early 1900s. These companies, however, used conventional balloon-framing techniques and materials in their kits. After World War II, the domestic demand for steel exceeded production and the federal government exercised control over its allocation. Strandlund had orders for his porcelain-enameled panels for use in construction for new gas stations for Standard Oil. He made a request for allocation of steel but was denied. However, he was advised by Wilson W. Wyatt, Housing Expediter during the Truman administration, that steel would be available if Strandlund produced steel houses instead of gas stations.

I would not be at all surprised if conventional builders lobbied municipalities to enact restrictive building codes or other impediments to these innovative housing concepts. And now we have houses built on site from bulk lumber and supplies by workers of varying skills and with huge waste in material (just look at the scrap lumber, sheet-rock, and debris at any McMansion construction site). The craftsmanship of many new houses is severely lacking; bling without substance. Is it time to reconsider a concept like the Lustron Houses again?