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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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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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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.

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Mysterious America Photography

Azariah Sweetin Home

Otherwise known as “the old stone house,” the remnants of this Greene County, Illinois manor were, at one time, part of a mansion built in 1848 by a stockman named Azariah Sweetin. Though nothing but a shell today, a grand ballroom once occupied the third floor, a ballroom that was the scene of murder. During a farewell gala for newly enlisted Union soldiers, two farmhands, Henson and Isham, got into an argument that ended with one thrusting a knife into the back of the other. The wounded man fell down by the fireplace and bled to death. According to legend, his blood seeped into the stone floor and formed an outline of his body. The stain could never be removed.

As the war raged, Azariah Sweetin didn’t want to take any chances, so he stuffed all his gold coins into jars and buried them around his property. Unfortunately, an equestrian accident in 1871 rendered him without any memory of where he had buried his money. After his death, his ranch was purchased by Cyrus Hartwell, who also lived there until he died. Treasure seekers soon tore the mansion apart, but no one has ever found Azariah’s gold. Storytellers say Azariah’s ghost—alongside snakes—now guards his lost loot.

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Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Daniel Butterfield

Monument to Maj. Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield (1831-1901) in West Point Cemetery, 329 Washington Road, United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. A native New Yorker, Daniel Butterfield’s father had founded the company that became American Express. He had no military experience prior to the American Civil War, but rose from the rank of captain to major general, and even won the Medal of Honor in 1862.

Butterfield was a talented organizer. He wrote an Army field manual, introduced the use of patches to distinguish between Union Army corps, and is credited with composing the bugle call “Taps”. He later transferred to the Western Theater. After the war, he served as Assistant Treasurer of the United States, but was forced to resign for taking part in a scheme to manipulate gold prices.