South of the Border and a Playground

Traveling down (or up) I-95, you cannot miss the South of the Border billboards. At one point there were 250 billboards from New Jersey to Florida! These signs tell you that you’ll find souvenir shops, food, lodging, amusements, and fireworks at this roadside rest stop. Kitschy Americana or useful rest area? You be the judge. Before you decide – do you know the history of South of the Border?

In 1949, Alan Schafer, who owned a distributing company, opened the South of the Border Beer Depot in Hamer, South Carolina. This small cinder block building sat just over the Robeson County, North Carolina border, which was then a dry county. Within a few years, Schafer added a motel and dropped “Beer Depot” from the name. Schafer decided to outfit South of the Border with a Mexican theme and over the next decade it grew to 300 acres and included a motel, gas station, campground, restaurant, post office, drugstore, and other shops. (Read more about the South of the Border in this article.)

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What about those billboards? While a number of billboards have faded, some have been updated in the past few years (to include South of the Border’s Instagram account, for example, @sobpedro). It seemed to me that a lot of the obviously questionable (some racist) billboards had been removed. Had they? According to this 1997 article, the Mexican Embassy complained, in 1993, about the “Mexican speak” billboards and other advertising materials. Eventually Alan Schafer agreed to take down the billboards, though it took a few years. For that reason, you will no longer see them on I-95. Some people have documented them. See D.W. Morrison’s website for the billboards. Good news, the billboards that remain are still quite entertaining! I laughed at quite a few.

If you’re a regular Preservation in Pink reader, you know that I cannot resist a corny joke or roadside America (and thus, I cannot resist South of the Border). And I love to share roadside America with the ones I love. On our family’s recent trek from Florida to Vermont, we stopped at South of the Border. After all, we had to introduce the baby flamingo to some crazy flamingo ways. We posed with a flamingo statue and a large concrete Pedro statue. She was unimpressed. Since she’s an infant, I assume she’ll grow to love it like her mama. (Fingers crossed.)

As we drove around, we found South of the Border surprisingly busy, yet still maintaining its eerily-sort-of-rundown vibe. The amusement park is shuttered. We couldn’t decide if one of the motels was open. The restrooms were clean. The worst part is that South of the Border sits on either side of US Highway 301, and lacks adequate pedestrian crossings or sidewalks, so it’s a nightmare attempting to cross. Hold your children and look both ways!

And now my favorite part. On our drive-about, much to my surprise, we found an old playground behind one of the motels. I’ve been to South of the Border a few times, and have never spotted this before. I had to get out and snap a photographs, of course.

Most, if not all, of the playground equipment is Game Time, Inc. equipment and remains in good condition. This equipment dates from the 1970s. Here is a tour of the playground.

These are called Saddle Mates.

 

More saddle mates on a merry-go-round

“Game Time / Litchfield Mich / Saddle Mate / Pat Pend” – Always check for the manufacturer’s stamp!

Saddle Mates on the “Buck-a-bout” from Game Time, Inc., ca. 1971

Single Saddle Mate, Donkey edition

The Stagecoach, a popular playground apparatus.

The Clown Swing, Game Time, Inc., ca. 1971. The Clown Swing would have had two swings. Other versions included the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion.

View of the Rocket ship slides and the Clown Swing. These rocket ship slides were often made by Game Time, Inc., though other companies manufactured them as well. If you’re wondering, I did slide down the slide.

View of the playground, as seen from the parking lot behind the motel. The road behind is I-95.

Looking to the motel

Good stuff, right? Hopefully some kids still play on the playground. A bit of Google searching led me to find images of an abandoned hotel & playground near South of the Border. Comments lead me to believe it no longer exists, but it used to be a part of the Family Inn. It looks straight of a 1970s Miracle Recreation Equipment Company catalog to me. Check it out. And remember, if you come across an old (historic?) playground, snap a few photos and send them my way. I love old playgrounds!

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#ihavethisthingwithfloors, Lightner Museum Edition

The mosaic tile floor in the lobby of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, FL, is one of the prettiest floors I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s one of the prettiest rooms. It would be a perfect place for a preservation party! Take a look. 


Coming up: more on the Lightner Museum & Alcazar Hotel. 

Abandoned Vermont: Highgate Springs Church

Highgate Springs, a small town just south of the USA/Canada border, sits on US Route 7, directly adjacent to Interstate 89. Home to lakeside homes, a family resort, and working farms, you wouldn’t know much is there, except for the church steeple that you can see from I-89, if you’re paying attention. Finally, I had the opportunity to drive by and snap a few photographs.

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You can immediately see the variety of architectural styles: the stick style gable screen, the Gothic entrance hood and pointed window arches, and the classical modillions on the tower.

 

The Highgate Springs Union Church, this Victorian Gothic building was constructed in 1877, with a mixture of Stick, Classical, and Gothic details. Originally built as a single-denomination church, it was soon used by a  “union” of Highgate denominations. It is listed in the Vermont State Register of Historic Places (#0609-58).

“The Little White Church,” as it’s locally called, is not technically abandoned, based on what I can find. However, it no longer offers regular services. Instead, it’s used for special events such as weddings from May- October.

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The church sits on at a small Y intersection.

 

 

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The benefit of late spring in Vermont: you can see the buildings through the trees even in mid May.

 

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The entrance.

 

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Looking up to the steeple. The siding is flushboard on the tower, a more expensive look that the typical clapboard (on the right).

 

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Flushboard siding.

 

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Classical, Gothic, and Stick details.

 

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A trick to tell if a building is being used? Is the electrical meter hooked up? If so, it’s not abandoned. Perhaps more neglected. This siding show paint peeling and repairs needed.

 

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Peeking in through the windows.

 

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The altar, as seen through the windows.

 

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The exterior.

Beautiful, yes? And not abandoned, but it could use some maintenance and more funding and greater usage.

Every community seems to have similar issues with churches. What about those near you?

Abandoned Virginia: Central High School, Painter

Central High School is located on Lankford Highway (US Route 13) just outside Painter, Acccomack County, VA.  This 1932/1935 school was constructed in the Art Deco style, common for schools in the 1930s. Central High School joined students from Painter and Keller. In 1984, the school became the district middle school. The school grounds contain recreation fields, outbuildings, and additional classrooms. In 2005, the school closed. Read the National Register nomination here.

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Central High School, Painter, VA.

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1935 addition.

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Side entrance.

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Art Deco details above the side entrance.

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View through the side door.

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View through the windows.

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Cornerstone.

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On the athletic fields: “Central Bulldogs.”

In 2008, Tucker Robbins, a furniture designer from New York City, purchased the entire property for $150,000 with a vision to rehabilitate the school into a new home for his NYC based furniture manufacturing business, as well as an environmental-educational facility. Read about Tucker Robbins’ plan on his website. Unfortunately, his vision was not realized; and in 2015, he offered up the school for sale for $525,000. (Source: DelMarVANOW and Eastern Shore Post.) Fortunately, while he owned the building, Robbins did hire a consultant to nominate the school to the National Register of Historic Places (listed 2010).

Currently the property is listed for $350,000. Bonus: the asbestos abatement is completed inside the school building. Check the real estate for interior photographs. See this youtube video for an inside tour. Anyone want to buy a school? I hope this building has a bright future.

The Worthy Inn of Manchester, VT

Abandoned Vermont: Manchester Inn is one of the more popular posts in the series. The inn was the subject of debate when it closed and  then again when it was scheduled for demolition to make way for a new hotel. While there was much concern about the new hotel, the architecture fits in with the historic district setting. Have you seen it? What do you think? If you haven’t, take a look at website: Taconic.

The inn has had a few names. Here’s a quick list:

  • 1907: opens as the Orchard Park Hotel
  • 1919: bought by Julia and James Brown, renamed The Worthy Inn
  • 1945-1986: various owners, name remains The Worthy Inn
  • 1986: bought by Ann & Jay Degen, name changed the Village Country Inn
  • 2009: Inn goes into foreclosure

A reader, Gregory, kindly sent some postcard images that he thought fans of The Worthy Inn / The Village Country Inn would enjoy. Take a look!

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Real photo postcard. 

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Worthy Inn dining room, real photo postcard. 

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Worthy Inn lobby, real photo postcard. 

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Thank you, Gregory!

 

 

Seasonal Buildings: Union Church in New Haven Mills

White, gable-roofed churches with tall steeples are anchors in Vermont’s villages, historically and visually. Small towns often have more than one church, speaking to a time when people attended churches and community meetings in greater numbers. In modern day Vermont, these large buildings remain in the same small villages, whose populations and budgets are fading. As you can see in Abandoned Vermont posts, some are empty, and others are used only seasonally:

Seasonal churches are used in the summer when the building does not need to be heated and lack of electricity, perhaps, is not a hindrance to use. Buildings closed up for the winters are not uncommon in the colder climates; many summer camps and cottages are winterized and sit alone for the winter months.

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Union Church of New Haven Mills, VT, built 1851.

Union Church in New Haven Mills, VT is one of the seasonal churches. For decades it was used once per summer month for a church service, and the occasional special event.

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View through the window. Front entrance to the right.

Union Church was constructed in 1851 as a church and meeting house to accommodate the growing community of New Haven Mills. Local craftsman Eastman Case constructed the building; his study of Asher Benjamin is evident in his design. Union Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a well-preserved example of a wood frame Greek Revival style church with features that including the temple-front gable entrance, corner pilaster, full entablature and pediments, oversized windows, and interior details. The Queen Anne style belfry was added ca. 1880.

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Greek Revival details.

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Interior details: pews, plaster, tin ceiling.

The 20th century brought floods and fire to the community, which led to the demise of the town and its lumber industry. The church sat empty throughout the 1930s, until Burt Rolfe, a Middlebury College student, took on the role of caretaker and preacher. Mr. Rolfe died in World War II. Neighbors, Langdon and Colleen Smith began taking care of the building and holding one monthly summer service for the next 40 years. When the Smiths died, neighbors continued to maintain the building. The church survived because of the neighbors and the community’s efforts to host events, raise money, and preserve the building. (Read the project file here for additional info.)

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Through the window: failing plaster throughout the church.

The Preservation Society of the Union Church of New Haven has continued repairs as part of the long-term preservation project since the 1990s.  In 1997, the Preservation Society applied for and received a grant from the Division for Historic Preservation to stabilize the foundation and paint the building. In 2011, the Preservation Society received another grant to repair the 20/20 double hung windows.

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New roof, 20/20 windows restored. Greek Revival details: pilasters, wide frieze, cornice returns, gable temple front.

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In need of exterior maintenance.

It’s a beautiful building in a striking setting, overlooking the small village of New Haven Mills and set adjacent to the Lampson School. However, buildings are meant to used and if they stand in year-round communities with only seasonal use, there is lost potential. Keeping a building seasonal allows the greatest amount of preservation. No wiring is needed; the building needs to be maintained, but not altered or disturbed. However, in our cold climate, that limits the months. And what a shame to not be able to use this building all year round. Perhaps minimal modernization and addition of systems would be worth it in order to use the building.

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The view as you approach from East Road. To the right is the Lampson School.

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View from the Union Church, looking to the Lampson School and a farmstead.

It’s a good preservation theory discussion. What do you think? If there is use, keep the buildings as-is for the warm seasons or disturb them for year-round use?

Abandoned Vermont: Ludlow House

At the corner of Main Street and Commonwealth Avenue in Ludlow, VT, sits an 1849 stone house. It’s an impressive building, one that I haven’t noticed in my travels, probably because I’m normally staring at the Fletcher Library across the street from this house. Finally, I noticed it.

This building is an 1849 stone building constructed in the unique “snecked ashlar” style (Scottish tradition), by William Spaulding. Originally there was a store on the first floor. Snecked ashlar is found only in southeast/central Vermont. (Chester village has an entire historic district of snecked ashlar, but otherwise it’s rare.) (State Survey # 1410-12.)

However, get up and close and you’ll be frightened by what you see. Structurally speaking, it’s not good. As in, I wouldn’t stand too close to that building. I think the walls are going to collapse.

I checked out Google Street View, and from the side street (Commonwealth Ave) you can see a Best Western sign on the front lawn (from Main Street it does not show). To confirm, I searched the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation online resource center. And yes, that was the answer! In the 1990s, the Best Western purchased the stone house at 83 Main Street to convert it to a 5 unit inn (click to read the Environmental Review file).  However, the Division for Historic Preservation denied the initial request as it would have adversely affected this historic building. The Division provided suggestions as to how to work with the building, rather than against it, and what features to retain and preserve. At first, Best Western even wanted to put vinyl siding on the building! As you’ll read in the file, the Hotel and the Division came to an agreement on how to move the project forward.

See, preservation is not about stopping progress! Just moving it forward with respect to the past.

 

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83 Main Street.

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Shutters falling off the front gable end.

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Due to the precarious condition of the building, I wasn’t about to stand under it to read that notice.

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It’s hard to capture in a photograph, but the slabs of stone are falling off the exterior wall, which is bulging at the middle. Windows are popping out of the frames.

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Another angle. In the middle you can sort of see the damage in the middle of the building elevation (look for the smaller rock instead of the stone slabs).

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Rear addition.

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This side is just as bad as the other side. Check out the door.

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Poor “snecked ashlar” house.

But, what about it now? My first guess was that the Best Western couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep up with the maintenance. However, a bit more digging revealed in January 2015 there was an explosion in the building causing $500,000 worth of damage. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there was substantial structural damage.

Do you live in Ludlow? What’s the latest update?

Quebec City by Foot and by Bike

Being a tourist offers the luxury of time, assuming you’re not one to over schedule (younger me did such things – I’ve learned my lesson). Without too much of a schedule you’re free to wander, stop, stare at architecture, and take in the new sights and sounds, and hopefully local flavors (beer + gelato, anyone?). My favorite modes of transportation for city exploring are via bike and foot. Bikes cover greater distances so you can see more than when walking. It’s easier to navigate while on a bike than in a car, and you don’t have to worry about parking. You can get out of the tourist-centric areas and see more of the city. And, it’s good exercise (to work off that beer and gelato). Find a bike path or bike lane, and you’re set. Walking, of course, is best in crowded areas and really allows you to stroll hand in hand or hand in camera, whatever your preference.

Quebec City is such a place: bike friendly and pedestrian friendly. There is so much to see that you will need a bike. Just be prepared for some ridiculously steep hills. Seriously, I’d rather run up those hills than bike some. And make sure you have good brakes! The city is filled with bike paths and bike lanes, including a linear park / bike path along the St. Lawrence River (the Promenade Samuel-De Champlain). Don’t worry if you’re not into hills; it’s flat. And when you get hungry, head back into the city for some architectural eye candy and good food.

Here are some of the scenes from the bicycle and pedestrian point of view.

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It’s hard to capture the scale of steepness in a photo. On a different note, check out the terraced landscaping between the sidewalk and the traveled way. Beautiful, and such good design!

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VELO (BIKE) parking on Rue Saint-Jean.

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A very pedestrian oriented neighborhood, though there is easy automobile parking, too. And, restaurant seating instead of parking spaces.

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Heading down to the bike path along the river (Promenade Samuel-De Champlain) for beautiful views. The Quebec Bridge is in the background.

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The promenade.

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The Promenade Samuel-De Champlain is lined with parks, shelters, and other amenities. This is, by far, my favorite: an exhibit of historic and modern street lights. (Transportation nerd forever.) Recognize anything? There’s even a cobra light!

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Through careful navigating, it’s possible to get to the Quebec Bridge by bike path. It’s a tight squeeze on the path though, so be courteous to others.

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You can get off the bike path, lock your bike, and explore the Basse-Ville (Lower Town) by foot and take the Funicular up to Vieux-Quebec (Old Quebec). Note the public art swing on the left: fun for all! It’s a very family friendly place to visit.

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Another scene of Basse-Ville.

I highly recommend a visit to Quebec City. Have you been? Do you prefer to a be a cyclist or a pedestrian? What cities are your favorite?

Happy Friday, friends! Happy travels.

 

Applying What You Know: Reading the Built Environment

Learning to read your built environment – your city – helps you to form tangible connections to where you live. In turn, your sense of place and community increases. You feel ownership and responsibility for your town or city, which allows for better planning and smart development. The longer you live somewhere and study, the better you get to know a place; the more you love it.

But what happens you go someplace new? How do you read the built environment if you know nothing about its history? Good question. The best part of learning to read the layers of the built environment is that you can gain a sense of place and understanding without needing to know its cultural history. How do you do that?  By observing and translating the elements of the built environment you see the development and changes.

Elements of the built environment include street patterns (gridded or not?), buildings (height, architectural style, materials), parking lots (where? garages?), sidewalks (width, material?), landscaping (trees?), bridges (type?), utilities (underground wires or telephone poles?), and more.

I want to share an example that I used in my recent Built Environment lecture. It’s simple, but a good place to start. Ready to play along? And, go!

Recently, I traveled through Prescott, Ontario, a town on Canada Route 2 along the St. Lawrence River. I stopped in what appeared to be the center of town. As a preservationist, I always enjoy getting out of the car and wandering for a few blocks to snap photos and observe the area, stare at buildings – that sort of thing.

Here is the view standing on the corner of Centre Street and Route 2. Note the historic building block on the right. On the left, however, is a large parking lot. Parking lots always raise an eyebrow for me – why is there a large parking lot in the center of town? Historically, towns were not built with parking lots in the middle. Let’s have a look around.

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Parking lot (left) & historic building block (right) in the center of Prescott.

 

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Top left: the same historic building block mentioned above. Right: tower and parking lot at the SW corner of Route 2 and Centre Street. Bottom left: The same parking lot as seen from the other end of it (note clock tower behind the tree).

 

You can see the photos above. Now let’s step across the street. These Google street views (below) show that SW corner (in the first photo I stood next to the clock tower).

Once I did a 360 observation of the block I had a few guesses. In the United States, if there is a hole (read: parking lot) in a town or city, I automatically think 1960s Urban Renewal era. However, this was Canada, so I wasn’t sure on Urban Renewal.

But, the drug store adjacent to the parking lot had a mid 20th century vibe (see image below). The general automobile culture (1950s/60s) often falls in line with demolition and parking lots for auto-centric businesses.

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Google Street views of the corner and drug store.

My guess? A historic building was demolished for the drug store and parking lot, and the clock tower built on the edge of the parking lot to “honor” the historic building. Classic, right? Always the preservation nerd, I did some Googling to see if I could find information about Prescott development. It took a while, but eventually I did find my answer!

Yes, there was a historic building there. This one:

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Prescott, Ontario 1876 Town Hall. The clock tower was a later addition.

According to this source, the town hall was demolished in the early 1960s due to neglect and lack of available funds in the town for repair. While I couldn’t find when the drug store was built, I have a pretty good guess that it followed shortly after demolition of the town hall.

While this was not the most uplifting example of reading the landscape, it is important to understand how our cities and towns are shaped by individual projects and decisions. And the lesson? When you see a large hole in the center, spin around and look around. It’s probably not supposed to be there.

Preservation Pop Quiz: Fisk Farm Edition

Fisk Farm is a historic estate located in Isle La Motte, VT, with an adjoining (historic) marble quarry that began operations in the 1660s. Today the quarry is a world renowned fossil preserve as a Natural National Landmark. The original stone house on the property burned in the early 20th century, but its ruins stand, and later houses and barns remain on the property. Set on the west shore of the island, with a view of Lake Champlain, it is one of the most picturesque spots.

Another Fisk Farm view for good measure. The porch and the stone house of the previous images. #presinpink

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But, like all historic properties, there are some mysteries. Take this stone structure as your next challenge:

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Set the to the left of the shingle style house in the photo above, this is the mystery object. The remains of the original stone house are in the background of this photo.

What is it? I don’t know, but I’m hoping you do. Some clues: 1) There is only one on the property. 2) Each side looks alike. 3) There are some pipes coming up from the ground. 4) Some of the insets have smaller metal pipes in them. 5) I am not taller enough to see the top.

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Look alike sides.

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Close up of the inset into the stone.

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Another inset. Note the metal pipe.

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One metal pipe coming out of the ground. This is the only one.

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Another view.

Your turn. What do you think?