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Special places: USA

August 2016

Lighthouses for aeroplanes

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Concrete arrows and the US airmail beacon system is a post on the Sometimes interesting blog describing a system that has left strange concrete arrows across the American landscape. In con­trast to marine lighthouses which have stood for centuries and are still lit every night, these aerial navigation aids had a short service life.

In 1924 the US Postal Service began to build a network of giant concrete arrows which pilots could see from the air during day­light, with flashing lights on towers for night navigation. By 1933 radio direction-finding systems had been developed, and the beacon system became obsolete.»more»

Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Archaeology + Lighthouses
October 2007

Nothing to see here

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This website takes the form of a blog, with short posts about obscure places. It’s the work of Anne Ward and a group of collaborators. The about page cautions that attractions that may not be all that attractive, among other delights, can be found here.

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April 2007

Seeing the light: lighthouses of the western Great Lakes

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Terry Pepper has assembled a rich history, gallery and gazetteer of this remarkable collection of inland lighthouses.

These sentinels and their dedicated keepers performed a critical service to mariners. With the survival of some these majestic beacons in question, it is our intent to tell their story as accurately as possible, in the hope that increased understanding of their purpose and rich history will help assure their survival for future generations to enjoy as much as we have. — Terry Pepper [from the website].
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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under Canada + USA + Lighthouses
April 2006

The 1906 San Fransisco earthquake and fire

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This month marks the centenary of the earthquake and fire that destroyed a large part of San Francisco in April 1906. This web­site tells the story of destruction and rescue, using thousands of photographs along with text transcripts of letters, reports and other documents.»more»

Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Urban infrastructure + Urban life
November 2005

Salton Sea

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Photographs by Mark Tucker, evoking his journey to the Salton Sea, the largest lake in California. It’s a terminal lake (meaning that it has no outlets) and it is set in the desert. Mark Tucker introduces it like this:

My hunch was that it was mostly populated by retirees, witness protection candidates, and guys running from the IRS. There’s an eerie quiet that settles over this entire area; just the sound of the wind, and the heat beating down on your shoulders. Like a place that man walked away from, or a likely place for a David Lynch film. So, I’m also trying to communicate the feeling of this place through the color palette, and the lack of contrast, and the overall brightness and glare that seems ever present. [from the website].

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA
October 2005

Brooklyn storefronts

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According to internet folklore, shonky online camera retailers are concentrated in Brooklyn. Stories of bait-and-switch, hard-sell and plain non-delivery abound on rec.photo.digital.

Don Wiss is a Brooklyn local and a photographer. He finds the street addresses of Brooklyn online camera vendors by searching corporate registers and doing whois searches. Then he cycles around the neighbourhood and takes pictures of the premises. He publishes his photographs on his website along with the business names and websites connected with them.

I enjoy this collection of shopfronts. It invites me to analyse and classify, to create a typology. The photographs are full of his­tor­i­cal layering. They stand as backgrounds for viewing the websites, and for reading the stories of scammers and scoundrels.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Urban life
August 2005

Texas bird’s-eye views

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This website displays a collection of late nineteenth century bird’s-eye views of Texan cities and towns. The views were originally published as colour lithographs, full of the detail of buildings and other human artefacts set in a grand landscape.

The subjects are settlements established or expanded since the coming of the railroad. With their orderly gridded streets, heroic railway viaducts, belching smokestacks and rows of neat houses the views exude the settlers’ pride in their achievements.

I am reminded of the pattern of development of parts of Queensland in the same period. The port city of Galveston seems like Rockampton, while there are inland Texan analogs for Emerald, Barcaldine and Longreach.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Industry + Urban infrastructure
April 2005

Chicago crime

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Chicagocrime.org is a freely browsable database of crimes reported in Chicago. You can browse by the type of crime (arson, or homicide, or assault, or gambling, or…), by location, or by date. You can even filter crimes by multiple criteria, and view them on one map.

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November 2004

Guide to Springfield

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Here is a web guide to the imaginary city inhabited by The Simpsons. From the introduction:

Although we’d like our map to be as accurate as a map to any imaginary place can be, our main intent is to preserve the comic spirit of Springfield, document its unique identity, and to have some fun at the same time.
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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Urban infrastructure
December 2003

The Farnsworth house

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This is the website of the friends of the Farnsworth house — activists who successfully campaigned to preserve this icon of modern architecture. This month the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, the National Trust of Historic Preservation and the Friends of the Farnsworth House bought the house at auction. Plans are being made to conserve and open the building as a house museum.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Architecture
April 2003

Manhattan transformations

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From the blurb on the front pages of this website: Manhattan transformations: mapping Manhattan’s skyscraper districts through time

This project uses computer models and interactive animations to depict the dynamic relationship between Manhattan’s skyscrapers and other layers of urban information, such as:

Geological formation, settlement patterns, landfill.
Transportation and communications infrastructure, zoning laws and real estate cycles.

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February 2003

Unified vision: the architecture and design of the Prairie School

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This website is an online showcase for the Prairie School collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. There are tours of buildings (surviving and demolished) and of the many associated objects in the institute’s collection.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Architecture
September 2002

Chaplin film locations then and now

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Gerald Smith revisits the Californian locations of Charlie Chaplin’s classic silent films. With his collaborators, Smith compulsively searches for these places, and records them with photos, stories and videos.

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June 2002

Grandma Prisbrey’s Bottle Village

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Beginning construction in 1956 at age 60, and working until 1981, Tressa “Grandma” Prisbrey transformed her 1/3 acre lot into Bottle Village, an otherworld of shrines, wishing wells, walkways, other random constructions, plus 15 life size structures all made from found objects placed in mortar. The name “Bottle Village” comes from the structures themselves — made of tens of thousands of bottles unearthed via daily visits to the dump for years, some of them from her husbands own bad habit. Appearances aside, Bottle Village began as two purely practical needs for a cheap building material to build a structure to store her pencil collection, which eventually numbered 17,000 and a bottle wall to keep away the smell and dust of the adjacent turkey farm. However, it was her own ability to have fun and infuse her wit and whimsy into what she made which over time became the essence of Bottle Village. Practicality alone would not explain The Leaning Tower of Bottle Village, the Dolls Head Shrine, car-headlight-bird-baths, and the intravenous-feeding-tube-firescreen, a few examples of her delightfully idiosyncratic creations.
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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Landscapes + Urban life
March 2002

Museum of Jurassic technology

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This place in Los Angeles shows that museums don’t have to be irony-free zones, even in America. Here’s part of Ralf Rugoff’s description.

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November 2001

New York City map

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Experiences of New York recorded by Marketa Bankova, a Prague-based web artist. She says the project is…

… a sort of virtual guide to the most interesting parts of New York City (at least from my point of view). But it isn’t a guide in the usual sense. While “walking” through these Web pages you can, as you choose, find yourself “standing” on a particular street, look at photographs, listen to sounds and even read something. In contrast to traditional maps, the aim of NYCMap is not to document the layout of the city or point out its most famous tourist attractions. With the NYCMap I’ve tried to capture the atmosphere, the energy, or that something (Something?) which I think makes New York City so curiously different from other cities with skyscrapers. At the same time, this project is my personal diary, a document of time I spent there from May to July 1999.
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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Urban life
August 2001

Mies in Berlin/Mies in America

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This is a web catalogue for a pair of exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum, New York. You’ll need the flash plug-in to see this slick hagiography of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) and his buildings.

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May 2001

Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

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Called an on-line guided tour, this web site shows you room by room through a lavish temple of freemasonry. There are photographs, descriptions, virtual reality panoramas, even music. Try to find the Masonic apron of Brother George Washington (yes, that George Washington) — it’s in the building.

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April 2001

Modern ruins

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Phillip Buehler’s dossier of ruined ships, railway stations, stadiums, hospitals, Worlds Fair sites, U-boat bunkers and other remarkable places. The author has a sharp eye​—​look at the other sections of his site too (linked from the home page).

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March 2001

The Kahiki Supper Club

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Until I found this web site the name tiki restaurant meant nothing to me. This piece from the Atlantic magazine describes one, and a campaign to save it. It’s an engaging story subtitled How do we distinguish the historic from the sentimental? There are links to other web sites about these special places.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Food + Urban life
October 2000

reCyclorama

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For a Gettysburg sequel (see July 2000 below), reCyclorama presents a campaign to save architect Richard Neutra’s 1961 visitor centre at Gettysburg National Military Park. The building houses Paul Philippoteaux’s 1883 cyclorama painting of the Battle of Gettysburg.

This web site argues against plans to demolish the building and ‘restore’ the battlefield landscape. See pictures of this important modern building, read news of the conservation campaign and background pieces about 1960s park visitor centres. Pan around the huge circular battle painting with QuickTime VR.

Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Architecture + War
July 2000

Gettysburg battlefield

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On 3 July 2000 a tourist lookout tower next to the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was demolished with explosives. The tower, privately built in 1974, was regarded as an eyesore and provoked a public campaign. A federal court decision allowed the US government to take over the tower and remove it from the landscape. This cnn.com news report includes links to other web sites, and even a video of the tower coming down.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + War
April 2000

The political graveyard

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This web site is a richly indexed and cross-referenced bundle of information about the lives, deaths and last resting places of American public officials. It’s the work of Lawrence Kestenbaum, attorney, academic and preservationist. He explains:

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January 2000

America’s last wool pullery

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Pittsburg, Pennsylvania was once the centre of a major hide and skin trading, tanning and fellmongering industry. This web site is about the factory of the Pittsburg Wool Company, and about a campaign to conserve it. The author, Dr David S Rotenstein, is a professional historian and an active campaigner.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Industry
December 1999

The fabulous ruins of Detroit

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Lowell Boileau’s tour of the vanishing ruins of his beloved city.

Granddaddy of them all and possibly the most famous factory in history, the remains of Henry Ford’s Model T Automobile Plant in the Detroit enclave of Highland Park is still in partial use as a warehouse. Home of the moving assembly line and designed by industrial architect giant, Albert Kahn, the world beat a path to its door fuelling the second industrial revolution and catapulting Detroit to wealth and fame.
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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Industry
September 1999

Nevada test site

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A set of photographs of the site of more than a thousand nuclear test explosions between the 1950s and 1992. The photographs are the work of Jan W Faul, and prints are for sale.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Photography + War
July 1999

Picture LA: landmarks of a new generation

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A project to get a group of kids to express their connection with their neighbourhoods of Los Angeles​—​an elegantly presented project sponsored by the Getty Conservation Institute.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Urban life
April 1999

Hanford Site Historic District

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Hanford (near Richland, Washington, USA) .. was established in secrecy during the Second World War to produce plutonium for America’s nuclear weapons. Peak production years were reached in the 1960s when 9 production reactors were in operation at the Site. All weapons material production was halted in the late 1980s and the Site is now engaged in the world’s largest environmental cleanup project. Hanford is also the subject of a project (well documented on this web site) to conserve and interpret its historic significance.

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Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Industry + War
February 1999

Vermont’s historic diners

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An inventory, a social sketch and the story of six historic preservation students’ field trip in a 1966 Chevy Impala.

Update (January 2003): Only the front page of this website is still available. A pity.

Permanent URL. Use it to bookmark or link to this item.   filed under USA + Food
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On this page
Lighthouses for aeroplanes
Nothing to see here
Seeing the light: lighthouses of the western Great Lakes
The 1906 San Fransisco earthquake and fire
Salton Sea
Brooklyn storefronts
Texas bird's-eye views
Chicago crime
Guide to Springfield
The Farnsworth house
Manhattan transformations
Unified vision: the architecture and design of the Prairie School
Chaplin film locations then and now
Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village
Museum of Jurassic technology
New York City map
Mies in Berlin/Mies in America
Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania
Modern ruins
The Kahiki Supper Club
reCyclorama
Gettysburg battlefield
The political graveyard
America's last wool pullery
The fabulous ruins of Detroit
Nevada test site
Picture LA: landmarks of a new generation
Hanford Site Historic District
Vermont's historic diners

Subject archive
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USA  29
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World  5
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