Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Walker Evans in Pittsburgh

This image was taken by Walker Evans in December, 1935 in Pittsburgh for the Farm Security Administration.

Pittsburgh Houses

R. S. Clements in New Jersey

ZR3 airship entering hangar at Lakehurst, NJ. R. S. Clements, December 1924. From the Panoramic Photographs collection of Library of Congress.

ZR3 airship

Haverhill, Massachusetts

These panoramic photographs of the Haverhill, Massachusetts waterfront are from the collection of the Library of Congress. That's the Merrimack River in the foreground.

Haverhill Waterfront, 1910

Haverhill Panorama, 1910

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Louise Taft Cawood in Ohio

Scioto River Bridge

Louise Taft Cawood took this picture in July 1986 for the HABS/HAER project.

HABS/HAER information:
Scioto Pennsylvania Through Truss Bridge, Spanning Scioto River at State Route 73, Portsmouth, Scioto County, OH

Jack Boucher in Pittsburgh

Jack Boucher took these photographs at Jones and Laughlin Steel in May 1974 for the HABS/HAER project.

Jones and Laughlin Steel, Pittsburgh

Valve, Jones and Laughlin Steel
Jack E. Boucher, Photographer, May 1974. GOVERNOR.

And this of the beautiful Smithfield Street bridge (also in May 1974):
Smithfield Street Bridge

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Walker Evans in Pennsylvania

Auto dump near Easton, Pennsylvania

Walker Evans took this photograph for the Farm Security Administration in 1935 during his trip through the Lehigh Valley. This picture is one of my favorite landscapes because it demonstrates Evans' gift for composition and his acerbic sense of humor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Chartierville, Quebec photo by Ed Bacher

Just over the border from Pittsburg, New Hampshire, the terrain drops quickly into a wide plain with Parc national du Mont-Mégantic in the distance.

Parc national du Mont-Mégantic

The same place, viewed from above (via Google Maps). You can see how different the terrain is once you cross the border. New Hampshire (and the Connecticut River watershed) pokes up into Canada just north of the Connecticut Lakes. Quebec's Parc national du Mont-Mégantic is the circular ridge.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bethlehem Steel

Bethlehem Steel Works.
This image, which is part of the panoramic collection of the Library of Congress, was taken from the north bank of the Lehigh River by William Herman Rau in 1896.

Bethlehem graveyard and steel mill. Pennsylvania.
Walker Evans took this photograph for the Farm Security Administration from a cemetery in South Bethlehem looking north toward the works. (1935, FSI collection of Library of Congress)

Update (9/11/2019): this is what the view likes today (thanks to Google street view):

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (via Google street view)

Bethlehem Steel Corporation, South Bethlehem Works, Along Lehigh River, North of Fourth Street, West of Minsi Trail Bridge, Bethlehem, Northampton County, PA
Jet Lowe took this picture in 1972  1979 for the HABS/HAER project, looking downstream from the north side of the Lehigh River.

Bethlehem Steel is now bankrupt, and stopped operating the Bethlehem works in 1995. Most of the site is now being developed as a casino by the Sands Corporation of Las Vegas.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Howard Kaplan on Jonathan Singer

I'm not normally big on flower photographs, but Jonathan Singer is something else. And Howard Kaplan wrote a wonderful story about him in Vanity Fair: Flower Power

Armed with a digital camera, a decades-old printer, and a jeweler’s tool nicknamed the Gadget, New Jersey podiatrist Jonathan Singer takes pictures of endangered flowers. His extraordinary photographs have impressed Eileen Ford, the Smithsonian, and a Japanese collector with very deep pockets.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jack Alvarez at the Charles Street Jail

Boston, Massachusetts
Rehabilitation may not work for prisoners, but it seems to have worked for the old Charles Street Prison in Boston. Here's a picture taken by Jack Alvarez for the HABS/HAER project:

Charles Street Prison

Over the last couple of years, the prison has been renovated into the Liberty Hotel, with rooms starting at about $300 per night. Here's the new look:

The Liberty Hotel

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Silverware photo by Ed Bacher

I certainly can't claim that this is an original image or idea, but the silver was lying out on the dining room table waiting to be put away, and I just grabbed my camera and shot a single frame; I like it.

Iceout at Lincoln Pond

Lincoln Pond, Amherst, New Hampshire. April 12 2008 photo by Ed Bacher

The ice on Lincoln Pond broke up just over a month ago. I was on my way to the dump and had my camera in the car. I saw it in color of course, but I think this works better as a black and white image.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Motel 6

The Motel 6 rate in Nashua just went up again, from $45.99 TO $49.99 in anticipation of the Memorial Day weekend. I don't think there will be much politics going on, so it must be the weather.

UPDATE (Friday, May 23): The price went up again to $59.99 today.
UPDATE (Tuesday, May 27): And back to $49.99 again.

Monday, May 12, 2008

NY Times on Mountain Biking in the White Mountains

Last Friday, the New York Times' Escapes section had a piece by Matt Furber, who spent several days riding around the White Mountains with some NEMBA (New England Mountain Biking Association) members.

Some riders have called North Conway the Moab of the East, even though it is a forest habitat rather than high desert. The area is more famous among road bikers because of the 7.6-mile Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb every August, or the annual Crank the Kanc, a hill climb that takes place along the Kancamagus Highway in late May.

Link to NY Times.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Joseph Elliott in Southern New Jersey

Whitesbog Village, Burlington Country, NJ

Southern New Jersey is peopled mostly by a half-mile wide strip of humanity along the shore and another crowd near Philadelphia to the west. In between are miles of pine barrens, tidal marshes, sand roads, cranberry bogs, and dozens of small rivers. It's mostly flat, so sometimes you can see all the way to the horizon.

If you want to read the classic work on this region, find John McPhee's The Pine Barrens.

Joseph Elliott took this picture near Whitesbog Village & Cranberry Bog, Whitesbog Road, Pemberton Township, Burlington County, NJ, for the HABS/HAER project. The year was not listed, but from the cars I saw in some of the pictures, it looks as though he took these pictures sometime since 1990. In any case, the terrain has not changed much in many years.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Jet Lowe in Houston

Astrodome ceiling, Houston, Texas. (Jet Lowe photograph)
Baseball season again. Though the Astrodome no longer hosts either baseball or football, the Astros played here for more than 30 years. And in 2005, many people from New Orleans found temporary shelter here as they fled Hurricane Katrina. There are more than 9 acres under this roof. Jet Lowe took this picture in 2004 for the HABS/HAER project.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Triathlon With Kids

The kids were all fired up tonight to play another game of One Ol' Cat (the snow is only about eight inches deep now, so it's easier to retrieve fly balls). Then we repaired to the kitchen table for a game of Clue. Finally, we descended to the basement to play a round of Guitar Hero. I suck, but it's fun anyway.

Jack Boucher on Connie Mack Stadium

Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium

Jack Boucher took this picture of Connie Mack Stadium in downtown Philadelphia in September of 1973. The Phillies and the Eagles moved out to Veterans Stadium in 1971, and Connie Mack was torn down in 1976. The Phillies have a nice new ballpark (currently called Citizens Bank Park), and I don't think there are too many tears shed over Veterans Stadium. Except that that Phillies did win their World Series there in 1980.

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, we used to drive in to the city, have dinner in Chinatown and go see the Phillies. My mom reminded me the other day that often some kids would offer to "watch our car" for a dollar. Connie Mack Stadium was not in a great neighborhood, which I guess was one reason the Phillies opted to move to the Vet.

There's a great history of Shibe Park (Connie Mack) with some nice pictures at Billy Mupp on Connie Mack Stadium. Wikipedia article at Wikipedia on Connie Mack.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bridge Collection at Lehigh University

Plan of a Bridge Over the Mississippi River, at St. Louis

Lehigh University's library has a collection of books they call Digital Bridges. The plan of John Roebling's St. Louis bridge is from a book called Long And Short Span Railway Bridges.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One Old Cat

Even though there is still a foot of snow here in our yard, my kids insisted that we go out and play our "traditional" opening game of one ol' cat, or shorthanded baseball. My dad used to play with us when I was a kid. I always heard it as "one-a-cat," but have discovered recently that it's really "one old cat." We played modified rules tonight: balls that went off the road and into the snow were foul. The field was quite narrow since the snowbanks are still taking up all of the shoulder and a bit of the road itself. We had a special field hazard as well when one hit ball struck our dog, who was wandering around in the infield.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Working Pictures II

Carl Weese has a wonderful new blog to accompany his picture-a-day blog, Working Pictures. His WPII blog focuses on longer-form work and has a bit more writing. He's starting off with his large-format series on drive-in theaters.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Nuclear Lake Before the AT

Update and note on commenting (22 December 2016): This is the most-commented post on this blog (I'm not surprised). If you'd like your comment to appear, please don't post anonymously. I'd like to be able to contact you if I have any questions about your sources or other information. Thanks.

See other updates at the bottom of this post.

In December of 1972, a chemical explosion blew out two windows in the plutonium facility near the shore of Nuclear Lake, west of Pawling, New York. I taught physics at the Trinity Pawling School in Pawling during the late 1970s until 1981. Several times I explored the UNC (United Nuclear Corporation) property, which was gated, but not closed to public access. I also went to a couple of meetings of the Nuclear Lake Management Site Clearance Subcommittee, which was trying to make sense of the available data surrounding the accident and the current state of the property.

Accident Diagram
This diagram appeared in Nuclear Lake: A Resource in Question, prepared by the Nuclear Lake Management Site Clearance Subcommittee, published in January 1982.

The lure of an abandoned nuclear research facility where an accident had occurred was too strong to resist. I explored the property several times and took these photographs in 1981.

Plutonium Facility, 1981 photo by Ed Bacher

This photograph shows the plutonium building from the west, looking toward the lake.

Nuclear Lake Window, 1981 photo by Ed Bacher

Unfortunately, I don't remember if this window was in the plutonium building, but I suspect so.

Concrete Slabs, Nuclear Lake 1981 photo by Ed Bacher

These slabs and other debris littered the woods in 1981.

The previous post shows the property in March, 2008. The buildings are gone, though large clearings remain where the buildings stood.


Update (15 September 2011):

  • Here's an interesting article from Yankee Magazine (1994) about another nuclear accident.  It also mentions the Pawling UNC accident.
  • And another from the LA Times (1986) that talks about the decision to open the Appalachian Trail through the Nuclear Lake site.

Update (9 December 2017):

In December 1972 there was a fire and two explosions at the Gulf United Nuclear Corporation fabrication plant near Pawling, New York, where Pu fuel was being manufactured for fast breeder reactors. An undetermined amount of Pu was dispersed off-site,[39] so the event can hardly be less than INES level 4. A NAMS magnitude-4.0 event would be produced by the release of the order of just 10 g of 239Pu and 240Pu to the atmosphere; given that the fire and explosions were serious enough for the plant to be closed down, it is likely that the release could have been one or two orders of magnitude above that weight of Pu. Furthermore, the incidence of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in Pawling is apparently 3 in a town of 5000,[40] when the expected value would be 1 – 2 per 100 000 population. The CML Wikipedia webpage states, “The only well-described risk factor for CML is exposure to ionizing radiation.” So the CML cluster at Pawling suggests that at least one serious release occurred from the plant.
  • www.simplyinfo.org has a lot of information about Fukushima, but there's a document archive that also has a folder about Nuclear Lake. I scanned my copy of the Nuclear Lake Report and gave them a copy, so you can read the whole thing there if you want. It's not very conclusive.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nuclear Lake

Nuclear Lake view photo by Ed Bacher

Nuclear Lake, in a hollow beneath West Mountain in Pawling, New York, is a beautiful spot with a troubled past.

When I was teaching physics at the Trinity-Pawling school in Pawling, the Appalachian Trail south of Pawling was a long roadwalk. The National Park Service bought a large parcel of woodland with the intent to reroute the trail. The process took several years however, because the property had been operated by the UNC (United Nuclear Corporation) and was the site of one of the few private uranium and plutonium research facilities in the United States. But nuclear research alone was not the main concern. In 1972, a chemical explosion blew out two windows in the north side of the laboratory, spewing an unknown amount of plutonium dust through the woods. United Nuclear cleaned up the property at a cost of $3 million, but local residents and Appalachian Trail hikers were concerned about the potential health risks.

In 1980, the old buildings and retention tanks were still there on the shore of Nuclear Lake, abandoned and decaying. Nearly 30 years later, the AT has been rerouted, and it now passes the site of the old laboratory and hugs the west shore of the lake. The old UNC sign and the buildings are gone now, though several large clearings remain.

Nuclear Lake shoreline photo by Ed Bacher

Sunday, February 10, 2008

George Eisenman on the Dingmans Ferry Bridge

Dingmans Ferry Bridge

This bridge from Layton, New Jersey to Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania spans the Delaware River. It is one of the few remaining privately owned toll bridges and the only one on the Delaware. This photograph was taken by George A. Eisenman in August, 1970 for the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER).

If you're ever in the far northwest of New Jersey, near the magnificent Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, check out this little toll bridge. The bridge is just off the Old Mine Road in New Jersey, said to be the oldest continuously used road in the U.S.

Here's the bridge's official web site, including toll information: Dingmans Bridge.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Clayton B. Fraser on the Nebraska City Bridge

Nebraska City Bridge

The Nebraska City Bridge, spanning the Missouri River on a branch (now abandoned) of the Burlington Northern Railroad between Otoe County, Nebraska and Fremont County, Iowa, was completed in July, 1889. This photograph was taken by Clayton B. Fraser in August, 1984, for the HAER project of the Library of Congress.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Jet Lowe in New York, 1984

New torch and flame with Manhattan skyline in background

The Statue of Liberty was refurbished prior to its centennial in 1986. Jet Lowe and Jack Boucher and other HABS/HAER photographers thoroughly documented the operation, taking 230 black and white photographs and 51 color transparencies. These are just the ones that show up on the Library of Congress web site: I'm sure they took many more exposures.

Jet Lowe took this photograph of the new torch with its gold leaf in 1984. The title is: New torch and flame with Manhattan skyline in background.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

William Morris Smith, The Chain Bridge

Shorpy has a wonderfully detailed picture of the Civil-War era Chain Bridge (view large for the full effect). http://www.shorpy.com/node/2478.

This photograph is from the Civil War collection of the Library of Congress.

Normandy Photographs

Here's a sample from the Normandy Collection on Flickr:
Normandy, June 6, 1944

My French is poor, but this photograph was taken by Robert Sargent of the U.S. Coast Guard at 7:30 on the morning of June 6, 1944. Here's the French caption from Flickr:

Photo prise par Robert F. Sargent, USCoast Guards (USCG)
Un LCVP manoeuvré par les U.S. Coast Guards et appartenant au U.S.S. Samuel Chase (APA 26) débarque ses troupes de la 1st Infantry Division (éléments du 1/16th IR)le matin du 6 Juin vers 7h30, à marée montante devant Le Ruquet, secteur Easy Red.(Saint Laurent/Colleville) vers 07H30.
Le char Sherman N°9 de la A Co du 741st Tank Bn équipé des Deep Wading Trunks (hottes de franchissement) est visible sur la plage.
Photo quasiment identique à la p011333

Update (5 March, 2013). From Google Translate:

Photo by Robert F. Sargent, USCoast Guards (USCG)
A LCVP operated by the U.S. Coast Guard and belonging to the USS Samuel Chase (APA 26) landed its troops from the 1st Infantry Division (1/16th items IR) on the morning of June 6 to 7:30 am, before the rising tide Ruquet, Easy Red sector. (Saint Laurent / Colleville) to 7:30.
The Sherman tank No. 9 of the A Co 741st Tank Bn equipped with Deep Wading Trunks (hood clearance) is visible on the beach.
Photo virtually identical to p011333

See more on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/photosnormandie/

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jet Lowe in California

Los Angeles aqueduct

Jet Lowe, 2001, near Inyo/Bishop for HAER. Jawbone Canyon section of the Los Angeles aqueduct.

The Atlantic Monthly Now Free

Like the New York Times before it, the Atlantic Monthly has decided to stop charging for access to its online content, including much of its archives. Now, cheapskates like me can browse through back issues and archives dating back to 1857.

The first interviews I looked up are with some of my favorite authors:
Howard Frank Mosher, Annie Proulx, John Irving, and Vikram Seth.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Frank Ontaverous in White Sands, New Mexico

McDonald Ranch

The McDonald ranch house at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Photograph taken by Frank Ontaverous in February 1983 for the HABS/HAER project. Scientists and technicians from the Manhattan project assembled the plutonium bomb for the first atomic bomb test in this house during July of 1945. The blast, centered only about two miles away, blew the windows out of the ranch house, but the adobe structure survived with little damage and was restored in 1984 by the National Park Service.

If you like a good story with science, politics, war, and tragedy, check out Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Public Domain Photographs

The Library of Congress has a huge collection of public domain photographs from various collections, including the FSA (Farm Security Administration), the OWI (Office of War Information), and collections from the civil war and the HABS/HAER (Historic American Building Survey/Historic American Engineering Record). The image quality is uneven, but there is some great stuff there.

Apparently, the Library of Congress is now getting involved with Yahoo and they're posting some of their photographs to Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/commons.

In addition, an organization called publicresources.org is posting images from the Smithsonian Institution that seem to be in the public domain: http://www.flickr.com/photos/publicresourceorg/collections/.

Update: Patrick Pecatte alerted me to another great collection of public domain photographs, PhotosNormandie, which has some heart-wrenching images from France during World War II. I'm not sure about how these photographs originated, but Patrick invites people to contribute accurate information about them.

More good ways to waste time!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Walker Evans Liked Angle Parking

And so do I. Walker Evans took this wonderful photograph of Main Street in Saratoga Springs, New York that featured a lineup of cars angle-parked on a street shiny with rain.

Here's a link to the image at Yale: Main Street, Saratoga Springs. Evans took this photograph in 1931.

Later, when he worked for the Farm Security Administration, he took similar images in other places:

Hale County, Alabama
County seat of Hale County, Alabama. 1935 or 1936. Walker Evans for the FSA.

Macon, Georgia
Main Street, Macon Georgia, March 1936. Walker Evans for the FSA.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

David Plowden on Photographing Bridges

David Plowden appeared on Studio 360 this weekend. There's a longer interview there, but also this wonderful short piece on his bridge photography. He's very modest.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Jet Lowe in Windsor, Vermont

Cornish-Windsor bridge
The Cornish-Windsor covered bridge spans the Connecticut River between Cornish, New Hampshire and Windsor, Vermont. Constructed in 1866, the two spans measure 203 feet and 204 feet long. These photographs were taken in 1984 by Jet Lowe for the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER).

Cornish-Windsor bridge underside

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Jet Lowe in Hancock, New Hampshire

Hancock-Greenfield bridgeJet Lowe took this picture of the Hancock-Greenfield bridge in November 2003 for the HABS/HAER project. What impresses me about many of the HABS/HAER photographs (and particularly those of Jet Lowe and Jack Boucher) is that, while they are intended as historical record, many of them are also beautiful, artistic photographs. Jet Lowe has the eye.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Jack Boucher in New Jersey

Pulaski Skyway, Manhattan in background

Jack Boucher took this picture of the Pulaski Skyway in 1978 for the HABS/HAER project at the Library of Congress.

Boston & Maine Railroad Bridge

Northampton bridge photo by Ed Bacher

My grandfather was an engineer on the Boston & Maine railroad based in Northampton, Massachusetts. He crossed this bridge every day as he drove his work train east along the B&M line. This multispan bridge crosses the Connecticut River just north of the Route 9 road bridge. The railroad is gone, but the bridge remains as part of the Norwottuck rail trail.

Northampton bridge,  photo by Ed Bacher

The bridge crosses Elwell Island in the Connecticut River, and the trees appear to be winning.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gary Samson in Concord

Concord gasholder house

Gary Samson teaches at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester. He took these photographs of the old Concord gasholder house in August of 1982 for the HABS/HAER project of the Library of Congress.

Concord gasholder house, interior view

This shot is looking up at the cupola of the old gasholder house.