streetscape

Posted by Ellen

 

For months after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, indoor fires were prohibited by law. The fire that devastated much of the city in the quake's immediate aftermath had been caused by sparks from a cookstove igniting gas from broken utility lines, and it spread horrifically because firefighting efforts had been foiled by broken water lines. So people moved their stoves out into the street, and life went on.

Although this block looks unscathed, it is actually right at the edge of the burnt-out district; on the map below, we're looking at the green spot next to the large red area. All the city in back of where the cameraman must have been standing was completely destroyed.

Note the hopscotch patterns chalked onto the street. I'm told this is the "snail" variation of the game, with the numbered squares arranged in a spiral. You start at the outside, hop around and in to the middle, then switch feet and hop back out.

Posted by Ellen

 

Unlike yesterday's picture, which was also an artist's imagining of the neighborhood surrounding the Gowanus Canal superfund site in Brooklyn, today's picture just lays it out: this may not be such a great place to live. You can't even see the canal itself here--it's just beyond the dead end of the street--but you can almost smell it.

This photo, we might say, is much more realistic, or at least is truer to the ugliness associated with Gowanus that dominates the way the place is commonly experienced. One artist somehow found bright color and lively activity there; today's photographer captured the drab unpleasantness we expect to feel near the nation's newest superfund site.

Tomorrow we'll look at the work of artists who combine both impressions, sort of. It's a complicated canal.

Posted by Ellen

 

Spring is roaring in; by tomorrow, we'll already have daylight saving time. Did we just dream it, all that winter stuff?

As dreams go, this one was spectacular. Here is Sixth Street NW in Washington after one of those snow events, with the National Gallery of Art in the background.

Posted by Ellen

A shaft of sunlight has slipped between a couple of skyscrapers to illuminate this woman's walk across King Street in Toronto.

Posted by Ellen

 

In 1900, Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan was the heart of Little Italy, where life was apparently lived out in the open, right in the street. Nowadays, cars instead of people dominate the street, and the people have retreated indoors, where apartments are much less crowded and much more likely to have indoor plumbing.

Click on this picture to see a much larger version, which you can mouse around in to appreciate the details of life in New York a century ago: the vegetable carts, the guy with a glass of beer in the middle of the street, the boy with his schoolbooks, the Banca Malzone, the aprons and wagons and fire escapes and . . .

 

 

Posted by Ellen

He's delivering milk to the Restaurant Louisiane on Iberville Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, circa 1903.

Just behind the milk wagon--look through the wheels--is a jumble of something spilled on the sidewalk at the curb. Another wagon must have recently stopped by there, delivering coal. Somebody from the restaurant will have to come out and scoop it up.

Posted by Ellen

Since the 1950s, the city of Detroit has lost half its population, which now stands at about 900,000. Entire inner-city neighborhoods have been abandoned, often burned out, and eventually bulldozed; Google Earth shows the downtown ringed by hundreds of blocks of grass and trees.

The blight has spread now to neighborhoods far from the city center. First one family, then another, leaves town in hope of finding work. They cannot sell their homes, but they leave anyway. Soon, their neighbors are leaving also, because semi-abandoned neighborhoods are dangerous and unpleasant places to live. Here is a picture from last summer of a Detroit neighborhood with just a few homes still occupied. By next summer, there will be fewer still.
 

Posted by Ellen

The weather was raw and wet a couple of weekends ago in Bethesda,Maryland,  but the artists all showed up anyway with their tents for the annual art fair. The street was closed to cars, and I got to wondering about all the traffic arrows painted on the roadway: Did it cost extra for a booth with an arrow that directed traffic right to you, as opposed to one where the arrow on the road seemed to be steering people away from you?

I was also curious why the same lane on the street seemed to be painted with arrows pointing every which way.

In the end, I'm sure the arrows made no difference; the weather kept crowds thin all weekend long. The band kept playing on the makeshift stage at the corner, and the vendors kept hawking crab cakes and curry, but I hope the artists enjoy better days soon.