I often think that being a child consists largely of being oblivious to the world around you. Children live in a world within a world, seeing all sorts of things, but comprehending or even noticing only a few. Children often have no idea why parents make certain decisions, for example, unless those decisions are explained to them. Things just happen, or don’t happen. My childhood was certainly this way. Many reasons and significances I only learned years later, or not at all. I’ll give one example. When I was around 12 or 13, my father, an inveterate hunter, took me deer hunting for the first time. Every year he went deer hunting near Caballo Lake in New Mexico with a family friend and relatives of that friend. This time he took me with him. It was very cold, up in the desert mountains in November, but I had a lot of fun (though I did not get to shoot at any deer). I kind of assumed that this was simply the first of what would be a long series of annual deer hunting trips I would now go on. But things did not work out that way. My father never took me again. Not once. To this day, I have no idea why. Had I somehow embarrassed him in front of his friends? Had I done something wrong? If I had, I never realized it. But that was the first and last time I went deer hunting.
[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image. Also, the EXIF data for each image contains GPS coordinates that you can use to locate the exact place where the photograph was taken.]
Seeing deer during my excursions across Ohio often remind me of that solitary deer hunting trip. I see deer quite frequently on these excursions, but they are hard to photograph, because deer are the most skittish animals I encounter, prone to disappear in a flash at the slightest disturbance, while my camera settings are always set to landscape-friendly settings, not settings designed to capture swift motion. And often by the time I can even bring a camera to focus on a deer I have spotted, the deer is poof! gone.
Every now and then, however, I am able to snap a picture or two of one.
I spotted the above whitetail deer while in the process of journeying to East Liverpool, Ohio, in late May 2014. The deer was some way off the road, next to a sort of plateau, and on the passenger side of the vehicle, which meant that I had only an extremely limited field of vision and it would be very difficult to take any photograph. However, the deer—frozen as I stopped my SUV—stayed in that position just long enough for me to get a couple of shots off before starting to bound away.
At first I was really just concentrating on the deer and not paying much attention to anything else. However, as the deer skipped away I became more aware of the unusual surroundings. The deer was running sideways across a slope leading up to a plateau above me. At several different places along the slope, large amounts of water run-off had denuded the slope of foliage and given it a bare, rocky look. I had never seen anything like this before. It did not seem natural. The plateau was above me, so I couldn’t see much, but it did seem like the area was fenced off and part of some sort of industrial or commercial site. Maybe water run-off from some operation there was causing this odd phenomenon?
When I got back home, I did some research on this location and discovered that this site was owned by Markwest Energy Partners, a fracking company from out west that had moved to the region to exploit the shale boom. I wondered if this water run-off was related to the fracking, but when I looked at the satellite view of the area, there didn’t seem to be anything like that going on—rather this seemed to be the future site of an office building for Markwest. Could early construction efforts have caused the run-off? Again, I could not see how—nor did the satellite photographs provide any source for the water. Maybe the effect was entirely natural. Maybe this was natural water run-off from water collected on the plateau, but it was taking the form that it did because the rocky slope did not lend itself to the easy formation of gullies and streams? I really have no idea. It remains a mystery to me.
The Markwest property was just outside Cadiz, Ohio, a village of 3,353 that I have mentioned before. It is the birthplace of Clark Gable (George Armstrong Custer taught school here, too, and Edwin Stanton practiced law). It’s also an old coal town. For an Appalachian village (only a county away from the Ohio River), it is not doing too poorly. In the past few years, the shale oil/gas boom has probably given it a little boost; in any case, unemployment is less than half of what it was at the height of the recession. The population has remained relatively stable over the past 45 years, which is a very good thing for eastern Ohio towns and villages. Still, the “downtown” areas of all such population centers have suffered over the past century. The above photograph is a good example. The building in the middle was once an impressive bank building. Now, it has a small real estate office, maybe the office of a gun dealer and not much else. The upper windows are all boarded up; a sad sight.
I was cheered when I saw the sign for this “Mr. Fish” restaurant and decided I’d like to come back and eat at this place, just to say I had. However, when I researched it on the Internet, Yelp had the establishment as closed. Indeed, this seems to be the case. I came across some December 2014 village council records from Cadiz in which “concerns were voiced about the condition of the Mr. Fish building.” A structural engineer was going to inspect it, but for now, “the area should remain blocked off.” Et tu, Mr. Fish? Sometimes I think everything quaint and interesting is disappearing from this world.
Still, some of the old buildings in Cadiz are still well-kept, as this corner building amply demonstrates.
Out of town and back in the countryside, I found this pleasingly oddly-colored old house. It must have been quite impressive when built, though now it is the very definition of ramshackle.
A rarish bit of open hill country in the region. Woods and hills make much of the region a bit claustrophobic. For a while, in the late 1990s, I thought I might be moving to Morgantown, a mountain town in West Virginia, which was similarly claustrophobic, and I wondered how well I would cope with that. Over the years, however, I got more accustomed to this type of terrain and it wasn’t so strange.
Some things are a little strange, like this crazy bridge over Yellow Creek linking a home nestled in the woods with a road (probably where their mailbox is). You probably couldn’t get me on that bridge. But note what is actually hanging below the bridge—a Haba aircraft swing (or some other brand) for toddlers. Okay, how did this end up hanging off the bridge and why is it there? Is it there as a bit of ballast, to hold the bridge down (maybe there are some rocks in it)? Surely they do not actually but babies in that and let them hang off the bridge? I’ve got my eyes on you, bridge.
This brings us at last to East Liverpool, Ohio, an old rust belt town along the Ohio River, which I first visited in 2013. It is situated along the Ohio River where Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania meet. It has suffered considerably over the years, reaching a peak population of a bit over 24,000 in 1950 and declining since (population today is only around 11,000). A quarter of the population is below the poverty line. The building above, which I previously photographed in 2013, is the old Crockery City Brewing & Ice Company. See the other blog entry for pictures of the entire building. This derelict building is quite prominent for those coming into town from the south, so I took another photo, just because. This time I focused only on the top of this one-stately building, where you can see how nature is reclaiming it, with trees growing even on the top floors of the building.
Many of East Liverpool’s buildings serve as testament to grander times a century or so ago. Here we see the impressive columns of the Elks lodge, complete with a big-ass elk sticking out from the building.
This desolate-looking building may harbor some low-rent apartments.
This old mansion brings to mind some of the glory days of East Liverpool. Put your imagination to work and you can float back as a ghost to the 1920s, to see a Prohibition-era party being staged here, with “medicinal” alcohol being served to the hoity-toity guests, while a band plays brassy dance music.
I am sure that the Moose Lodge and the Elks must be mortal enemies. This moose stands atop its lodge, looking out to the Ohio River.
Another large old house, now gone rather to seed. Its rooms have probably been split up into apartments.
On the north side of town, close to the Ohio River, these old buildings speak to an earlier era. In the foreground, on the right, is the ABC Carry Out, which many decades ago was Frank’s Beer & Wine. About an hour’s worth of research on my part finally revealed that the building across the street is the City of East Liverpool’s old Car Barn, where the city’s streetcars were stored at night, and for repair, back when the city actually had streetcars.
The Hist. Soc. of East Liverpool has an image of the building as it looked probably around 1905 or so:
One of the great old industries of East Liverpool—and, for that matter, an amazing number of cities, towns and villages up and down eastern Ohio—was pottery. The majority of pottery companies have vanished, but the W. C. Bunting Company has had an amazing longevity. As the sign here suggests, the company was founded in 1880. These days, the family-owned company apparently doesn’t actually make the pottery itself, but rather takes pottery, puts decals and artwork on the items, then fires the items in kilns to seal the images on the pottery.
I took the above photograph in May 2014. I regret to say that I discovered today (March 2015) that in November 2014 a raging fire destroyed this building and most of what it contained, including 75 years of artwork. The company has spent the past several months recovering from this tragic incident. I may well have been one of the last people to take a photograph of the building before the fire.
This picturesque but sadly abandoned place is the former home of Riverview Florists, “East Liverpool’s Finest Florist Since 1924.” Parts of this place may have dated back even earlier than 1924. In that year, Frank Bosco and his sons Charles and Sullivan purchased a greenhouse to use for a florist business, calling it Riverview. The original building burned down in 1935—fire seems to be a sad theme to this blog entry—but the Boscos had a new building (above) built in an English Tudor style. The business expanded in the 1950s to become a nursery as well as to grow orchids. However, the Boscos were bought out in 2006 by Sherry and Randy Clark, who abandoned this property and relocated the business elsewhere in the city. At least the business is still around (though apparently in a much smaller form, without the garden center or orchids), but it is sad to see such an atypical building be abandoned like this.
The greenhouses are behind the building. I suppose the stack was for the incineration of vegetable matter. I have seen another large old greenhouse elsewhere with a similar smokestack. The Bosco family sold this property to the city of East Liverpool, but the city sadly has only let it go to seed, so to speak. This was a historic building and could have had any of a number of uses, but if this property is used again, I suspect the building will be demolished.
My photos so far have largely shown elements of East Liverpool that were better in days gone by. This has also been the case the past several times I have visited the town and included photos of it here in my blog. This did not go well with some residents of East Liverpool, who pointed out to me that not all of the city is like the places I have shown here. And certainly, they are correct in so saying. My natural interest gravitates towards the old, the ramshackle, the ruined. But to be fair, I end this blog entry with a couple of photographs of some very nice houses in East Liverpool to show the other side, a side I have not paid enough attention to.
After toodling around East Liverpool for some time, I decided it was time to head homeward. The third and final blog entry for this excursion will feature photographs from my journey back to central Ohio.
Nice essay, Mark. It kills me to see how we’ve let so many of our towns rot away.
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