Scattered across the United States is a network of mysterious concrete arrows. They are often found in remote locations or areas difficult to access. Some will be accompanied by a small shack, a few have a metal tower affixed to their base. Many are in good condition while others have succumbed to nature. The shape and direction of the arrows vary, but it is clear they served the same purpose.
The purpose was important: helping early pilots navigate U.S. transcontinental flights at night.
In a era before radar, pilots used ground-based landmarks for guidance. This solution worked for flight during the day, but grounded pilots at night. Before long, a system of beacons was established across the United States to guide airmail pilots around-the-clock. When radar and radio communications made the beacons obsolete years later, most were torn down and abandoned.
Tales of gold rushes and silver booms are often recounted from a nostalgic perspective, driven by tall tales of adventures into the lawless Wild West. Perhaps less sentimental is the story of copper, a metal with less value but more significance to the growth of infrastructure. Copper was a major component of industrialization and essential for everything from electrifying the world to fortifying nations during war.
Few mining operations could match the lifetime output of the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, Montana. For nearly a century, mining in Butte Valley sacrificed the earth to build and defend America. Today the legacy of Anaconda’s enterprise is the Berkeley Pit, a large open pit mine collecting billions of gallons of toxic groundwater.
Across the bay from Galveston in Texas is Texas City, a busy port with convenient access to Houston and the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to shipping, the city plays an important role in the production and refining of petroleum products. As a port with deep water access to the coast, Texas City hosts international shippers hauling everything from electronics to fertilizer.
The town made headlines in 1947 when a fire on a cargo ship reached the explosive payload and detonated. The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in U.S. history, and the disaster would claim the lives of nearly six hundred people. Read more…
Originally established in 1908, St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital would see multiple additions and renovations over the years while it expanded to accommodate the city’s growing number of residents. But when the fortunes of Gary turned and the citizens fled, the hospital became economically superfluous; the reduced population base could not financially support operations.
The debt-ridden facility endured a slow and painful contraction before finally closing in 1995. Several attempts were made to reuse the building–including the moving of the city’s police department into the newest wing–but half of the complex was never re-appropriated and left vacant. Today, the remaining structures have deteriorated and are likely beyond repair.
The Horace Mann School of Gary, Indiana is on the short list of American high schools that have graduated more than 75 classes of students. A creation of innovative educator William Wirt, the unique school took seven years to build and was finished in 1928. The campus set a new standard for the area’s public schools by featuring landscaped rolling hills, multiple gyms and pools, and even a man-made pond.
Horace Mann’s fortunes would ebb and flow with those of Gary; when the city’s population declined so did enrollment at the school. In 2004 the school board voted to shutter the building, and nine years later the ailing building still stands vacant and crumbling. Is the school’s rich history enough to secure its future?
There certainly isn’t a dearth of classic early twentieth century architecture around Gary, Indiana. Another fine example is that of the Ambassador Apartments at 574 Monroe Street. Finished in 1928, the luxurious building featured views and amenities no other place in town could match. Initially it would cater to Gary’s high society, but decades of economic decline and neglected maintenance would take its toll on the building.
The Ambassador Apartments would serve Gary for nearly six decades before it succumbed to economic and structural failures. Today it still stands, abandoned for over 25 years and crumbling beyond repair. Read more…