Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way
Walnut Room? This way, please.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Road Trip: Hotel Frances, Monroe, Louisiana

 An accidental wrong turn in Monroe led to a glimpse of this stunning Art Deco Hotel Frances.  Originally constructed 1931-32 by Wyatt C. Hedrick & Co (renamed after the Sanguinet, Staats, & Hedrick company that operated from 1922-1926 liquidated), the 179 foot tall, eleven-story building is made of concrete (Emporis).
 Unfortunately, the near-by buildings made it impossible to get a full, undistorted photograph of the building, but I could not pass it up regardless.  Monroe needed more hotel rooms, and it was the intent of the owner to compete with The Virginia, then the top meeting locale in town (Monroe Downtown Economic District).
 The top floor was the Cherokee Ballroom, and it would "...replace the rooftop ballroom of The Virginia as the number one social destination" of Monroe (Monroe Downtown Economic District).  The basement retains the street-entry--"a sign of the speakeasy days" and currently houses a bistro.
 The building was purchased by the Monroe Housing Authority in the 1970s and converted to use as apartments for elderly.  In April 2012, a $3 million/2-year renovation was completed which included restoration of the travertine and marble stone original to the building, and architectural details including flooring inserts, etched glass entry doors, restored beacon on the penthouse, and a circa 1929 lobby and mezzanine (Monroe Housing Authority, 2012).
 In its heyday as a hotel, it was advertised at the finest in the south, and boasted "250 air-cooled rooms and four air-conditioned dining rooms" (circa 1950s Hotel Frances post card).
 The Cherokee Terrace seated 650 persons, and Delta Air Lines maintained an office in the lobby.
 The hotel was "crowned by a 51 foot, three-tiered penthouse" (Emporis).
It prominently features Art Deco details on the exterior and interior.  Although Monroe had managed to weather some of the effects of the depression, a second flood in 1932 following the flood of 1927 took an additional toll on Monroe, already devastated by the cotton decline.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Milburn J. Crowe Memorial Park

On July 13, Mound Bayou unveiled the city historic marker honoring  Milburn J. Crowe.  Mr. Crowe was born March 15, 1933 in Mound Bayou to descendants of original settlers.  Mr. Crowe's grandparents were among the people who settled Mound Bayou and helped to establish the community.  

Following service in the military, and work in Chicago, Mr. Crowe returned to Mound Bayou in 1967, and helped organize and edited the Mound Bayou Voice Newsletter (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, retrieved from the MDAH Historic Resources Inventory database, July 20, 2012).

Mr. Crowe was
...dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of his hometown. (Mississippi History Newsletter MDAH, October 2005). 
Milburn J. Crowe
...was a learned man, pensive and quite passionate, who above all else loved Mound Bayou, its people, and most of all, perhaps, its history. (Rosen, 2011).

This small green space is representative of the Mound Bayou that Milburn Crowe loved: the mound in the center depicting the ancient Indian Mound, and the confluence of the two bayous (seen in the water passage circling the mound) that gave Mound Bayou its name.  You cannot see them in this photo, but there are benches placed in the park--inviting one to sit, talk to a friend or stranger--as apparently Mr. Crowe readily did, and to reflect on Mound Bayou's past, present, and future.

In urban areas, they have begun calling these small green spaces "pocket parks."  Just a little sliver wherever possible that does not use much real estate, yet creates a public place to encourage sitting, and a bit of green (in design and actual flora) to support the ecosystem.  Years earlier, Housing and Urban Development generated similar ideas in public housing spaces--efforts aimed at encouraging a healthier and safer place for people--the idea that the design of space can affect relationships and behavior that occurs in that space.

I tend to get what Rand calls "airy-fairy."  It means that I can get so immersed in seeking to understand meanings and connections and relationships and their symbols that at times, it can be confusing to have a conversation with me.  Because I have been trained to think in systems, and the more I study systems, the more it makes sense to me about everything being connected, it is why sometimes I can seem to be on a tangent, while to me, it makes perfect sense and is clearly connected to that issue I was thinking about or talking about.

See, you think I am off on one of those tangents now--probably asking, "how the heck did she go from talking about Milburn Crowe, and then green spaces, and now airy fairy tangents?"  I never met Mr. Crowe--he died in 2005, and I did not visit Mound Bayou until 2011.  From what I have read of his works (he wrote history as well as talked about it and tried to preserve it), he seems like a systems thinker to me.  He seemed to deeply understand not just the importance of the past and preserving its artifacts, but the connection that serves to us now in the present and in the future.  To understand why we are who we are and where we are today, requires understanding who we were and why we were there in the past.  It isn't about preserving the past just because it is the past, or because it seemed like better days--because we can't really hold onto the past literally.  All we can hold on to is our interpretation of, our recollection of what went before.  But that is true of a all things: it is always about our perception of the reality, or our remembrance of the reality.  We humans sometimes have a lot of difficulty in just experiencing our lives, rather than interpreting them and remembering them--what Robert Henry used to call "how you be."

So, here is the connection to me in the beginning about the marker to honor Mr. Crowe, and where I ended up just now about systems.  Mound Bayou says something to me about being--or trying to be.  From everything I have read, and much of what I have heard in getting to know people from Mound Bayou, it has always been about relationships--being--who you were, and how you made people feel.  I tend not to believe in "coincidences" in my life. (Another reason Rand calls me airy fairy).  I have always been looking at relationships, and how people feel in those relationships.  The road that took me to Mound Bayou seems like chance.  It might have been; after all, many factors could have caused me to choose something other than the choice I made the day that I connected with Mound Bayou.  But I choose to believe that if not that choice, another road would have led to Mound Bayou.  After all, it did for every person who has ended up there, influenced by, and influencing Mound Bayou.

One way or another, we are all tied together--everyone on this planet and beyond.  The sooner we realize that--that we are each other and we are each other's future, the sooner we can "be."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mound Bayou 125th: the finale

 Last Friday, 5 students and I went to Mound Bayou to video some of the events for the 125th celebration.  When we finished, Deja and Linita stayed to help me with the window decorations for the Mayor's Banquet Saturday night--the grand finale to the weeklong celebration.
One might not think it would take very long to attach tulle swags to 8 panels, but we spent 4 hours getting it all together.  There is no way I could have done it without them.  They put together a bit of an assembly line, and after Dega attached the tulle with velcro, Linita would pin the edges to fit around the curtain rod.  We put the panels on the rods and one would hold the panel while Linita tied the bows on the swag.  After that, lay flat on a table so they were ready to be hung once the floor in the great room was dry.
And yes, after spending all morning doing interviews and videos (Linita is great behind the camera, and Deja is a natural at conducting the interview), and working on the panels all afternoon, they were still smiling! 

Saturday night, Debra and I went back for the Mayor's banquet.  As we drove into town, a rainbow appeared, the arc encompassing the city, and the end right at the community facility!  The great room of the facility was transformed--all "gussied up" as were the attendees.  Senator Derrick Simmons was the guest speaker, and his twin brother, Errick provided an entertaining introduction.  We were joined at our table by the two interns (one public policy and one social work) who have worked in Mound Bayou during the past two months, and humbled at the recognition of our ongoing partnership with this community.  Mound Bayou, we love you!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Haltom Furniture & Hardware Company

 The Haltom Furniture and Hardware Company--apparently specializing in Whirlpool and Victor TV (was that pre-RCA Victor?) was located in a building constructed in 1900--along with much of downtown Lewisville, Arkansas when the railroad brought increased economic development.
 The earliest record I can find for Haltom owning this building is a 1967 transfer deed to Leech Haltom.  In 1991, the building was transferred to Michael Haltom and after 1997, seems to have left the Haltoms for a series of owners.
 It was the rear of the building that first caught my attention.  Doors and windows and details: red details.  Rusted red shutters, rusted red bars on the windows, and painted doorways.
The metal columns on the front of the building have been painted over so many times that I could not say for certainty which company built them.  At first, it looked like Texas City, and there was an ironworks in Corsicana at one time.  Their products included castings for the building industry.  Closer looking makes the name look more like Pennsylvania, however, and there was an Erie City Iron in Pennsylvania, but no indication they made building parts.  Their products included engines.  Other guesses include Texarkana AR.
 Sometime mid-century, Lewisville added metal canopies to most of the downtown buildings.  I assume that at about the same time, the front of this building was "modernized" with aluminum frame windows--and the interior with that asbestos ceiling tile and fluorescent ceiling tubes.
Even though the awnings are not original to most of the buildings, they have been there long enough that apparently they qualify for some type of historic significance on their own, just because they have been part of the landscape long enough.  Later, we'll spend a little more time at the back of this building, which I think is definitely it's best feature.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Doors--keeping you in, or keeping you out?

 It's another rainy day here, and the temperature difference is evident on the moisture collecting on the glass.  I can hear it dripping off the roof onto Libby's porch outside her pet door.  (She wisely is inside, curled up on my bed, asking why in the world I have the air conditioner on.)  I am not complaining--I love rain, especially when I can sit inside and work, and we have sorely needed it here this past week.  It is soothing to hear the sound of it, and it makes me forget for a little while all of the looming tasks ahead of me in the next few weeks...which brings me to doors.
 I find myself often taking photographs of doors.  Partly, it is my interest in the little details of a building--door openers, trim, windows, entry ways.  There is just something about a door that beckons me to look through it, at what is on the other side and what is on this side.
 Growing up, we did not have a lot of doors in our house, and when there were doors, they were rarely closed.  We lived in an old farmhouse for much of my childhood, and there was a short hall that connected the two bedrooms at each end, and opened onto the bathroom on one side and the dining room on the other.  Four doors in a small space, plus a closet with a door.  It was chaos, and all of those doors opened into the hall way except for the bathroom, so where in the world is the space when doors are all opening into the space?  My parents choice for dealing with those kinds of issues usually involved taking a door off the hinges in those areas where it was not necessary to have a door--like the opening into a hall from a dining room...or the opening from the hall into a "pass-through" room like is in their house now.  In small spaces, a door can take up a lot of valuable real estate when it comes to being able to position furniture.
 Air conditioning was also a factor in not closing those doors.  We had "swamp coolers" and they depended upon open air flow.  Close a door, and it blocked the air from that room and disrupted the flow of air throughout the house.
 All doors fascinate me--whether they are elegant, or peeling paint and falling apart.  There was a period years ago when decorating with old doors was in fashion.  My grandparents had been dead and their house sitting abandoned for years.  I occasionally would make a visit to the place, and pick up an item here and there--rocks from Grandma's garden, an old ceramic cat Grandma used to keep on the hearth, a plant hanger from the front porch--just small things that did not damage the integrity of the house.
 One visit, someone had stolen the fireplace mantel--a vintage wooden mantel and surround that had been in the house as long as I can remember from my childhood, and most likely original to the house, which is where my dad grew up.  I was incensed--I had longed for that mantel, but out of respect for my dad and his wishes, and not wanting to vandalize Grandma's house, I left it.  After that, it seemed each visit, there were more and more pieces of the house missing.
 Finally one visit, I decided to take the bathroom door and the door into the kitchen from the little hallway from the back door.  That started it--I began to dream about going to the bathroom in Grandma's house, and the door was missing so I could not close it.  Then it was frequent dreams about living in Grandma's house, and in the dream, I was always aware that we had fixed up the house to be livable, and I would wonder how in the world we did it.  Sometimes in the dream, there would be other rooms--rooms that had never been in Grandma's house.
 One day, our friend who usually accompanied me on my visits to Grandma's place asked J, "Have you ever seen your great-grandmother's house?"  J responded, "Yeah, most of it is in the garage."  When we left Texas, I stored the doors in my friend's garage, removing the beautiful ceramic door knobs and the metal faceplates, along with the metal towel bar that had hung on the bathroom door--a sort of "just in case" I could not retrieve the doors.
 The towel bar hangs on the side of my kitchen cabinet, and I used to hang my vintage dish towels on it.  Then, we got Roadie.  Roadie likes to chew on cloth.  I surmise it is his early childhood and being removed from his mother too soon to be dumped into the woods across the road from our house.  After he chewed up two of the dish towels, I learned to baby-doggie proof the house.  He's still fond of chewing cloth, so the towel bar is still empty.
 Most of the time now, all the doors to all the rooms in our house are closed.  Here, it is pet control.  I don't like my doors closed, but I have come to accept that it is necessary for the time being.  I miss the days when Rex and Maggie would come in and lie under the desk while I worked, and Kate, Libby, and later, Roadie would all be curled up on the bed.  When they would hear Rand come in, all of them would jump up and run down the hall to greet him.
 Those days have long been gone, as has Maggie.  Then after Kate and Libby reached their irreconcilable differences, Libby is sequestered in my room with her own personal pet door into her own personal kennel.  One too many accidental meetings in the hall way when a door was inadvertently left open, or someone did not know a dog was coming in from outside, and the need for a better system was clear.
 We are talking accidental meetings that resulted in physical injury to both pets, and twice to me, necessitating doggie ER and people ER visits.  That was when we moved to all doors closed all of the time, and installed pet gates in front of my door and at the end of the hall.  Triple protection against accidental meetings resulting from inadvertently open two doors at the same moment.
 Occasionally, I longed to have the door open while working in here.  Since there is a pet gate that Libby cannot get over, and an extra tall one at the end of the hall that the other dogs cannot climb over, I felt secure in leaving the door open.  That is, felt secure, until the day I saw Libby standing at the gate growling, and looked out to see Kate standing on the other side of the hall gate, just looking at Libby.  Whatever triggered the imprint of Libby's dislike for Kate, clearly time and absence of contact had not erased it.  I closed the door, and once again, accepted the reality of being behind closed doors.
Do your doors keep you in, or out?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Clear Fork of the Brazos Suspension Bridge

Spanning the Clear Fork of the Brazos River between Woodson and Fort Griffin, this 1896 suspension bridge is one of seven surviving suspension bridges in Texas that were constructed prior to 1940 (Historic American Engineering Record, 1996).  The catenary-type suspension bridge was built by the Flinn-Moyer Company of Weatherford.  All information is from the Texas Historic Bridges Recording Project, Dr. Mark M. Brown, with J. Philip Gruen, 1996.
The bridge has an "...overall length of 312 feet, a 140 foot clear span, and a clear roadway of 13 feet, 8 3/4 inches."
The east abutment is "roughly coursed stone...
...while the western abutment appears to be earth fill."
The piers are "mortared coursed rusticated masonry..."  Towers, which have been encased in concrete in a 1926 modification by the Austin Bridge Company of Dallas,are 17 feet high.  Castings at the top of each tower secure the ends of the pipes and comprise the cable saddle.  Inclined stay cables extend from  the top of the tower to the deck.
Detail of cable saddle.
"The original towers were constructed of three wrought-iron pipes tied together by tension roads within pipe struts" similar to this early photograph of a suspension bridge.  It is unknown why the Austin Bridge Company modified the towers, whether from structural reinforcement concerns or pure aesthetics.  Austin converted the triangular bases to rectangles, hooded the rods in wire and then poured concrete to create the obelisks.
Individual wire strands (about 1/8 inch in diameter) comprise the cables, which are about seven inches in diameter.
Most of the cable anchorages disappear directly into the ground, with the exception of one corner (not visible) which is attached with wires to pipes that are somehow anchored.
 Rods with turnbuckles suspend the deck from the cables.
Rods with turnbuckles are attached to the cables to provide the support for the deck.
Support for the deck spans consist of 4 1/2 inch diameter wrought-iron pipes, with smaller diameter pipes set at angles to further brace the deck beam.  In the 1926 modification, these pipes were reinforced by the addition of the two I-beam posts and two 8 inch channels placed next to the original deck beam pipe.
Additional deck support is evident in the bracing across the span.  
Splice plate and tension rod.
 "The ..deck system is stiffened by...Howe truss fabricated from wrought-iron pipe diagonals, castings, and tension verticals."  The wooden boards attached at the intersection diagonals (see the photo below for intersectionals) served as a wheel hub guard.
The center-span deck was replaced by the Austin company in 1926, as was a railing made of angles and channels to replace the Howe pipe truss.  It was not as functional in "stiffening" the deck as the Howe truss, so additional steel channels were installed on the outer decks.
Embossed steel plate runners--18 inches wide--were installed at the same time.  Most of the bridges I drove over as a child and young adult in the surrounding county had wooden decks with wooden runners until they were replaced by those uninspiring concrete stretches.  I walked from the west approach here, to the opposite end until stopped by the heavy growth of brush.  I could hear a humming sound that initially I thought was bees under the bridge.  However, I noted it stopped each time I did.  I realized that it was the sound of vibrations of the bridge cables.
"The materials and design features of the bridges that Flinn helped construct permitted swift and economical construction in remote areas."  Pipes and wire were easily transported, and no large equipment was needed as it was for truss bridges.  Timber and rock were readily available at the site.  Gruen asserted that another reason suspension bridges were less costly was due to not needing mid-span supports.  This was particularly important in areas where soil was unstable or the area was prone to flooding, such as west Texas.  It is common to see the river shrink to a mere stream, only to overflow the banks during a thunderstorm.

And as evening was approaching and storm clouds were threatening, it was time to head on back to Young County--another mystery solved:  "Where is the suspension bridge on the Clear Fork at Woodson?"