29 December 2016


Reviving Memories:

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as slideshow.

We who live in prospering communities have heard of depopulation. Perhaps we have witnessed neighborhoods in decline. Maybe we've also known gentrification, as parts of our prospering cities change ethnic characteristics and families are forced out due to rising rents or land values.

Soon, of course, we will all become familiar with the phenomenon of climate-induced massive inland migration as rising seas inundate our coastal cities. That is depopulation on a grand scale!

What happens to people when communities "rust?" How does it happen that they gradually fade away, perhaps without any great event or fatal, dramatic crisis to mark their departure? In Brooksburg's case it could have been the simple rerouting of Route 56 (now the Ohio River Scenic Byway). Could it be that Brooksburg is recovering? We have no answers. But we offer these visual clues. 

Google Street View's "Window on Brooksburg"
Google cameras shadow a very special window in Brooksburg.
Mrs. Bruce may have looked through these panes.
Our "window on Brooksburg" is brought to us by Google Street View (2009 and 2013) and Mrs. J.M. Bruce, a 19th century resident of the area.

Excerpt from "Summer Time," an ad booklet published by Lydia E. Pinkham Company.
Brooksburg is not too far from Madison, Indiana, the  County Seat for Jefferson County, IN.  The 1900 census recorded a population of 149. At that time, Brooksburg had two churches (Baptist and Methodist), a Post Office, a weekly newspaper (the Brooksburg Sun), 3 general stores, a Knights of Pythias building (used as school classroom facility) and a creamery. - source: Liquisearch

By contrast, in 2017 the population is about 80. Two church buildings appear to be well maintained, one a Baptist congregation and the other unidentified, but probably the Methodist church.  Google Street View found no operating stores of any kind, no Post Office and no creamery. A number of foundation remains can be seen, one of which has been made into a basketball court & playground.

Below is a Google Earth view of Brooksburg with the routes Street View cameras took through the area marked in blue. The how and why of Street View coverage is a mystery to me. (Please comment below or email me if you can explain.)

American FactFinder and Roadside Thoughts provide census and other information for Brooksburg. Based on the Street View tour, I question some of the livability assessments made by AreaVibes below.

The "crime" rating seems to be particularly suspect, as none of the Brooksburg windows have bars on them, which would be expected in a community with an "F" crime rating.

The lack of public accommodations, local grocery and public transportation is reflected in the "F" given for "amenities." I suspect there is no municipal water, natural gas or sewer service. While the D+ for "education" results from the lack of any school in Brooksburg, nearby Madison IN has a good public school system, a community college branch and Hanover College. "Housing" appears to be inexpensive but unavailable. "Employment," of course, does not take into account those who may be operating home businesses (if any).

"Barely Livable?!" Not by a long stretch, AreaVibes! This beautiful community offers a combination of assets that could be very attractive for those working just 7 miles down the Ohio River Scenic Byway in Madison IN.

This is a small community. No government census can accurately grasp its spirit. Perhaps some of the Street View photos below, however, can provide a more adequate introduction.

Unless otherwise credited, all photos are derived from Google Street View, with links to each location provided in the caption.

The Fire Department and the two churches appear to be the most prominent
community functions in Brooksburg. (Google Earth)
Milton Township Volunteer Fire Department
Unidentified, probably Methodist Church
Brooksburg Baptist Church
At certain times of year
road signs
Most intersections have no need for crosswalks, stop signs or traffic lights.
The streets are generally one lane, paved to keep the dust down.
What a feature! All the streets are one way--your way!

The Brooksburg tobacco drying barn indicates agriculture may provide some income here.
Nature's decorations are reflected in this dooryard
A nicely landscaped garden
The volunteer colors of Virginia Creeper brighten this facade.
Some of the porches are very Victorian.

Porches have distinctive features.
Doors are welcoming.

The dog enumerator has something to do.
A family grave site in town is maintained by residents. 
Strong foundation walls mark the site of a long abandoned structure.
Somewhere around here, there may be a trace of this old schoolhouse:

(Hoosier Recollections)

By all appearances, this was once a general store, probably one
of the three recorded in the 1900 census.
For those who wish to contemplate all this,
a chair is thoughtfully provided.
Nearby, a barge heads upriver on the Ohio towards Brooksburg...
... and the spirit of Mrs. J.M. Bruce looks up from her work to bid us
farewell from the second floor of the general store.

19 December 2016

The Other Side of the Tracks

Google seeing you!
The Shining City on the Hill
Kansas City MO (Part II)

12th Street Viaduct, March 2015, overlooks the West Bottoms.
(all photos derived from Google Street View)
Leaving West Bottoms for higher ground, perhaps by way of the famous 12th Street Viaduct, we are soon in a position to look down on the site of the Union Depot (see part I) and its associated haunted landscapes.

Overlook at corner of W10th and Kirk Drive
(Google Street View, November 2016)
Heading in the other direction, towards the city center, the view is much different. The approach features the expected architectural flourish or two.

Archway,  March 2015
(click link for original Google Street View)

archway series, October 2016

elaborate grand entrance, November 2016

All of the above examples are things one finds in most urban centers. Reflections, however, are the outstanding unique feature of Kansas City architecture. These are not all carefully planned, as architects cannot predict the future any better than anybody else. Some, however, are calculated to feature or emphasize certain building details at certain times of year or day.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, November 2016
Out of the shadows comes the light. The golden dome of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception throws some very special light on the cross in November.

For the casual observer, it can be hard to determine which visual delights are planned and which appear by chance. While the majority may pass by without notice, those of you who pause for a moment to observe your surroundings are in for a special treat. In some cases, you need not even take your eyes off the pavement to experience a unique perspective.

No windows? No problem! Borrow them from your neighbor.
Borrowed windows, October 2016
For those who do glance upward, however, Kansas City architects have created a special treat.

Canyons of creativity, November 2016
With Google Street View, you don't "have to be there" to experience visual sensation, you are there! 
Typical for an American metropolitan center, new buildings reflect their surroundings. Architects guide your eye to their creations, sometimes by showing you the works of others in a new light...or shadow, as with the example below.

Shadow play, October 2016
Curiosity at work! Click the link to see if you can find the buildings profiled here.
Kansas City architects are masters of their craft, as your approach to their creations will attest.

Hint of what is to come, November 2016
The old West 12th Street Viaduct takes you from West Bottoms' warehouses to this  grand entrance to downtown.
Stop here November 2016
Contemplation suggested. Remember? As a kid you eagerly ran to climb up flights of stairs.
As an adult you react differently. Your playmate stairs are now obstacles.
Time for reflection!
Angular feast, November 2016
Light is the focal point. Click the link to savor this one!
Mirrors not only reflect images, but they also throw light, redirecting it into spaces that might otherwise be featureless shadow.

Lightfall, November 2016
A waterfall of light descends this building, courtesy of its reflective neighbor.
The effect is pronounced with the low angle of the sun at this time of year.
There are times when so much is going on that it's hard to keep your mind focused on your daily tasks. When visiting Kansas City on a sunny day, be prepared for surprises. Visual distraction is guaranteed!

A light for everyone, November 2016
Pay attention! One of these is just for you!
As you explore Kansas City, you will no doubt find a favorite location or two. As far as light play goes, here's a favorite building of mine that does it all.

See me? October 2016
The architect did. (UMB Bank)

UMB headquarters October 2016
Surprise! October 2016
Are all of these images reflections?
Click the link & sneak around the block to find out!

Grand finale, October 2016
This last building does it all. Inspired by an earlier design by architect I.M. Pei, Abend Singleton Associates Inc. (lead architect Stephen Neil Abend) received an award for the design of this building. A mere glass box was not enough for this architect. The employer demanded more and the architect delivered nooks and crannies and glass and projections and colored glass and the surprise above. The architect's employer gets the last word (for the time being as I'm looking for more information about all these buildings):

YouTube ~3min. 

18 December 2016

Everything's Up-to-Date!

updated 19 December 2016
Kansas City, MO
(Part I)

from Google Street View

Kansas City welcomes rail passengers in fashion, as it always has. Here is a Street View exploration of the area around the site of one of its elegant former train stations. Join us for this this brief tour and please comment if you can add something of interest!

Published by Ward Bros., Ph. V., Columbus OH
sometime in the early 20th century

From "Bottoms Up" by Dr. Jason Roe which appeared on the Kansas City Public Library site on Monday, 6 April 2015 comes this excellent brief history of Union Depot and its neighborhood. As you will see, Kansas City MO experienced phenomenal growth in its population during the end of the 19th century:

"The major drawbacks to Union Depot all stemmed from its location in the West Bottoms. While an excellent place to pick up packaged meat and cattle for shipment to the North and East, the West Bottoms was one of the more unseemly parts of town for passenger traffic. Coming from certain angles, passengers actually had to avoid trains on the tracks. Visitors to the city left the relative comfort of their railroad cars and were greeted with nearly four square blocks of the saloons, gambling centers, billiard halls, tattoo parlors, and brothels that surrounded the depot. The smoke of the coal-fired trains coated nearby buildings with black soot. Traveling from the depot to Quality Hill and Downtown involved a nerve-racking ride on the cable cars of the steep Ninth Street Incline.
To make matters worse, the entire West Bottoms area was prone to flooding. The 1903 flood swamped Union Depot, giving the city an impetus to construct a new and larger depot in an area free of flooding and more convenient for passengers. On October 30, 1914, the new depot, named Union Station, opened to a crowd of 100,000 people. The next day, October 31, the last train passed out of old Union Depot. The building was razed in 1915, and the bawdy area surrounding it quickly vanished."

Union Avenue has changed in the last 100 years. Here's what the Depot site (lower right to center) looks like in the 21st century:

As can be seen from the Google view of the area above, there are lots of remains of old structures.
"West Bottoms," the Union Depot's neighborhood, stripped of its importance by the abandonment and demolition of the Depot in 1915, evolved in the absence of much of the notorious commerce which had once been part of this flourishing community. Factories and warehouses moved in ... and then moved out. Periodic flooding has taken its toll on any industry that has chosen to locate here. Nobody tells the story of West Bottoms better than H. Darby Trotter, PhD, whose oral history of the area is riveting. Hear the audio here.

Finding the site of Union Depot was challenging, as most of the landmark buildings in the Ward Bros.photo above had been wiped out either by the aftermath of a 1903 flood or the second catastrophic flood to hit the area in the 1950s.

The following series of maps helped me pinpoint the location:

Four years after the military phase of the Civil War concluded, Kansas City's West Bottoms area looked like this:

1869 from Library of Congress holdings:

Bird's eye view of Kansas City, Missouri. Jan'y. 1869.
Contributor Names
Ruger, A.
Christy, A. C.
Merchant's Lithographing Company.
Ruger & Stoner.
Created / Published
Madison, Wis., Ruger & Stoner [1869]
A topographic map of the area confirms the bowl shape of the terrain. West Bottoms is a part of the Missouri floodplain:

Kansas City grew like a weed after the Civil War. Here's how the city was portrayed in 1895:
The very long Union Depot is at the center of this map. (original from Library of Congress)

Panoramic view of the west bottoms, Kansas City, Missouri & Kansas showing stock yards, packing & wholesale houses.
Contributor Names
Koch, Augustus, 1840-
Created / Published
[n.p.] c1895.
Holsum encouraged you to "add the touch of genius to your meals."
In 1977 Honeymead acquired Holsum Foods and two years later consolidated margarine production in a new plant in Olathe, Kansas. The margarine operations were supervised by Holsum Foods staff based in Waukesha, Wisconsin. 

Weathering from a century of rains, storms, floods and baking temperatures
gives a distinctive look to many warehouses in West Bottoms.
Haunted house enterprises are a common use for some of the warehouses. Here the Google
Street View camera catches its shadow as it passes a haunting.
West Bottoms' future is uncertain. As the wealth and population of the region has increased, so has interest in this historic district. Periodic flooding, however, will continue and those who invest without paying attention to the history of West Bottoms as they build new structures or renovate the old should be prepared for a loss.

Meanwhile, on the bluffs around West Bottoms, Kansas City is prospering. The contrast is remarkable! See Part II.