Categories
Photography Roadside America

Paramount Theater

The Paramount Theater, 215 E Main Street in Charlottesville, Virginia, was designed by brothers Cornelius Ward Rapp and George Leslie Rapp. It operated from 1931 to 1974, when it entered a period of abandonment. In 1992, a nonprofit began a multi-million dollar restoration. Today, it serves as a performing arts venue and remains a fixture of downtown Charlottesville.

Categories
Photography

Most Beautiful Cemeteries in the Mid-Atlantic

These historic rural cemeteries are a treasure-trove of art, architecture, and sculpture.

The Mid-Atlantic states are known for their rich history and culture and represent a diverse region of America, from Chesapeake Bay to Long Island. Some of the country’s earliest events, and its most prominent figures, lived and died here, making its cemeteries a treasure trove of art, architecture, and sculpture.

Green-Wood Cemetery in New York City

Green-Wood Cemetery, at 500 25th Street in Brooklyn, New York City, was founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery, providing a garden-like resting place in the heart of the city for over 600,000 former residents. Its Gothic revival gates, designed by Richard M. Upjohn, were designated a New York City Landmark in 1966, and the cemetery itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The Battle of Brooklyn was partially fought on (what became) its 478 acres.

Categories
Historic America

Tracing the Overland Campaign

“I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.”

Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant

In March 1864, after three years of civil war, President Abraham Lincoln promoted Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant as general-in-chief of all Union armies. His main target was to be Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This became known as the Overland Campaign, a brutal seven weeks of near continuous combat in eastern Virginia, resulting in approximately 90,000 total casualties. The two armies fought three major battles and several smaller engagements, the locations of which you can still visit today.

The Wilderness

Fought between May 5-7, 1864, The Wilderness was the first battle of Grant’s campaign. It resulted in approximately 28,600 total casualties. Participants described the aptly-named battle as a whirlwind where front and rear were almost indistinguishable. It ended in stalemate, but rather than retreat, Grant ordered his army to move south around his enemy’s flank.

On May 6, Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet was accidentally wounded by his own men while leading an attack along Orange Plank Road. This was the second time a veteran Confederate corps commander was wounded by friendly fire in the tangled Wilderness, the first being Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson at the Battle of Chancellorsville, just a few miles east of that intersection.

Categories
Photography Roadside America

Arby’s Delicious Neon Sign

Glorious old Arby’s neon sign at 8201 Jefferson Davis Hwy (U.S. Route 1), Richmond, Virginia. Arby’s was founded in Ohio in 1964. Every Arby’s restaurant used to have one of these signs, but they are becoming increasingly rare.

Categories
Mysterious America

Abandoned America: Prisons and Asylums

Visiting a former prison or asylum is an eerie experience, knowing you are free to explore where hundreds were once trapped. Has so much suffering and loneliness left something intangible behind?

Most people avoid ending up in a prison or asylum, opting instead to experience it vicariously through television, movies, or books. When these institutions close, there’s not much that can be done with them. Some local communities, however, have figured out how they can profit from public curiosity by offering tours and events. It’s a unique experience, and thousands flock to see the empty corridors. Here are just a few of the former prisons and asylums I’ve visited over the years. Not all are open to the public, but most are.

Joliet Correctional Center

The former Joliet Correctional Center at 1125 Collins Street in Joliet, Illinois opened in 1858 and was originally called the Illinois State Penitentiary, Joliet. It was built using distinctive, locally quarried yellow limestone. It closed in 2002, but not before being used as a backdrop in several films, most notably The Blues Brothers (1980). It sat abandoned for many years, until being purchased by the city in 2017 and opened for tours. Ursula Bielski recently wrote a book about the institution called The Haunting of Joliet Prison.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Sir John Dill

Equestrian monument to British Field Marshal Sir John Greer Dill (1881-1944) in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Sir John Dill fought in the First World War and was promoted field marshal in 1941. However, he did not get along well with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who sent him to Washington, DC as his military representative. This turned out to be a blessing for all involved, as Dill was enormously influential in fostering cooperation between the British and American armed forces in World War Two. He died in November 1944 never witnessing an end to that conflict. The American Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote:

“His character and wisdom, his selfless devotion to the allied cause, made his contribution to the combined British-American war effort of outstanding importance.”

Categories
Historic America

Williamsburg Gunpowder Incident: The Spark that (Almost) Ignited the Revolution

In 1775, the ‘shot heard ’round the world’ almost occurred in Williamsburg, Virginia and not Lexington and Concord. Cooler heads prevailed.

Most people are familiar with the outbreak of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. However, seemingly few people are familiar with the Gunpowder Affair: a near simultaneous outbreak on a second front in Virginia the very next day. Today, you can visit a reconstruction of the magazine where it all happened.

By April of 1775, tensions were high. The Intolerable Acts, a series of laws that closed the Boston port, transferred greater control to Royal governors, and allowed quartering of British troops among other things, had drawn ire throughout the colonies. Meanwhile, word had spread at the First Continental Congress of General Thomas Gage’s removal of gunpowder from an installation near Boston, further exacerbating tensions.

In Virginia, opposition to British rule was hitting a fervor. Patrick Henry’s famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech in March of 1775 led Virginia Royal Governor Lord Dunmore to grow weary of the presence of militias. He hatched a plan to remove gunpowder from a magazine in Williamsburg under the shadow of nightfall.