Roadside Architecture

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Day 13: North Carolina

I probably should've been driving home since I still had such a long way to go but I couldn't resist making a few stops on in North Carolina. Got to see a few things that have been on my list for years. Downtown Durham has a lot of neat old buildings like this one (Brightleaf Square, a former tobacco warehouse):


Got home at midnight and will now be working on getting the photos (approximately 1,000 of them) to the website. If you haven't been following the flickr stream, I have about 200 photos from this trip there.

The Next Big Trip will be in July - focusing on Wisconsin and Minnesota. I'll resume these blog entries then.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Day 11: Georgia & South Carolina

Ya know, I just realized this is Day 12, not Day 11. I don't know how my numbering got messed up and I'm too wiped out now to try to figure it out & fix it.

We started the day in downtown Atlanta. I only had a couple stops there but some big running race event was going on and it took me about an hour to get across town. But for a giant chicken, it was worth the wait!

The other stops were in Atlanta suburbs, south and north. An old Zesto's must've been bulldozed for new development. Got yelled at by the woman that lives in the giant guitar house in Fayetteville for taking a picture. You can't really tell it's a guitar unless you're up in the air anyway. The Giant Knight made of car bumpers in Marietta is gone. The Chateau Elan Winery doesn't know where their giant wine bottle is anymore. Also in Braselton, the Mayfield Dairy's giant cow is also gone. I got a few midcentury buildings and a couple repurposed gas stations (both now restaurants). Those are the random things that come to mind right now.

In Hapeville, I ran across this now hideously encased Burger Chef:


In Riverdale, the Hindu Temple of Atlanta is pretty spectacular:


We crossed over into South Carolina at the end of the day. In Ware Place, I found this cement statuary place that had quite a few fiberglass figures. Those photos will be going up at the website when I get home. For now, I'll share a cement doggie photo with you:

Day 10: Alabama & Georgia

A near record high today in northern AL/GA -- mid-80s. In the afternoon, I managed to find a stream for the dogs to play and swim in. Great fun! And how could I resist some homemade peach ice cream in Clanton, AL:


In the morning, I spent some time at the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, AL. Ya gotta love Joseph Zoettl's obsession with architecture. I was delighted to see in his California missions section a representation for my hometown (born & raised in Ventura):


Zoettl also had a sense of humor as evidenced in this nicely detailed sidewalk chipmunk crossing:


These creepy characters were in front of a restaurant in Rome, GA:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Day 9: Mississippi & Alabama

Got some good stuff in Meridian in the morning. Managed to sweet talk some park maintenance guys into letting me into the carousel house for some pictures. This was the second time I've been there and both times not during operating hours. The carousel is simply spectacular. I was also relieved to find a Pure Oil station that was closed and derelict the last time I was in town has been fixed up (although the bright yellow paint is a bit much).

I love this little store (now a pool place) with a "pick one" facade:


Lots of other nice architecture in town as well, including this little building (a bank?):


And some nice mid-century "almosts" (not quite nice enough for the website). Most people probably find concrete ugly, but I love the stuff! Here's a bank downtown:


And another mid-century bank with elegant columns:


In Meridian, I also found this fading away hotel sign:

Crossing over into Alabama, I drove a little out of the way to see the Forkland Follies (in Forkland, AL). These creations, made of hay bale and scraps, are the work of Jim Bird. It turned out to be a treat as much for me as the dogs. There was no one around and they had a helluva good time sniffing and running in the big open field.


This piece appears to be wind-powered. I don't know if it still works as there was no breeze when I was there.


More pleasant announcements that Spring is here in the South. Lots of wisteria in MS and AL along the route now. I know it's destructive to the plants it grows on and buildings but it's oh so beautiful.


I don't know how the Colonel would feel about this "it's down the block" modification to his bucket in Tuscaloosa, AL:


I went looking for the Barber's Milk sign in Birmingham. I was at the right intersection alright but was told that it came down over a year ago during Hurricane Rita. At least the wonderfully misproportioned Vulcan statue was just up the road and I had this nice building detail to cheer me up.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Day 8: Mississippi

Miles and miles between stops today. Not a very fruitful day in terms of quanity of pictures. Used the air conditioning a bit today which always seems like an indulgence (this van is the first vehicle I've owned that's had A/C).

Went pretty far out of the way to Ackerman to find there is definitely no Muffler Man there. Then went a couple hours out of the way to find no polar bears in Saltillo. Here's all that was left of them:


But I did get to see some lovely countryside on the way. The Natchez Trace Parkway is beautiful. Here's a photo of "Sparkle" basking in the sun and pines:


The kids had great fun running in the woods:


This is Nik trying to climb into the water bowl (it was HOT!):


Since I don't have a lot of miscellaneous photos to share, I'll give you a little behind the scenes peek at my "system". From my huge master list, I make lists for each trip. This is the Mississippi list for the day. I make notes on it to add to the master list when I get home.


Each destination has a "stickie" a partial mini post-it note stuck to the atlas page. I binder clip a piece of cardboard to the atlas so that it stands up next to me and is easier to look at while driving. The cardboard also protects the stickies on the other side. (sorry, not the best photo -- a huge swath of sunlight reflection there; taken while driving, bored, at 75 mph; that's also the laptop at the ready to check emails at the next "free-wi-fi" hotel I pass; and Grip dozing in the passenger seat).


Each destination also gets its own local Mapquest map so that I can easily find my way there and get onto the next stop efficiently.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Day 8: Tennessee (Part IV)

The last day in Tennessee and it was a killer. Finished up a few odds & ends in Arkansas first and then spent about seven intense hours driving around Memphis hunting down everything on my list. Easily 100 places. The skies were glorious but the sun was almost too bright and caused some wash-out problems when I had to shoot in its direction. I saw a bank clock (why is it that banks are the ones that have clocks anyway?) in the late afternoon that said 82 so it must've been hotter than that. No wonder the dogs and I were panting -- quite a changes from the 20s I left back in NYC a week ago.

Highlights: Joe's Liquors spinning sputnik sign is nothing short of mesmerizing. Memphis is loaded with neon both old and new. Wish I had the energy to go shooting at night. Someday.

Disappointments: Memphis' giant shoe is most definitely gone.


This interesting structure on Elvis Presley Blvd. in Memphis was most recently as a used car lot office. I'd love to know what it was originally.


A nice little midcentury bank on Elvis Presley Blvd., now a Bank of America, not quite good enough for the website:


This cute guy is part of a sign in downtown Memphis. I call him the "Money Man". I don't know how long he's been here.


And lastly, a couple little midcentury details from Memphis buildings.

The first photo from "Nagasaki" a Japanese steak house. There were these intersecting corner beams all over the place. In this corner, there was a little fountain. I doubt Nagasaki was the original occupant. Does anyone know more about this place?

The second photo is just a random office building. Very honeycomb-like -- appropriate for worker bees.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Day 7: Tennessee part III

Today was spent mostly on the backroads of northwest TN. The morning started out with rain but that quickly passed.

Highlights: Lots of nice old Greyhound stations today. Whoever allowed the Greyhound in Dyersberg to become a Domino's Pizza should be run out of office. At least the building is in great shape (though the interior's all gone). I was thrilled to see both the Greyhound and the Kress Building in Blytheville, AR are being restored simultaneously.

Disappointments: The giant Big John in Dyersburg has been gone at least 20 years. I checked out lots of theatres for a flickr pal, Jack Coursey, and found most of them to be missing or depressingly stripped.


This good-sized motor court, now the Courtland Square Apartments, must have been wonderful in its prime. Lots of detail still left.


Across the street from the Kress building in downtown Blytheville, AR is this wonderful threesome. I don't think I've ever seen three buildings in a row faced with vitrolite glass.


And just down the block, though not my era, is this very nice bank.


This nice welcome arch on Highway 61 at the MO/AR border has "Entering Missouri" on one side, "Entering Arkansas" on the other.


I've been seeing these trees that I don't think exist in the Northeast. I call them "Cousin It" trees but does anyone know what they're really called?


Spring has definitely sprung here in Tennessee.


Lastly, I leave you with this strange bird phenomenon that I've observed quite a few times in different areas of the country. Last night, I saw it again. Hundreds of starlings (I think they're starlings anyway) fly crazily and land in trees and yack at the top of their lungs. Are they recounting their day to each other? Just what is going on?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Day 6: Tennessee Part II

Lots and lots of miles today. Into Alabama a bit then way back into northern Tennessee, rural roads, interstate, and everything in between. My head is spinning & I need some rest so this will be brief.

Highlights: Lots of good stuff in Huntsville, AL. Stumbled upon a wonderful midcentury church. Unfortunately, locked up tight & I didn't get to see inside. An old Arby's buildings still functioning as an Arby's; an old Speedee McDonald's sign. Lots of great movie theatres in TN & AL -- I only put a few of them up at flickr. And signs, signs and more signs.

Here's a sweet roadside find from Dickson, TN -- functioning as a mailbox:

Day 5: Tennessee, part 1

A gloriously sunny day which made picture-taking fun again!

Highlights: tons of signs in/around Nashville & other fun stuff. The giant chicken in Ardmore which I expected to be falling apart has been freshly painted. I stumbled upon a modern bank with a glowing gold geodesic dome roof. The Belle Mead Theatre which I also expected to be in ruins is being restored. I managed to find a back way (crossing railroad tracks on foot) to get photos to the controversial Nathan Bedford Forrest which is situated & hard to see/photo from I-65.

Disappointments: nothing to complain about. I don't remember any dead-ends (looking for something & finding it gone).


Art deco fans, here's a nice little building in Nashville that's an "almost" (not quite up to my standards for the website but you might enjoy seeing anyway):

James Robertson Hotel (now apartments)


Nashville has a couple of Egyptian Revival churches as well:

Downtown Presbyterian Church


McKendree Methodist Church


I bumped into a touching little tribute to a local dog:


I have often thought about creating a website section just for roadside lighting (as if I don't have enough to do!). This would make a good contribution. It's from a former gas station turned used car lot, now vacant property. These lights are above what used to be the gas pump island.


Some of you have asked where I get the energy to drive and shoot all day and then put in another six hours or so working on the photos, flickr and this blog. My secret is Diet Coke in massive amounts. But I also believe in ingesting lots of sugar. I don't seem to experience the "drop" afterwards. I have never been to a Cracker Barrel restaurant before as I've heard the stories about it being a racist and homophobic company. But in a moment of desperate hunger coupled with its proximity to my Red Roof Inn, I went there for a grilled cheese sandwich. I discovered that they have a wonderful old-fashioned candy section and bought a few road snacks as well. I hadn't seen this beauty before and I do love Key Lime pie and coconut. The packaging and color of the treat were better than the actual product though. The photos don't quite match the brightness of the reality.


I leave you with one more bit of roadside architecture, not quite up to snuff for my website but still fun. I've seen quite a few of these former Red Barns on this trip. For more about them, see this website.