Gray Mountain, Arizona – September 2022 – Painted Desert Project

Dr Chip Thomas is a native of North Carolina who went to Diné (Navajo) Nation decades ago as a fulfillment of a National Health Services Corps scholarship he had received. He arrived in this area in 1987.

Decades later he began to paint large scale murals on abandoned buildings throughout the area. Early on he painted what he believed to be an abandoned roadside stand, only to find it was still used and the new art attracted more business. These stands are crucial to the economic survival of the community.

The mural in Gray Mountain is on an old motel that had been owned by a group known as the Whiting Brothers, who had a chain of motels all along route 66 and elsewhere in the west.

The art is a tribute to the Diné Nation and their struggles and heritage, and was completed by Dr Thomas as well as Diné artists.

Idaho Panhandle – May 2022 – Vastly Different Vibes

Our first entry into Idaho on this trip was in the northern panhandle. First stop was the small town of Wallace, and the nearby ‘ghost town’ of Burke

Burke is 7 miles up a canyon from Wallace. While it is known as a ghost town, there are still a few people residing in the area. It’s population was once 1400 (in 1910), now it is 15. It was the home to lead and silver mines. Now it is sort of a unique tourist destination to check out the abandoned buildings.

Back down the canyon is Wallace. When Interstate 90 was built from Boston to Seattle it’s route took it through these northern Idaho mountain to go past Wallace. Unfortunately the valley is very narrow here, and the good folks of Wallace didn’t want their town wiped out for the freeway, so for decades you could go from Boston non stop until you reached Wallace, where the road went through town – up to 10,000 cars a day.

The town decided this made it the ‘Center of the Universe’, with a sign proclaiming that fact to this day.

Finally they built the 4478′ long viaduct elevated above the town. And Wallace lost another of it’s claims to fame. But fear not, with the checkered history of Wallace they have other attractions in town, including a bordello museum (did not stop:)

About 40 miles further west is the small city of Coeur d’Alene. The entire town seems ‘squeaky clean’, with it’s lakefront resorts.

Central Ohio – May 2021 – Weekend Wanderings

With minimal travel we had a weekend hiking close to home that gave a few photo ops of downtown Columbus, as well as nearby Licking County.

The trip to Licking County included a hike in Blackhand Gorge Park. Named for a (now long gone) Native American petroglyph the hike goes through a small ravine along a creek. The sandstone cliffs have a variety of vegetation growing on them.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the backroads of the county.

We came across this fantastic abandoned schoolhouse. As I approached for a closer look the bird came flying out adding to the excitement.

Eastern Ohio Towns – August 2020 – Architecture Along the National Road

The final posting on the National Road day is of architecture in the towns and small cities along the way. Much like in Wheeling, there is both nicely restored and the delightfully appealing vacant buildings.

Every county has restored their historic courthouse – could be a theme for a posting of it’s own in the future – the 88 courthouses of Ohio.

St Clairsville, Ohio

Morrisville, Ohio

Cambridge, Ohio

Zanesville, Ohio

Breezewood, Pennsylvania – August 2019 – Abandoned Turnpike

The Pennsylvania Turnpike was America’s first ‘superhighway’. Built primarily along a disused railroad right of way in the 1930s, it set the standard for all interstates to come after.

When first built it passed through 7 tunnels as you make your way through the Appalachian Mountains. Originally the 4 lane highway narrowed to 2 lanes for each of these tunnels, but they always caused traffic jams, so in the 1960s they added a second tunnel to have a continuous 4 lanes across the state.

During this expansion there were 3 tunnels that were bypassed by building the highway up over the mountains. Two of these are in a 13 mile stretch that was completely abandoned. About 20 years ago the Turnpike Commission deeded them over to the Southern Allegheny Conservancy, and it now serves as one of the more unique bike trails in the country.

After a 2 mile hike we reached the first tunnel…

At 2500′ long it was one of the shortest on the turnpike…

You likely can make it through without a lantern but we went about 1/2 way in and decided to head back…

The second tunnel further on up is the Sideling Hill Tunnel, which was the longest on the turnpike at almost 6800′ long. Clearly we need to come back with bikes and really bright lanterns.

Instead we enjoyed the graffiti display…

And headed back the 2 miles to the car. It is a really interesting experience walking along this old road, knowing how many million cars, trucks and people had traveled along this same route.

Terlingua, Texas – May 2019 – Pretty Busy for a Ghost Town

The town of Terlingua, Texas is billed as a ghost town, which is amusing because there are all sorts of random structures serving as homes, as well as numerous artist studios, and apparently the Chili Cook Off Capital of the World!

As with Boquillas, this was a mining town where the mines closed long ago, leaving numerous structures to fall into disrepair.

No clue why there is a stake through a cactus.

Newer buildings are scattered throughout the ruins.

The Terlingua Cemetery is quite interesting as well. Next time you find yourself in the area stop by for some interesting sights, people, and some chili.

Langtry, Texas – May 2019 – Views of a (Mostly Former) Town

Langtry, Texas is a town in west Texas, but just barely. In the early 1900s it was a busy place as they built the railroad nearby. Today it is a post office and the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center (detailed on another posting).

Most of the buildings in the area have been abandoned.

Those that remain have a sense of humor, as evidenced by a sign pointing toward the Rio Grande that says ‘Mexico’ this way.

The town does have a beautiful view of the Rio Grande Valley, and the cliffs and caverns across in Mexico.

And with that we took the lonely road west.

New York City – September 2018 – Abandoned Subway Station Tour

According to the New York MTA documentation there are 472 subway stations throughout the city. Over the years a few have been abandoned for various reasons.

Easily the most famous of those abandoned stations is the former City Hall station. Since 1945 it has sat unused in the loop at the end of the 6 train.

On rare occasions the New York Transmit Museum offers tours of this station. Tickets are hard to get and available to members only (I had a good friend who came through for me!)

We went to the current nearest station (also known as City Hall) and boarded a 6 train that went a short distance before stopping to let us off. The crowd was excited.

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The station itself was the masterpiece of the system when it opened on October 27, 1904. It was the first station to open on the first line.

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The station has a single platform that is curved. This curve eventually lead to the closing in 1945 as the newer cars were longer and made the gap between the cars and the station too wide.

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The arched ceilings and tile work make what the Transit Museum refers to as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the entire subway system.

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As with all subway stations the station name is a mosaic. While plain compared to some the tile work around it adds to the overall feel of the station.

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There are numerous skylights in the station. We had a night time visit so the ambient light from outside was minimal, but it too added to the aura of the tour.

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The mezzanine shown here (and the featured image of this posting) is amazing.

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The huge mosaic at the top is also a skylight, although for this tour there was no light from above.

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Back down on the platform the simple, yet elegant chandeliers provided dim lighting that accented the arched ceilings.

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The station is nearly intact, but some of the skylights need some work. Still the view of the ceilings and the curved platform is stunning.

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The primary station sign from the platform to the mezzanine level. Imagine the excitement in 1904 arriving and seeing this entrance to the station.

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There were 40 people on the tour so it was tough not having people in the photo (or getting into other people’s photos).

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A view from the mezzanine to the platform.

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A closeup of the platform ceiling and chandeliers. While we were there the 6 trains kept slowly rolling through their loop, their wheels screeching loudly on the sharp curve.

One not so hidden secret for the non paying tourists is to stay on the 6 train at the end and check out the station as the train makes it’s loop. Supposedly conductors will sometime allow this – the guides say do it on a bright sunny day so there is some light from the skylights.

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There are a few plaques commemorating the opening of the subway system.

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A close up view of the arched ceiling tile work.

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A close up view of the City Hall station sign mosaic and a skylight.

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The view down the platform into the tunnel with an oncoming train.

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Clearly I couldn’t get enough shots of the curved platform and ceiling. The style is known as a Guastavino Vault – the tile arch system using self supported arches and architectural vaults with interlocking terracotta tiles and layers of mortar.

It is named for Rafael Guastavino who immigrated to New York in 1881 from Barcelona. His work, and others in this style grace numerous buildings throughout New York City and beyond, including the Ellis Island Great Hall.

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Another view of a train rolling through with the arches and skylights (darkened). With no passengers they looked like ghost trains.

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One last look at the mezzanine level.

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And it was time to leave. Even this was amusing as our tour was holding up the entire 6 line as they stopped, set out a ramp to cover the gap and herded us on as fast as possible, with the people not wanting to leave.

Eventually we relented, and we left this fabulous place.

I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity – thanks to a good friend and the Transit Museum.

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