The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

I love the history behind places.  The in between what they are now and what they were then.  This is an abandoned power station on Belle Isle, Richmond, Virginia.  The kid in the upper right hand corner is jumping down into what was the original outlet channel for the generators.  The two girls in the center of the shot are sitting on what used to be the bed of the Alternator units.  So a building that used to provide a  few thousand Kilowatts of power has been reinvented as a place to hang out and jump into water from.  What really amazed me is how quickly the structure has degraded.  It was shut down in 1963.

Back when I was in BC I had opportunity to see the inner bones of a lot of buildings.  Down on Helmeken street in Vancouver, there are a lot of furniture stores.  If you go down into their basement / loading areas, you can see the original cedar beams that hold the entire structure above them up.  I’m guessing these were built around 1850 to the turn of the century but those beams are solid cedar and are six feet thick.  Some of the cracks in the wood have been repaired by banded iron straps riveted through with a solid iron bar heated and rounded at each end.

About fifteen years ago, I was doing some work in Steveston, BC.  Which used to be a real hub for coastal fishing and trade.  For some reason I had to go up into the attic / roof section of the building and still there were row upon row of cleaning tubs the fishwives would gut and clean the incoming loads of the day’s catch.  The windows were high in the ceiling angled in the roof and I guess it was the thick layer of dust on everything but it gave it an almost golden cast to everything.  You could almost see the fishwives, backs bent to the task of preparing the fish for the ice trays.  And even though it was long abandoned, the space still felt somehow alive.

Another time in Bethlehem, Penn, I looked through the dirt grimed window of one of the numerous shuttered buildings that line either side of the old steel mill.  All I could make out was a tool box on the edge of a work bench with some tools beside it.  As if they guy doing the job hadn’t even had time to grab his things before his job ended.

Now I live on the other side of the country, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are all withing easy reach.  It’s fun to explore these areas rich in history even though by European standards they are quite young.  But I prefer to try to touch history that’s just a hands breadth away.




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