Now that Thanksgiving is over, the time has come to get busy with this year's holiday card. I was looking through the past twelve years of Todd Martin Architects' Christmas New Year's cards since the firm's founding as Roede + Martin, Architecture/Design (eternal thanks Alison!) on W.14th Street in the rapidly transforming Meatpacking District of 1999 to it's current incarnation as TMA since 2001 on W.30th Street in the fashion-free Fur District.
The images from 1999-2004 were gelatin silver prints made in the darkroom from negatives with all the glorious mystery of wet chemistry (sigh) in the dark. Since 2005 the images have been digital, color prints made with all the malleable, pixelated fun and convenience of jpegs and photoshop on a glowing screen and a Canon Selphy printer.
Here are 12 years of season's greetings:
(Herron House, Aspen, Colorado)
(Bird in Hand, Marcy Dam, Adirondacks)
(Santa with reindeer, 313 Wall Street)
(Algonquin Peak, Adirondacks)
(236 W. 30th Street, NYC )
(Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Strong City, Kansas)
(The Gates, Christo and Jean-Claude, Central Park, NYC)
(Esther Peak, Adirondacks)
(Marroon Bells from Elk Camp, Snowmass, Colorado)
(Pelham Bay Park imagined, The Bronx)
(Place Royale, Montreal, Quebec x 5)
2011's card is in the works....
Though there are no major airports anywhere near Corning, NY, the skies above Western New York are typically criss-crossed by east-west contrails. Back in January 2011 I discovered where one of those contrails leads when I took an early morning flight from LaGuardia in NYC to Toronto, Ontario that passed almost directly over hometown Corning.
Waiting on the runway at LGA at 7:00 AM, January 6, 2011:
The Throgs Neck Bridge and the beginning of Long Island Sound below:
January sunrise over the end of Long Island:
Let's put a bridge at the absolute widest point of the Hudson River - the "go figure" Tappen Zee connecting Westchester and Rockland counties below:
Looking at clouds from both sides now...
Here's where things get a bit parochial and may be of local interest only - the plane flew just north of the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport in Big Flats, NY, in the center below, about 240 miles from NYC on the Pennsylvania border:
The photo looks south with the town of Horseheads on the lower left, The serrated hillside in upper left is on the Chemung River (behind the Elmira Drive-In) off the old Corning-Elmira river road - Rt. 352:
The plane angled north of Corning passing over Beaver Dams:
Looking south, the east/west valley in the center is the Chemung River Valley. The valleys running vertically below are Rt. 414 on the left and Meads Creek on the right that head north towards Watkins Glen, NY marking the upper reaches of the Susquehanna/St. Laurence River watershed:
Corning, NY below - "Florence" of the New World on the banks of the Arno Chemung River:
The street grid bisected by the river is visible below. Early morning light catches the northeast side of the Duomo Higman Hill on the center lower left:
The red dot on the side of the hill in the center left below marks the Palazzo Pitti Martin house at the top of Wall Street and High Road, of course:
Time to wake up below to head out to work and school beneath the contrails:
Passing over Bristol Mountain near Naples, NY. Look out Vail and Aspen... Bristol Mountain has night skiing - open untill 10:00PM. How you like them icy moguls?!?
Flying over Bluff Point of Lake Keuka with ice at the Penn Yan end and Seneca Lake beyond:
The Finger Lakes- Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco & Skaneateles in the distance:
It is always a big pleasure (and a bit of a private thrill) to take advantage of the birds-eye view from a plane window with a camera while hurtling forward at hundreds of miles an hour thousands of feet up in the air above the planet.
It seems like I've been circling around Niagara Falls for the better part of a year - starting in January with a brief frozen visit on a business trip to Buffalo, followed by plane window views in both March and July on the way to Toronto, and finally a full afternoon at the Falls over the Labor Day weekend on an excursion from Corning with Mr. Peter Edlund http://peteredlundart.com/ - who'd never been before.
March 30, 2011, 8:00 AM - The Falls with Lake Erie beyond.
July 6, 2011, 8:00 AM - the Niagara Gorge slowly grinding its way back through the escarpment from Lake Ontario west towards Buffalo:
Over the past two centuries, Americans and Canadians have used every means at their disposal to domesticate the Falls - tarting them up with attractions, using them as sewers for toxic waste, diverting their current to turn turbines, and defacing the escarpment with high rise hotels, casinos, and urban/industrial decay.
Despite of our best efforts at degrading their pristine and terrifying beauty, the combined waters of four Great Lakes continue to pour over the edge of the Niagara escarpment every minute of every day creating a spectacle whose shear force is still completely astonishing - perhaps as much today as it was for the Native Americans and later French Explorers who first approached the sound of the roaring waters.
January 2011 / September 2011:
In January, built up ice from the mist rules out access to edge of Terrapin Point on Goat Island:
In September you can walk right up to edge:
"Is that all it is, just water going over a cliff?" (xoxo Trudy Friedman, June 1982)
Bridal Veil Falls from above:
Bridal Veil Falls from Canada:
Bridal Veil Falls below:
Same place, different seasons:
The cascades above the Horshoe Falls in winter:
The "People Catcher:"
1.2011 - Rainbow Bridge from the U.S. / 9.2011 - a foot in two countries:
One final look before going over the waterfall:
There is a place on Route 6 between the towns of Wysox and Wyalusing in Pennsylvania's Endless Mountains - named French Azilum. It's a dot on the map at a horseshoe bend on the upper reaches of the Susquehanna River:
French Azilum, July 2010
French Azilum circa 1900
French Azilum (or Asylum) was the site of an unlikely refuge for French aristocrats-in-exile fleeing the Revolution of 1789 and the Haiti's Slave Rebellion. Sympathetic, profit-seeking Philadelphians facilitated the purchase of a large tract of land where a town was laid out and eventually some 50 structures were built including a two-storey log house, La Grande Maison, which may have been intended for Marie Antoinette should she have succeeded in escaping to the New World - though the Queen met her fate at the guillotine in the fall of 1793, the same year that French Azilum was established. The settlement lasted less than ten years and none of the original structures remain.
View from Wyalusing Rocks, October 2011:
Unfortunately, Bradford County and the surrounding region are an epicenter of the hydraulic fracturing debacle in Pennsylvania in which, as is often the case in America, the few get rich while the rest (and the environment) suffer irreversible consequences. The Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions of New York State could soon meet the same fate if hypocritical Governor Andrew Cuomo - who, quite rightly fights to shut down Indian Point Nuclear Power plan in his own Westchester backyard and to protect the New York City Catskill watershed - succeeds in opening the door for the energy corporations' environmental rape of Western New York in the name of jobs and growth.
The French Azilum overlook on Rte. 6:
Marie Antoinette probably would not have been very happy as a royal exile in the Pennsylvania wilderness of the 1790's, even though she had been fond of playing peasant at her "rustic" farmhouse, Le Hameau, in the gardens of Versailles. She would have found the frontier accommodations and backwoods American settlers far beneath her aristocratic station and might well have declared, "Let them eat Marcellus Shale."
(Peter E. kindly illustrates that Versailles itself isn't really as big as the tourist literature might have you believe!)
Further East in Nicholson, PA, the Tunkhannock Viaduct appears suddenly around a bend with its ten enormous 180 foot arches spanning a broad valley. Opened in 1915 by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, it remained the largest concrete structure bridge in the world for at least a half century and is still in use for freight traffic. Novelist Theodore Dreiser declared it, "One of the True Wonders of the World."
The Meshoppen Fire Department in nearby Meshoppen, PA:
Susquehanna and Carbondale, PA:
Towanda, PA - where Stephen Foster, the first great American songwriter, attended school from 1840-1841:
Foster songs - Oh! Susanna, Camptown Races, Tioga Waltz, My Old Kentucky Home, Old Black Joe, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, Nelly Bly, Beautiful Dreamer, and Old Folks at Home (known as "Swanee River") are a wellspring of American popular music. Though many of his songs are associated with the South, he was a Northern from Pennsylvania who never lived further south than Cincinnati and visited the Deep South only once.
His music brought the influence of Black culture into the parlor song, but its connection to the derisive, racist tradition of blackface minstrelsy is part of a sad legacy. Though his music was a great success in his own lifetime ("Oh! Suzanna" was the anthem of the California Gold Rush of 1849) , he never made much money from his work and he died a nearly penniless alcoholic on the Bowery in New York at the age of 37.
Then, since it can take a lifetime to get out of the Endless Mountains, it might be time to sleep for the night:
Sleeping Beauty Motel, Daleville, PA:
Or perhaps to rest for Eternity:
Milan Cemetery, Villlage of Milan, Ulster Township - south of Athens, PA:
There are plenty of "homeland security" hoops to jump through in order to get to the 9-11 Memorial, but once you finally arrive at the edge of the voids, it is a profoundly moving place. Architect Michael Arad called his design proposal "Reflecting Absence." The completed memorial embodies that somber intent beautifully with its massive scale and expressive simplicity.
Visiting the site is an overwhelming experience: the endless flow of water, the emptiness of the "bottomless" voids at the tower footprints, the back-lit names of the dead (grouped by the "meaningful adjacencies" of their places of work, coincidences of travel, and organizations as first responders), and the 24 hour construction work continuing on all sides.
1 World Trade Center almost topped out:
Memorial Museum under construction - exterior columns from the base of the World Trade Towers:
From the 10.31.2011 Police Blotter in the Corning Leader:
Could this signify the start of a crime wave of "dirty looks" sweeping the Crystal City or was it just an isolated scowl in the midst of the usual arrest warrants, barking dogs, male/female fights, abandoned love seats, anonymous defecations, and broken screen doors?
Work took me to the Rome of the West - Mound City - Gateway to the West a.k.a. St. Louis, MO in the last week of September. After taking a look at the dramatic confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, exploring the river town of Alton, IL, and climbing the mysterious mounds of Cahokia; I crossed the Mississippi into St. Louis proper. There was a lot to see:
On the banks of the Mississippi
The Eads Bridge, 1874
St. Louis from the top of the Gateway Arch:
The Old St. Louis County Courthouse below - site of the Dred Scott trials.
Busch Stadium where St. Louis won the World Series several weeks later.
I took an early morning run through Forest Park across the street from my hotel http://www.forestparkforever.org/:
The St. Louis Art Museum http://www.slam.org/
Mysteries of the Masonic Temple:
Midwestern Optimists - "Show Me!"
The St. Louis house where Scott Joplin lived from 1900 to 1903: http://mostateparks.com/park/scott-joplin-house-state-historic-site
Scott Joplin is buried a mile from where I live in Astoria - an odd coincidence that his final resting place is in an Episcopalian cemetery on the ragged edge of Astoria and Elmhurst, Queens surrounded by neighborhood German and Greek immigrants' headstones. He died at 49 unappreciated and bankrupt in the Manhattan State hospital and was buried in a paupers grave in St. Michael's Cemetery.
It wasn't until 1974, with the revival of interest in ragtime music, that his remarkable achievements were acknowledged and he was finally honored with a grave marker. If you're ever in a taxi on the way to LaGuardia on the Grand Central Parkway, look to the right just before passing the Bulova Watch Building and send Mr. Joplin some warm thoughts.
Abandoned buildings in the block behind the Scott Joplin House:
Louis Sullivan's trailblazing skyscraper, the Wainwright Building, built in 1891:
Now a state office builidng and in sad disrepair:
Gateway Arch - one of THE most beautiful structures in America. Architect Eero Saarinen's triumph:
The outside is modern, timeless, and pure. The inside is very 1967.
And not for the claustrophobic:
At the apex:
(btw: not every "stitch-assisted" photo works out quite as expected!):
St. Louis' Union Station:
San Francisco St. Louis New York
St. Louis by night: