History


img_0795

The always-interesting Bearings has just published an article about my recent trip to Holy Land, an abandoned religious amusement park about 40 minutes northwest of New Haven. I last wrote for Bearings back in January about a trip I took last summer to the abandoned Six Flags New Orleans. Check out the Holy Land piece here!

[Bearings]

Advertisements

img_0842

It is impossible to describe the shock of return. I recall that I stood for the longest time staring at a neatly painted yellow line on a neatly formed cement curb. Yellow yellow line line. I pondered the human industry, the paint, the cement truck and concrete forms, all the resources that had gone into that one curb. For what? I could not quite think of the answer. So that no car would park there? Are there so many cars that America must be divided into places with and places without them? Was it always so, or did they multiply vastly, along with telephones and new shoes and transistor radios and cellophane-wrapped tomatoes, in our absence?

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver.

img_0843

l-640-480-a0252d6a-dc40-4857-a4e6-16ec1e899dee.jpeg

I probably owe an explanation for this earlier post. Sprinkles? Betty Crocker? Modernization? 

Well, yeah. Over the course of this semester, I’ve noticed the extent to which the way I look at the world is influenced by what I’m studying. Last semester, I was taking courses in architectural history, material culture, and airport development, and when I looked at the world around me, I thought about it in those terms. My course load this semester has a different, more historical mixture, and one of my classes stands out for how strongly it has affected how I look at the world.

That course, Making America Modern, 1880-1930, is a junior seminar taught by Jean Christophe-Agnew. It covers the fifty years in America when modernity touched down, the world slid sideways, and everything changed. The foundations set during this time remain in place: we are borne ceaselessly forward by machinery set running over a century ago. 

We find modernity everywhere, in the history of our newspapers, our technologies, our mass culture. And so too in the mundane and everyday: These sprinkles index modernity, telling a story of changes in society, technology, culture, gender relations. The ice cream parlor, their host, was made possible by advances in industrial refrigeration (1870s), the invention of the ice cream soda (1874-6) and the ice cream sundae (1890s), the proliferation of the counter-service soda fountain (1903). The spread of the soda fountain and the ice cream parlor was enabled by the transition from a rural agricultural economy to an urban industrial economy, and it, in turn, enabled the rise of a new public and a non-gendered urban social sphere. 

Modernization is like the Big Bang. It dropped a fiery mix of ideas, sparkling new and bubbly hot, and we have watched them pool around us, solidifying in strange peaks and voids. Sprinkles are one of the hunks of rock hurled out of the explosion, through which we may reveal and understand the past.

The New York Times puts Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to close Times Square to vehicular traffic in historical perspective, including one proposal from the mid 1800s:

“Many attempts have been made to get under or over the problem. In 1870, an inventor named Alfred Ely Beach opened a 312-foot-long pneumatic subway line that propelled passengers beneath Broadway from Warren Street all the way to Murray Street. It was short lived.”

Trying to Tame Broadway Traffic — NYTimes

Interflug: A storied international airline with a distinctive red-and-white livery. Efficient, yet friendly, German service. A full roster of flights to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East. The only problem? Interflug ceased to exist more than two decades ago. 

Interflug is the defunct flag-carrier of East Germany.

(more…)

Quick Link: The Times has a piece on the attempts of a small town in Mississippi to endow its water tower with Mississippi State landmark status. The article touches on the importance of “ordinary” or “unimportant” architecture, of the stories that the taken-for-granted parts of our environment have to tell. History made material.

Hernando Journal: Seeking a Tribute to the Ordinary in a Water Tower – NYTimes