Todays road trip through the country takes us to the town of Urbana, county seat of Champaign County. Full disclosure – some of the photos are likely from border counties as I was on country roads without county line markers.
Each little town seemed to have a commercial block of 100 year old buildings, this one with a restored clock tower.
Talk about a barn find for the Ohio countryside – an old Mercedes with late 1980s license plates!
An abandoned school in a crossroads town.
This stylish little building was in the small town of Mechanicsburg.
Normally ‘Quilt Barns’ are much larger than this, but the contrast of the farm implements added to the look of this one.
Not too many farms date from 1814 in Ohio.
Eventually I reached the town of Urbana. As with most county seats it seemed to have the best collection of buildings in the area. Some nicely restored, some not so much, it was worth the stop.
The Hotel Sowles dates from around 1800, it is said to have hosted every Ohio governor from the beginning of the state until 1900. A community effort resulted in this great old building being restored.
This former bank in an Art Deco look is now a law office.
The Perpetual Federal Savings and Loan has been located in Urbana for 140 years. The building is generally designed in a Roman Corinthian style, but with classical touches. A true midwest building it is built out of Minnesota granite and Indiana limestone situated in a small Ohio town.
Personally I think the Yellow Mini sets it off nicely.
This classic Gulf Gas Station from the 1970s is still in use as an auto repair shop.
The local airport is home to a small museum where they are restoring a B-17.
This small theater started life in 1904, However in the 1930s it was destroyed in a fire, and was rebuilt in 1941 – hence the Art Deco look.
It is currently undergoing restoration.
Urbana has a number of great ghost signs.
This vacant, decaying building once housed a company that provided galvanized iron for railroad use.
Just across the street is the former train station, now a coffee shop. This station served the Pennsylvania Railroad for many decades.
The Teatro Colon is considered by many as one of the best opera houses in the world.
The theater was completed in 1908, with a four year restoration finishing in 2010.
The entry hall and initial rooms have many artistic details.
The main hall has room for over 3000, including standing room. The acoustics in the hall are legendary, so perfect you can hear people on the stage having a normal conversation from anywhere in the hall.
Out of sheer good luck we happen to be in Buenos Aires for their Open House. Their motto is 1 City, 2 Days, 140 Buildings and 760 Volunteers.
Without much notice I missed the sign up period for many of the more popular buildings, but we were still able to see some interesting examples of BsAs architecture.
Our first stop was the Casal de Catalunya. Built in the Barcelona style, the building dates from 1886. It has been home of the Catalan community in Buenos Aires for 130+ years.
Another building from the 1880s is Casa Bolivar. It is designed in a ‘Casa Chorizo (Sausage) style, so named as there are numerous small wings connected through a common hallway, much like links of sausage hanging in the butcher shop.
Casa Bolivar is in San Telmo, which was the main immigrant neighborhood for 100 years. These type of houses served as the first home for hundreds of thousands of immigrants – now it has been refurbished into an art studio and AirBnB.
The Instituto Superior Octobre is located amongst a number of 100 year old buildings, and from the outside fits in perfectly.
Inside is a completely different look – With the openness of the center court, and the steel and glass throughout, it is thoroughly modern.
The Teatro (Theater) Gran Rex is located along the main theater street in the city – Corrientes. It is modeled after Radio City Music Hall. I am unable to identify the statue in the lobby but for now we will call him the Argentina Dean Martin.
As noted previously it was designed to be similar to Radio City Music Hall with the shell roof, and lack of ornate decorations.
With over 3000 seats, it is one of the larger venues in town. On this day the roadies were setting up for a concert.
Our final stop was the Palacio Municipal, or City Hall. It is connected to the Edificio Del Diario La Prensa (a newspaper). Together they make up the Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture).
Buenos Aires, Argentina is said to have more live theater than any other city in the world. In my 10 days there I even saw an impromptu performance on a subway, which at first I thought was a real argument.
With all of these theaters it is bound to have one or two that go out of business – like this one.
Ah but Buenos Aires is smart enough not to tear it down. Adolfo de Vincenzi purchased the theater and restored it into a bookstore called the El Ateneo! This translates in English to anthenaeum, which was a school in ancient Rome. The word is commonly used for libraries, etc.
The results were spectacular. Numerous publications, including National Geographic, have named the El Ateneo these most beautiful bookstore in the world. I agree.
In addition to the main level, two of the upper levels have books.
The cafe is located on the stage.
The old lighting controls are also located in the cafe.
No matter the angle of view, it is amazing.
In addition to housing the children’s section, the lower level has a small display detailing the history of the theater.
As with many old theaters, the ceiling has a great mural.
As a historic city San Antonio had a decent amount of older homes and buildings in the center of the city.
The King William Historic District is just south of downtown. It has a great collection of restaurants and shops, but the highlights are the beautiful old houses.
As we reached downtown we passed by a couple great old buildings.
A classic clock, which we appear to have caught at high noon.
Nix Hospital s housed in a very fine example of an Art Deco building.
There are still a couple vintage theaters in town.
The Post Office and Court House is located across the plaza from the Alamo.
The Tower Life Building was completed in 1927. This eight sided classic Art Deco skyscraper also housed San Antonio’s first Sears store when first opened.
The Drury Hotel occupies the former Alamo National Bank building. Located along the famed Riverwalk the 24 floor building has many impressive details in the lobby.
We chose instead to stay at the Gunter Hotel, another great old hotel.
The Gunter Hotel is famous for being the location that blues legend Robert Johnson recorded most of the 29 songs he ever recorded. The bar celebrates the fact that he recorded in room 414, by calling themselves the Bar 414.
Despite the fact that Robert was from Mississippi, he was brought to San Antonio by a talent scout for Vocalion Record, Ernie Oertle. A producer from the label, Don Law, set up a recording studio in room 414 and 413 of the Gunter Hotel.
The drawing below is from an album cover of Robert’s music that was re-released in the 1960s depicting this recording session.
This is the room today, with the small white chair in the corner where Robert was sitting, facing the wall for the acoustics. How do I know this? This was our room for the night!!!
When we arrived every cushion was turned on end, every drawer was open. I immediately assumed it was Robert welcoming us! We spent the night hanging out listening to Robert’s music, either his original or the hundreds of covers from the Stones, Clapton and others.
Maysville, Kentucky was one of the original settlements west of the Allegheny Mountains, as it is situated along the Ohio River about 80 miles upriver from Cincinnati.
We entered the town via the 1931 Simon Kenton Bridge. Spanning the Ohio River for almost 2,000 feet it is a classic old steel bridge.
As with many river towns the flood wall is adorned with murals. Maysville’s are well done – including this one as a tribute to favorite daughter Rosemary Clooney, who from the 1940s until the turn of the century was an actress and fantastic singer (and also well known as George Clooney’s aunt).
The town is in remarkably good condition compared to most of the little river towns of this part of the world.
Much of the center of town has been restored, including this fountain and square.
More of the excellent flood wall murals – horses are a big deal in Kentucky.
This mural depicted the street we were standing on 100 years ago.
For most of the Ohio River valley in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky there are steep hills just a few blocks back – Maysville is no exception.
The Washington Opera House dates from 1898 in a Beaux Arts style. It is used today for theater and concerts.
Another great example of the nice restoration done in town.
The main street has some galleries to go with the small stores.
Some architecture is reflective that we are in the beginnings of the south.
The Kentucky Gateway Museum is a new building, but well done and blending nicely with it’s surroundings.
Maysville was once a center of wrought iron manufacturing, and many of the homes show this heritage.
Even a vacant lot has been re purposed as a small park – along with another great ghost sign.
Even the vacant house it very cool – the building in front and most of the house appears to be covered in kudzu, which I haven’t seen this far north before.
Just down the rest are more restored homes.
This row of houses to me is reminiscent of the famed ‘Painted Ladies’ of San Francisco – only at 1/10th the cost.
If you ever get the chance stop by Maysville, Kentucky – it is worth the visit.
Part 2 of the Southeastern Ohio tour shows some of the results of the struggles that an area that has been economically depressed for decades looks like.
A Ghost Sign in New Lexington.
Apparently not much fun in the sun anymore. It seems like it would’ve always been a bad business model because pools are expensive, and this area has never had much personal income, not to mention it is sparsely populated.
Some seem to have a unique beauty in their deterioration.
While others seem to be just barely standing.
Welcome to Historic Shawnee, Ohio!
This town once had over 3000 residents, now it is down to 600.
While at first glance it appears to be a ghost town, Shawnee is hanging on. While many of the buildings are vacant, some continue to be used.
Closer inspection of this ‘building’ shows the front is still there, but the rest of the building is gone, resulting in a courtyard of sorts.
This building, completed in 1907, was originally a hotel that hosted among others William McKinley. In addition there has always been a theater within.
This theater has recently been restored, and hosts concerns, plays and amazingly basketball games.
When buying a ‘fixer upper’, make sure it isn’t relying on the neighbor to stand up. (amazingly the small building behind the sign had a sign on the front indicating it was the real estate agents office, but it seems unlikely.
While sadly worn down, the buildings do have interesting architectural elements to them. If this were anywhere near somewhere with real estate in demand these cool little old buildings would be snapped up and restored.
With Shawnee being far from any population or jobs centers, they just look like a movie set.
Moving on, we passed this once a school, once a church, now (apparently) vacant building.
In nearby Glouster is a worn sign for The Wonder Bar (which apparently is long gone). No Wonder Dogs for lunch today.
Nearby is what looks like a scene from a Hitchcock movie – and old dilapidated building covered with birds.
Just out of town is an abandoned school, which nature is taking over.
As noted in Part 1 of this day, Nelsonville was a brick town. A park on the outskirts of town have the remains of a brick factory.
With the tower and a couple of large kilns, it is very cool place to check out.
This factory was started in 1880, and closed in 1940.
Amazingly the bricks are still sitting in the kiln.
Look closely you will see ‘Nelsonville Block’ embossed in many of the bricks. This company won awards for their bricks at the World’s Fair in St Louis in 1904.
Stacks of bricks are stored in the park (thankfully it appears nobody is stealing them).
Nearby is the Hocking Canal Lock 19 remains. Canals were essential to the initial development of the area in the mid 1800s.
This photo is representative of transportation in the area over the times. First there was the canal, then the railroad killed the canals.
The railroad itself was mostly displaced by the highway. Why can I stand in the middle of the highway and take this picture? Because it too has been displaced by a newer freeway that bypass all of the towns and this section of road, further killing any chance of survival these towns have.
Our final stop is in the interesting little town of Haydenville.
For his company town Hayden used the products he produced for sale to build the buildings.
The town was built in stages, and the materials reflect the era that they were producing them in the factory.
Some have interesting architectural features (and satellite dishes and trash).
Even the church was built out of the Haydenville Mining and Manufacturing company’s products.
In fact closer inspection shows a plethora of different tiles used for accent pieces and features.
Even some of the individual homes have these features. Note the pipes in the upper part of the left side of this house used for decoration.
Next door is a similar one, with slightly different features.
The final really unique house in the old company town of Haydenville.
Southesatern Ohio parallels much of Appalachia – there is natural beauty, but much has been destroyed by rampant disregard of nature for the benefit of industry for 100 years or so, now it is left on it’s own.
Yet some survive, either through tourism or other means. Regardless there is much to see in the area, and worth a trip (with an open mind to ‘beauty’)
David Lawrence Convention Center – David Lawrence was one of Pittsburgh’s greatest mayors, leading the ‘Renaissance’ era in the 1950s. He has been honored by having the convention center named after him.
The convention center is built along the Allegheny River at the edge of downtown.
It features a couple of gardens in an urban space.
For Doors Open Pittsburgh the highlight was being able to go on the roof.
The building is interesting but the views from the roof are great.
A telescope with style.
The north side of Pittsburgh is very hilly, hence the hodgepodge of buildings in no uniform order.
A railroad bridge across the Allegheny River.
Detail on the 16th Street Bridge.
In Pittsburgh you can have a bridge any color you like as long as it is yellow.
A different angle view of Gateway Center and Mt Washington.
The Gulf Building – Sadly it was not open for DOP.
The Pennsylvanian – one more look.
Benedum Center – The Benedum Center opened in 1927 as the Stanley Theater, which name remained on it until the 1980s. Many rock concerts were held in this classic theater (Bob Marley played his last show here), although by the 1970s numerous modifications had taken away much of it’s classic look.
That all changed in the 1980s, with a $43 million dollar restoration that returned it to its original look, complete with opulent lobbies.
The theater seats 2,800 people in elegance.
Today it is used primarily for the opera.
The highlights however are the spectacular lighting, especially the main chandelier.
The additional lighting would be the centerpieces elsewhere, but here they are secondary to the main chandelier.
Byham Theater – The Byham is a great old theater, opened in 1903 as a vaudeville house. Had we not just been to the Benedum Center, it would’ve seemed more impressive.
Our final stop – what an amazing weekend in Pittsburgh thanks to Bonnie and her fantastic volunteers, and the buildings who were willing to welcome visitors.
First Presbyterian Church – This church was completed in 1853, replacing another building that had been built on this spot in 1805.
Downtown Pittsburgh has many impressive churches, and First Presbyterian is second to none.
Another great pipe organ.
The most impressive feature (to me) are the massive doors at one end.
Although many would say the most impressive feature are the massive Tiffany stained glass windows.