New Orleans is famous for their approach towards funerals and burials. Because of their location the city has always taken a unique approach towards cemeteries. Instead of burying people in the grown New Orleans has always gone vertical.
Because of the popularity, and vandalism, you must attend a tour to check out the cemetery. Our tour guide was fantastic – combining humor with knowledge.
The cemetery is the oldest in town, dating from the late 1700s.
There have been a number of construction approaches over the years for the vertical vaults. As a result there are tens of thousands of remains throughout the cemetery.
Most are owned by individual families. Many have small fences surrounding them to delineate their space.
Over the years some have been maintained more than others. The original brick ones have had their mortar dry up and fall out, with the fix being to cover them in stucco.
From certain angles they appear to be additional downtown buildings.
A few have tributes – not sure what an angel and a voodoo head symbolize.
The visuals throughout are stunning.
Some of the other tour participants fit the mood.
One of the interesting aspects is the ‘common’ space. If you don’t have a family crypt, or you have ‘lost your lease’, you are placed into the large community vault. There are literally thousands of remains there.
The history of New Orleans and cemeteries is a very interesting one. With the guide we had we learned much, and were able to experience the macabre beauty of the St Louis Cemetery #1.
The small town of Weston, West Virginia is the home to the Trans Alleghenies Lunatic Asylum. Completed in 1864, it is often considered the second largest hand cut stone building in the world, behind only the Kremlin in Moscow.
Designed by Richard Andrews, it is nearly 1/4 mile long with wings coming off the main building. It was designed to house 250 people, but by the 1950s nearly 2,400 patients were jammed in.
Weston has seen better days. From a peak population of 9,000 it now is home to about 1/ 3 of that.
Once the hospital closed in the 1990s a group purchased the historic building from the state and has done some partial restoration.
Some of the center sections, including the auditorium, have been restored.
There is also a small museum with a number of items – including original patient art.
Some of the displays show the sad approach to mental health in past days – including a display for a lobotomy.
But we are not here for the museum – we are here for the darker side of the history of the place.
We took the ‘Paranormal Tour’. The building has a reputation of being one of the most haunted places in America.
Perhaps it has something to do with this room – the lobotomy ‘recovery’ room. Not really sure exactly what a recovery from a lobotomy was like, but I doubt it was very pleasant.
Our tour Val entertained us with ghost stories – including one for this room where they did a video shoot and a ‘ghost’ appear in some of the promotional photos.
The stone structure and general decay of most of it definitely adds to the aura.
Some of the wings had inspirational paintings remaining on the walls from the 1990s when the building closed.
Abstract art? Nope – seriously peeling paint on a ceiling with the bars on the stairway.
Numerous TV ‘ghost hunter’ type shows have stayed here overnight and filmed.
When I asked why a few of the rooms had this orange tile – Val demonstrated that they were the ‘restraint rooms’ – note the small round patches on the tile on the right side of the photos – it is where the restraints were secured to the wall.
Why is this door only to be use by ghosts? We are 3 floors up with nothing on the other side but air – and a 30′ drop to the ground.
The wings last were painted to different the mens wings, from womens, from childrens (yes, children), and the criminally insane.
At a few places in the facility you find offerings to the ghosts, such as candy and cigarettes.
The children’s section has to be the saddest. Some children had the misfortune of being born there and end up being raised there since their mother was a patient and they had no other family.
The staff believes if you leave other ‘offerings’ such as the baby carriage that it will attract the children ghosts.
Having been in a few buildings like this (Mansfield, Moundsville, etc) this one was in much better shape un-restored than those.
In this room Val was summoning a ghost named Larry to turn the flashlight on and off. Some on the tour were hardcore believers and were really into it (which added to the overall amusement of the afternoon) while others hmm – looked up the story of ghosts and magnetic flashlights on the internet (not going to give a spoiler here).
Val did a great job sharing the stories of the Trans Alleghenies Lunatic Asylum. Unfortunately I did not see or feel any ghosts.
A weekend in Detroit touched on a significant amount of the auto industry history without really seeing an actual car (except the obvious high percent of American made cars on the streets and freeways of the city).
An organization called ‘Pure Detroit’ offers tours of historic structures, including the Fisher Building. Completed in 1928 as an Art Deco masterpiece, the Fisher was designed by noted Detroit architect Albert Kahn.
Despite being one of the tallest buildings in the city when completed, it is not downtown, rather about 3 miles north in an area that was named ‘New Center’. Developed in the 1920s New Center was envisioned as one of the original ‘edge cities’.
In reality the Fisher Brothers had tried to purchase a complete city block downtown, but at that time Detroit was a boom town and no land was available, making the New Center option even more attractive.
The Fisher Brothers founded Fisher Body, who provided the automobile bodies to General Motors. Most of the office space in New Center was occupied by GM, and their suppliers.
They chose this area to be closer to their factories.
As you enter the three story barrel vaulted concourse. The building is noted mostly because it contains forty (yes 40) different types of marble.
The Fisher Brothers were noted for their philanthropy and they felt that by providing a grand space for their business, as well as the public in general, they were giving back to the city.
As an architect Kahn had to be elated when the Fisher Brothers essentially said, spend what you need, make it memorable.
Including in the building is the Fisher Theater. With over 2000 seats it remains one of the oldest theaters in the city. The day we were there a matinee of ‘Hamilton’ was performing, resulting a large crowd gathering as we completed our tour.
Even areas like a small food court is opulent.
The mosaics, as well as other pieces of sculpture and frescoes were completed by Geza Maroti. As with much of the art in the period, the works have symbolism, including numerous eagles symbolizing America stretching to greater heights.
Lighting is always difficult to capture properly but when made the focus they make an interesting look.
A close up of the ceiling reveals one of the numerous tributes to knowledge.
The mezzanine level offers a nice glimpse of the ceiling, along with the main concourse.
The railing are very stylish….
… but obviously not OSHA complaint height.
The mezzanine level has great symmetry.
Just across the street is Cadillac Place. From the 1930s until the 1970s, this was the headquarters of GM.
From the 26th floor there was a nice view back toward downtown Detroit on this hazy day.
Our effervescent tour guide Jordan was great. She was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable – Pure Detroit should be proud to have her.
As noted in previous postings the Cincinnati Union Terminal is a masterpiece of art deco that was completed in 1933. It has the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere, measuring 180 feet wide by 106 feet high.
Once it closed as a rail station in the early 1970s it lived on briefly as a shopping mall before becoming the Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990.
It is immensely popular, with the original information booth serving as the ticket booth for the museums.
Fortunately each weekend day they offer tours of the building. While (as noted in other posts) portions of the building are undergoing restorations, it is still an amazing place to see any of it.
Our docent lead us on an hour tour, giving highlights and details.
The art deco touch is evident throughout, including this ticket booth for one of the smaller theaters.
Among the highlights are the massive mosaic murals on the main rotunda, as well as others hidden in corridors. The detail in the murals are amazing.
All depict either transportation or industry of Cincinnati over the years (up to 1932).
An ice cream shop off the main rotunda was once the women’s tea room. The entire room is Rookwood (a famed Cincinnati ceramics pottery company).
While it was abandoned as a train station in the 1970s, Amtrak has returned and uses a small portion of the building. It too has a great art deco look, with inlaid wood depicting railroad scenes.
A bank of phone booths grace one wall – without phones, but you can always close the door and use your cell phone.
Pierre Bourdelle was a framed French artist who designed linoleum panels with floral design for the walls of the women’s lounge.
Fortunately it is no longer a women’s lounge so anyone (including me) can see it.
A private dining room, and former men’s lounge, has a large mural of a map of Cincinnati and nearby northern Kentucky on the wall and mirrored walls giving a great effect.
A second view of the room.
Finally a stop in the main dining room that features some recently discovered food themed artwork.
The Cincinnati Union Terminal was, and continues to be, one of Ohio’s great buildings.