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Photography Roadside America

Stanley Theatre

The Stanley Theatre, 261 Genesee Street in Utica, New York, was built in 1928 as a “movie palace” and seats 2,963. It was designed by Thomas W. Lamb in a unique Mexican Baroque style, with terra cotta and tiled mosaics. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and today functions as a performing arts center.

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Photography Roadside America

McDonald’s Franchise Museum (demolished)

I grew up in Des Plaines, Illinois, so when a movie about Ray Kroc called The Founder (2016) came out, I’ll admit I watched eagerly for any mention of my former hometown. Ray Kroc was born in Oak Park, Illinois and he opened his first McDonald’s franchise on Lee Street in Des Plaines in 1955.

I passed by the McDonald’s museum hundreds of times, but never visited (it was actually a replica built in 1985). Unfortunately, by the time the movie came out, the museum had closed and was slated for demolition. When I visited a few years ago, the old sign and part of the arches had already been removed. Demolition was completed in August 2018.

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Historic America

Flames on the Mohawk

Tracing Revolutionary War battles in New York’s Mohawk River Valley.

During the Revolutionary War, the Mohawk Valley in central New York was the scene of brutal fighting between patriots committed to American independence and loyalists committed to remaining under the British Crown. Many settlements and homesteads were raided and burned. Stone houses became “forts” where civilians and militia would take shelter during these attacks. You can still visit the sites of these battles and skirmishes today, though several are marked only with a small sign.

Siege of Fort Stanwix

The Siege of Fort Stanwix is among the most well-known Revolutionary War battles in the Mohawk Valley. British General John Stanwix ordered construction of this fort in the summer of 1758 to guard a portage connecting the Mohawk River and Wood Creek. Colonial troops under the command of Colonel Elias Dayton occupied and repaired the fort in July 1776 and renamed it Fort Schuyler. British forces besieged it from August 2-22, 1777, but were demoralized by a colonial raid on their camp and withdrew. It burned down in 1781.

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Photography Roadside America

Madame Oar’s

Sign for Madame Oar’s and Tzer’s Gentlemen’s Club, 84 Court Street (U.S. Route 11) in Binghamton, New York. In Rocket Center, which features a neat Raygun Gothic sign. Madame Oar’s promises “…Heaven on Route 11” … Somehow I doubt that.

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Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Capt. Richard McRae

The “Cockade Monument” in Blandford Cemetery, 319 South Crater Road in Petersburg, Virginia, is dedicated to Capt. Richard McRae (1787-1854), commander of the Petersburg Volunteers during the War of 1812. The Volunteers fought on the Canadian frontier and helped defend Fort Meigs. They conducted a sortie against a British battery on May 5, 1813, but Capt. McRae, who was sick, did not participate. The Volunteers wore distinctive red, white, and blue ribbons, or cockades, on their hats, leading President James Madison to call Petersburg the “Cockade City”.

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Mysterious America

Who Murdered Amy Warner?

The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.

At approximately 10:20 a.m. on Tuesday, June 29, 1999, a friend of 23-year-old Amy Denise Warner became concerned that he hadn’t seen or heard from her since the previous day. He went to her home at 17 7th Street in Charleston, just north of Jefferson Elementary School. There he found Amy, a single mother and a manager at Elder-Beerman in the Cross County Mall in Mattoon, lying half-way on her couch in the living room, blood covering the floor.

Her two children, a 4-year-old girl and 7-month-old boy, were home but not physically harmed. Investigators said there was no sign of forced entry. Amy died from a stab-wound to her neck, and she had defensive wounds on her hands. Investigators estimated her time of death at around 12 hours before her body was discovered.

Amy, a 1993 graduate of Charleston High School, was well-liked, an avid reader, and quick to smile and laugh. She worked tirelessly to provide for her children. Who would do this to her, and why? Her friends and family, and the broader community, struggled to make sense of the senseless brutality.

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Historic America Photography

De Montcalm’s Men

Reenactors dressed as French soldiers at Fort Ticonderoga, 102 Fort Ti Rd, in Ticonderoga, New York. French engineer Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, Marquis de Lotbinière constructed the fort between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War. It was originally called Fort Carillon.