When I was in my early teens, an organization in a city near me finished an ambitious project: they restored an old theater. To celebrate, they held an open house and many people from the surrounding area came to tour the newly restored theater. My parents took my sister and I to go see it. I remember my fascination at the ornate detail of the theater.
After college, I became interested in abandon places. Not that I would visit one alone, but I loved looking at photos of once-grand buildings as nature and the environment reclaimed them. However, the photos of abandoned libraries and theaters always made me a little sad. Maybe it’s the decline of civilization, or maybe it’s because I’ve seen an old library and an old theater in preserved or restored condition. I often thought it was a shame more couldn’t be saved.
Several months ago, my father informed me that the local photo club had arranged to visit the theater we had toured all those years ago and visited a few times since. The club had purchased a tour and several hours of time to wander the building with cameras. I had the opportunity to photograph the very same ornate building that had fascinated me years before – and it is still in restored condition.
Since I ran out of retouch time (dynamic range is a big concern in this building!), here are the photos from the entryway and upper mezzanine:
Next time, I will continue with the inside of the theater. In a world with so much entropy and decay, it’s always a ray of hope that some things can be saved.
Last month, the local photo club decided to visit Yerkes Observatory. It is connected with the University of Chicago, but located in a small town in Wisconsin. Built in 1895, it houses what was the largest telescope of the time. Many astrophysicists studied there over the years. Albert Einstein even visited in the early 1920s. You can read more about the observatory here: http://astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/
We began with an educational tour and a look at the telescope itself. Not the best conditions for photography, but I had to get a few shots.
The floor in the telescope area moves up and down. During the tour, we were sitting on the edges of the building, which remain stationary. Our guide announced that he would go over to the desk and raise the center floor while whistling the theme from Star Trek. He was rather good at it. Here is the somewhat Original Series looking control desk.
After lunch, Dad and I stuck around for exterior photographs. This is the largest dome anong with the entryway to the building.
On the other end, there are two smaller domes and more ornate carvings.
Dad wanted to stick around and see if the sun would come out. While waiting, I photographed some of the carving on the entryway pillars. The Satyr is a caricature of Mr. Yerkes. According to the tour guide, he was one of the not so well-loved wealthy industrialists of his time. He built the observatory to improve his image with the public, which is why it is such a grand building.
The architect was a bit eccentric. No one knows what all the caricatures and symbols on the building mean because he had his son burn his papers upon his death. He also made fun of Rockefeller. Originally, there was a bee stinging Rockefeller’s nose, but he visited the observatory, and the powers that be thought they should have all the bees chiseled off the columns before he arrived.
Moons, stars, and the man in the moon also grace the pillars.
Wandering around the building, I noticed that the side doors were not as well-kept as the fronts – not at all. This did not surprise me, as I imaging keeping up a grand old building of that size is a challenge. The peeling paint and old door knob had a nice rustic quality about them, so I thought they’d make an interesting shot.
Finally, Dad got what he was waiting for. The sun came out.
Next Time: Flowers or Old Camera
Spring is coming slowly. If it doesn’t come fast enough, I’ve purchased an old Kodak folding Autograph and an Argus I’d like to do posts on sometime.
I spent Memorial Day with my relatives in the small town of Polo. Since it was such a nice day, I decided to go downtown and shoot. I wanted to reaquaint myself with the place I’d often visited as a child and look at it through new eyes. Downtown Polo is, oh say, about a two block area of old stores all connected to each other. Some were kept up over the ages, others were not. My relatives don’t see anything particularly interesting about the town or all that old stuff, but I do. So I left the house, weirdo with a camera, and went exploring.
Sadly, a good chunk of the buildings on one side of the street is hanging in rags. It was difficult to discern if this one spot in particular even had a back wall. I felt somewhat crushed seeing it more dilapidated than I remembered.
At one corner stood the considerably more intact old bank. I only know it was the bank because it is labeled as such. Otherwise, I would assume that the handsome grey building across the street had always been the bank.
I had to admire the detail in the buildings. The way people built things back in the day was so much more ornate. Not at all like many of the plain square structures put up today.
On the other side of the street, I found this amazing doorknob. Seriously, have you ever seen such a beautiful exterior doorknob?
Buildings on the other side of the street seemed to be better kept up as a whole. This one is particularly nicely kept up or restored. I’m not sure which.
Unfortunately, a large and beautiful old school building just outside the downtown is not. I’m told the building was designed by a noted architect. My relatives can remember going to school here and can still point out their classrooms. They convey a great sense of sorrow about the state of this building. I’ve often wondered what could be done with it. The town has more modern and efficient school buildings, so they don’t need it for that purpose. Economically, a business big enough for the building wouldn’t survive in a small town. I’ve wondered if it could be turned into some sort of housing like they do with old factories in the Southeast, but the area around Polo probably wouldn’t support that economically either. It’s just not big enough. It’s amazing what’s hidden away in some corners of the state, and sad that those things aren’t living up to their potential.
Just how big is Polo? My father once speculated it would be impossible to get lost in Polo because it’s so small. In many ways, that’s comforting. I’ve always felt safe in that town. Surprisingly, there are even smaller towns. One of my college friends came from such a town not so far from Polo. I asked how she knew Polo was bigger. She responded that Polo had a restaurant that wasn’t a bar. Strange qualification, but as far as I can find, it’s still true.
For me, Polo is a very American sort of small town. It’s a familiar yet different place where I come to be with my relatives. I hope to be seeing more of it this summer.
Next Week: Time or The Woods
I’ll tweet when I have a better idea of what I’m doing.