Saturday, January 15, 2005

Leaving the Valley

First, if you're reading this and CAN'T SEE THE PHOTOS (and actually want to) please let me know. I've been considering reducing the number of posts on the front page since there's so many pictures up and I realize it might be loading slow. I've been pretty happy with my hosting service, but if you have a slow connection you might experience problems. If you have a dial-up it could be hopeless. Anyone can leave an anonymous comment, so feel free. If I don't hear anything, I'll assume 1.) Everything's fine; 2.) My reader's are patient (or shy); 3.) Most people hit "NEXT BLOG" before they even got through the first sentence. Anyway, this is a shot of the entrance to what remains of the Bath Mill. At least I think it is. I seem to recall this being the next mill down Highway 421, which is the old stretch running through the Valley. And that would make this Bath. Unfortunately, I'm too far away to check on that right now.

Whew, the last couple posts have been kinda intense. Initially, the purpose of this blog was just to post some photos since I'd been sending them out by e-mail to friends for some time. This way they could CHOOSE to look at them, if they liked. I thought I'd add some context to make things more interesting. It was never my intention to make each post a school lesson. On the other hand, there's much more murder, suicide, and general depravity than I recall being taught in school. So, I guess I'll keep on this way. But this post will be a little low key. I swear we're getting the hell out of the Valley, I just had a couple other shots to put up. This is the water tower of the former Bath (I think) Mill. Virtually nothing is left of this mill except a pile of bricks and some flooring. It wasn't even worth hopping the fence for a closer look.

A little further down Highway 421 and we come to this abandoned treat shack. You know your town is in trouble when people aren't even buying ice cream. Fifty feet away was a monument of some kind, with flags and plaques and a paved walkway, but no one to be seen. Following the highway through the Valley you pass abandoned buildings, crumbling homes, and businesses hanging on by a thread. Rural economies have always been tenuous, and the situation seems to be worsening across the country. Just drive through the small towns of YOUR state.

As we were driving along Highway 421, my companion told me of a strange restaurant set back in the woods off a dirt road. We decided to check it out. We turned off the main road and into the woods. After a distance we came to this little shack, beyond which was a fenced-in compound of sorts, with a circular drive. A few cars were parked outside a dilapidated building, the stars 'n bars flying. You don't think we actually went in, do you? Although, I am reminded of another restaurant in Jackson, SC, which recently closed. The floor of this establishment was pitted concrete, except where it had collapsed and was roped off with flagging. Old rusted bicycles and fans were strewn about and in one corner of a long bar, which was covered with boxes and essentially unusable, was a dusty, yellowed NASCAR shrine. You could see daylight through the warped doorframe. I ate there quite a few times. The macaroni and cheese was quite good, as were the butter beans.

In between Highway 421 and the Aiken-Augusta Highway is an entire block of abandoned homes, as well as a bar and restaurant. Actually, the restaurant recently collapsed. Unfortunately, I visited this area early in my explorations and didn't get my photos digitized. So, unless I scan them at some point I won't be able to post any, which is too bad since there's lots of material. I have a nice shot of a blue and white room in a house, with a recliner in the middle of the floor, and vaguely menacing (and very mispelled) Spanish graffiti sprayed on the wall in dripping red paint. But I can't post it! The only digitized shot I have of this block is this photo of a piano and TV from the living room of a small house. People are always leaving their pianos behind. They're very common in old buildings. Even DETROITBLOG recently posted a picture of one. See how the piano and TV are starting to tilt toward each other? Imagine what that means for the structural integrity of the floor. But, you know, safety last, I guess. The browning in this shot is due to it being taken with a disposable camera. Disposable cameras have very poor flashes. Lately I've been posting photos of questionable quality and technique when I think they might be otherwise interesting. Maybe I should stop that. If you'd like to see a better shot of what the old mill towns looked like, there's a good shot two-thirds of the way down this page.

Yeah, yeah, one last photo from the Clearwater Mill. I just wanted to show everyone the staircase we had to climb up to get to the third floor. We gingerly crept from step to step, carefully hopping over the spots where the floorboards were missing. Ah, hell, I'm kidding. Even we're not that dumb. This is a stairway we came across at the far end of the mill while trying to find our way down from the third floor. After some careful consideration and thoughtful discussion, we decided it wasn't going to work and had to make our way back through the entire mill to the stairway we used to come up. Most inconvenient.


Aaron the Atheist said...

Hello JM

Your page loads just fine, but I do have a broadband connection. In fact, I immensely enjoy your posts and feel that they would not be the same without the photos. Your blog is a fine example of the study of urban decay and without those photos, the text would still be interesting, but not as much so. If you want to resize, that might be worth trying -- do people still have dialup? :-)

Anonymous said...

Keep it like it is! I have no problem with the page loading, although I also have a broadband connection. If someone still is using dial-up, they'll wait for this.
It isn't like this is something important to download fast, like pr0n...
Good commentary, too.
Chris xt235

Jim said...

I've been coming by your blog for awhile now. I can't imagine the photos without the commentary and vice versa.

I'm very intrigued by the whole idea of urban decay. I once lived in NW Indiana, near Gary in the late 1980's. I was intrigued by my drives through the economically devestated city, after the closing of US Steel. Seeing the boarded up buildings and deserted downtown reminded my of a post-apocalyptic world like the old Heston movie, "The Omega Man". I used to love driving U.S. 20 along the lakeshore of Lake Michigan and for miles, pass huge factories that were vacant and left to rot. Your photos of the mill evoke those drives for me.

Your blog is unique and the "sphere" would be poorer without City of Dust.