Sunday, October 31, 2010

Old Caswell County Courthouse. Yanceyville, NC

Another Saturday, another road trip. This time we were going to go to Prestwould Plantation just outside of Clarksville, Virginia.

Our first stop on the way was to take photos of the Old Caswell County Courthouse in Yanceyville, NC. Once upon a time, Caswell County was one of the richest counties in North Carolina. It was the birthplace of the bright-leaf tobacco curing process prior to the Civil War which led to the building of magnificent homes, commercial buildings and this courthouse which was built in 1858.

The Old Courthouse was also the site of the Kirk-Holden War, a dark period during Reconstruction.

Today, the textile and tobacco industries are long gone from the area and most residents have to commute long distances for work. It has one of the highest levels of unemployment for the region.

Those two dark objects on the weathervane? Crows

 The courthouse was closed, so these next pictures are from the Caswell County Historical Association.

Ceiling Detail

Looks like I need to come back and take interior pictures, doesn't it?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, NC

I was organizing my old photos, the ones taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1, when I came across photos taken in February at the North Carolina State Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Most of the photos aren't very good as I didn't know how to shoot through glass without getting reflections (I was shooting with a flash. Dumb) or everything was really fuzzy. I didn't realize that the autofocus was focusing on the glass instead of the fish.

As I was coming to the end of the exhibits, I set the focus to manual (just as an experiment) and took pictures of the tropical fish. Outside of the alligators (which are native to North Carolina, believe it or not), these were the only pictures from the entire day that turned out well.

While these fish aren't native to North Carolina, they were being exhibited as part of a exhibit on the world's ecosystem and how delicate it is. Lionfish, a tropical native (which were in a neighboring tank; too dark to get any decent pictures) have established themselves off the coast and are absolutely devastating the native population of fish. Biologists believe that people bought them for their home aquariums and when the fish became too large or too aggressive, they were dumped in the ocean off the NC coast.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Farewell to the Nasturtiums

I think this will be the last of the nasturtiums as we should be getting our first frost tonight. In the meantime, enjoy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Catalpa Tree at Rock Springs Plantation

The centerpiece of Rock Springs Plantation is this Catalpa tree. As my British friends say, I was just gobsmacked when I saw it.

There was a tour guide sitting on the back porch of the house as I circled around the tree taking pictures. I shouted out to him, “What type of tree is it?” He mumbled something that sounded like “cigar tree.” I wasn’t sure I heard him right, so I asked him to repeat it. And sure enough, he said it was a cigar tree.

Thank God for Google. A cigar tree is actually a Catalpa tree, in this case a Southern Catalpa tree. According to Wikipedia: "Catalpa is a genus of flowering plants in the trumpet vine family, Bignoniaceae, native to warm temperate regions of North America, the Caribbean, and east Asia" The fact that it is member of the trumpet vine family may account for the wonderfully contorted trunk. On the other hand, I can’t find any pictures of a Catalpa that is comparable to this one. There is a Catalpa that is growing horizontal to the ground at a golf course, but that seems to be the exception to the rule as is this one at Rock Springs Plantation.

The things you can find when you head off the beaten path. 

Or when you are absolutely stubborn and refuse to admit you're wrong.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rock Springs Plantation. Critz, Virginia

Back to the Saturday day trip.

Out of Martinsville on US 58, my Travel Buddy (TB) who is riding shotgun and handling the map says: “You’re on the wrong road”
Me: “No, I’m not. I’m going the right way to Ferrum”
TB: “No. You’re supposed to be on VA 57.”
Me: “No. This is the right way. I looked at the map back in Martinsville. I’m on the right road.”
TB: “No. It’s VA 57. You marked it on the map.”
Me: “Give me the map. [I looked at the map while driving 70 mph on a curvy mountain road. Not a good way to drive.] Well, too bad. I’m not going back to Martinsville [I’m loathe to say that I’m wrong, since I am never, ever wrong]. We’re staying on this road.”
TB: “But I thought you wanted to go to Ferrum and drive the scenic byway.”
Me: “I’M NOT TURNING AROUND. WE’RE STAYING ON THIS ROAD [This tends to be my default mode in all of our day trips.]

So onward towards the mountains on the wrong road.

I saw a historical marker on the road pointing towards the Reynolds Homeplace in Critz, VA. Since I’m trying to take pictures of historic sites here in North Carolina and in Southwestern Virginia, I thought this would be a good place to visit.

Rock Springs Plantation

This is Rock Springs Plantation, the birthplace of Richard Reynolds who founded RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, just 25 miles from Greensboro. His parents raised 16 children in this small house which doesn’t look any larger than my 1500 square foot townhouse. It’s in the Greek Revival style and was built in 1843. It used to front a stagecoach road, but today there is just a paved loop around the house, spring house and family graveyard.

The plantation was endowed to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) by RJ Reynolds’ daughter, Nancy Susan Reynolds, in 1969. Virginia Tech’s Forest Resources Research Center is located here and studies forestry practices, pond management, wildlife habitat enhancement, and Christmas tree culture. There is also a small museum for the house.

Spring House

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Autumn Leaves

I'm running very behind today and so what I was going to post will have to wait until tomorrow.

In the meantime, I took this picture as I was taking the garbage to the curb. I wasn't even looking through the viewfinder; just pushing the shutter button to see what kind of random picture I would get.

I really like the results.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Wedding Cake House. Martinsville, Virginia

When I set out for my day trip on Saturday, I had planned on staying away from the Blue Ridge Parkway as all the news outlets had it bumper-to-bumper traffic (to see how well that vow went, read yesterday’s post).

I had it all mapped out. I was going to go up through Martinsville, VA and then pick up a Virginia scenic byway to Ferrum and then loop back to Greensboro.

I don’t pay any attention to sports and even less attention to NASCAR – the state sport of the South. Bad move; they were running the Tums Fast Relief 500 (how appropriate – stock car racing makes me nauseous) at the Martinsville Speedway. So I got stuck in traffic there and not on the Parkway.

Ate a quick lunch and then took a side trip to the Wedding Cake House in the Millionaires’ Row neighborhood. There is very little information on the house on the Internet. All I could find is that it was built in 1903 by a man named George Lester. It is hard to tell from the photo, but it is badly in need of renovation. In a city of 15,000 with more than 20% unemployment, I doubt that it will happen any time soon.

It is made out of concrete block and cement trim, which was an extremely unusual building material at that time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

View of Pilot Mountain from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

View of Pilot Mountain from Groundhog Mountain

With yesterday being absolutely gorgeous, I set off for a drive to southwestern Virginia to see what I could find in the way of some good snapshots. I ended up on the Blue Ridge Parkway where to my surprise, there were very few cars even though the trees still had tons of color. Perhaps the people who would've have been up there were dissuaded by all the evening news shows talking about all the people who were up in the mountains or perhaps they had all gone south to Asheville. Who knows? All in all it was a terrific drive.

This is a view of Pilot Mountain, NC from Groundhog Mountain, VA on the parkway. Pilot Mountain is about thirty miles east at this point. For those of you who are my age and grew up with the Andy Griffith Show, this is the fictional Mt. Pilot. Andy Griffith who is originally from Mount Airy, NC, just up the road from Pilot Mountain, used a lot of his childhood locations in the show, just giving them enough of an artistic twist to keep the show from being a travelogue. Hence, Mount Airy became Mayberry, Pilot Mountain became Mt. Pilot, etc.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Cinco de Mayo Rose in Second Bloom

Does the cool weather have an effect on roses? I'm just wondering because here is a picture of the Cinco de Mayo rose in August:

And here is the rose just yesterday:

Quite a difference and yet the exact same rose bush. Can anyone tell me if this is normal for roses during the second bloom?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Let Your Freak Flag Fly High!

Cercis canadensis v. Forest Pansy

Here is why Eastern Redbuds aren't chosen for their fall foliage. But it was a gorgeous fall day with a cloudless blue sky.

And it does make a gorgeous spring specimen tree in my little garden.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Quilt Blocks in McDowell County

One last look at McDowell County and two of the many quilt blocks which are displayed as part of the Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina.

Back in 2001, a woman named Donna Sue Groves decided to paint a wooden quilt block on an Ohio barn in honor of her mother. Now people in at least 24 states have organized efforts to decorate local barns and buildings with quilt blocks, both to celebrate local traditions and bring in tourists.

In the North Carolina mountains, six adjoining counties participate in the trail with more than 200 quilt blocks displayed on commercial buildings, homes, and barns and on main highways and back roads. Some of these blocks display traditional patterns and some are one-of-a-kind creations, telling a story about the owner.

I’ll go back this winter after the leaves have fallen from the trees and I can get better shots of these blocks.

On the Animal Hospital of Marion
You can read more about this quilt block here.

I took only two pictures that day and I can't find any information about this quilt block. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Carson House. Marion, NC

On my way back from the Casino I stopped for a quick second at the Carson House on the outskirts of Marion. It was the home of Col. John Carson, and served as the McDowell County courthouse at the county's founding. It is now a house museum and a stop on the Civil War Trail as a place where the Stoneman Raiders skirmished before moving on to Asheville.

Built in 1793, the Carson House is one of the oldest standing structures in McDowell County. Large walnut logs were harvested from nearby Buck Creek to construct the three-story plantation. Upon Colonel Carson’s death in 1841, his youngest son, Jonathan Logan, inherited the homeplace and oversaw extensive renovations which resulted in the structure that survives little-changed today.

The same generations that built the house played prominent roles in local politics and society. Col. Carson and three of his sons served in the state legislature. One son, Samuel Price, served four terms in the United States’ Congress and went on to become first Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas

For many years, the house served as a stagecoach inn and social center, and was a stopping point for important historical figures such as Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, who reportedly lost money gambling on the horses that raced at the Carson Plantation. Dan Kanipe, one of only two survivors of General Custer's unit in the Battle of Little Bighorn lived in Marion, and spent some years living at the Carson House.

Carson House in 1908

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Concordia Lutheran Church. Conover, NC

On the way back from Lake Tahoma, I made a detour to Conover near Hickory to see the Concordia Lutheran Church. I had read this description in A Guide to Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina:

“Lutherans affiliated with the Tennessee Synod founded Concordia College here in 1877 (note from me: it closed in 1935 during the Great Depression) and a church of the same name. Concordia Lutheran Church (1957) is a dramatic statement of mid-20th century modernism by the influential Charlotte firm of A.G. Odell, Jr. and Associates and winner of an American Institute of Architects award. The broad copper roof envelopes the sanctuary and becomes taller as it narrows from the east entrance to the chancel at the west end.”

First, if this 53 year old church is included as historic architecture, then what does that make me as I’m two years older? Umm, maybe I don’t want an answer to that.

Secondly, here is a national award-winning building built in a tiny village in the foothills of North Carolina which was originally founded as a railroad depot and where most of the buildings are turn of the twentieth century vernacular design. The interesting things you can find if you just get off the interstate. . .

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Casino at Lake Tahoma

Tempted by an email that I had received from the North Carolina Department of Tourism (Go to the Mountains and See the Color!), I packed up and drove to Lake Tahoma just outside of Marion about three hours from Greensboro.

Lake Tahoma is a small reservoir about four miles outside of Marion. The dam which created the lake was built at the height of the Roaring Twenties by the Buck Creek Development Company. They had planned to use this lake as the centerpiece of a planned resort community and the dam was to provide electricity.

However, only the Casino was ever built. Along with so many developments of that era (and as history repeats itself, today as well), the Buck Creek Development Company went into bankruptcy in the late 1920’s. There wasn’t any further building around the lake until after World War II.

The Casino, made out of stone and wood, was designed by Earl Draper, a well-known city planner of that era. It is approached by a gated long pier and has a large open circular room attached to a roofed docking area.

I was really fortunate to be able to take pictures on the pier as the Casino was being prepped for a wedding and the deputy sheriff on duty was kind enough to let me wander down to the building. Most of the time the gate is padlocked and only residents of the Lake Tahoma area have the keys to the gate.

And the color that the NC Department of Tourism promised? Well, as you can see from the photos, it was minimal to non-existent. But, it was a beautiful day and I did get some really good pictures of the Casino.

And, no, despite the name the Casino was never used as such and today it couldn’t become one. State laws only permit gaming on the Cherokee reservation near Murphy. The only real casino in North Carolina belongs to Harrah’s.

The Casino at Lake Tahoma

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Second Bloom

After eight years in my house, I decided I needed to do more to the small garden area than just spread mulch to keep the weeds out.

So, I planted about sixty daylily bulbs and bought three rose bushes from Rogue Valley Roses to put in containers on the patio.

I didn't expect much from either daylilies or roses this first year, but was pleasantly surprised to have a few of the daylilies to bloom along with the roses during the early part of the summer. Then we got hit with the hottest summer ever (65+ days of above 90 degree weather versus a normal summer where we have 28 days) and the rose bushes suffered mightily. Despite the daily watering, the bushes were extremely stressed, dropping leaves and in one case, developing black spot. I figured that I would end up trashing them this fall.

What a nice surprise when they started to give me a second round of blooms in October now that the weather has moderated back to normal.

Brown Velvet (a misnomer - very bright red)


Baby Austin (a micro rose; even smaller than a mini rose)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

First Presbyterian Church Bell Tower Park. Salisbury, NC

Original Exterior Drawing, 1892

Salisbury is about fifty miles south of Greensboro and has the most well preserved turn-of-the-century downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. One of the most distinctive attractions is the First Presbyterian Church Bell Tower, which stands in a small park just off the main street.

The church to which the tower was once part of was built in 1892 to replace an earlier building. It was designed by Charles Webber Bolton of Philadelphia who planned more than 500 churches during his career. This church was the only one he designed in North Carolina.

I found the original drawing that Bolton did of the church at North Carolina State University’s architectural history website. I couldn’t find any old photographs of how the church once looked intact, which is a shame, as it must have been magnificent.

In 1971, the congregation razed the church, but left the bell tower intact in a small park that also includes the 1850 Presbyterian Session House. The remainder of the tract was sold off and developed as a branch bank building.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The End of Proximity Mill

Cone continued to purchase companies that fit into its existing operations, adding a cushion manufacturer, the Prelude Company, in 1970. By the following year, however, it had become clear that some divisions of the company were not profitable, and Cone shut down two weak operations, a blanket plant in Houston, and the John Wolf Apparel Fabrics Division.

Throughout the 1970s, Cone struggled against an industry-wide tide of cheap imported fabrics, which worked to keep profits down. The company relied heavily on its two main products, denim and corduroy, which enjoyed continuing fashion popularity. In 1974, Cone opened a new denim factory at its Cliffside plant. In 1975, the company embarked upon a nine-year program of plant modernization that was designed to make operations as efficient as possible, so that costs could be kept low.

In 1983, Cone became a victim of the rage for corporate stock speculation when it was targeted for hostile takeover by Western Pacific Industries. In response, the company engineered a leveraged buyout of all of its outstanding stock, going private once again.

In further efforts to combat the impact of imported fabrics on its market, Cone joined with other American textile manufacturers to promote increased consumption of domestic products. "Crafted with Pride in the U.S.A." became the rallying cry for a public relations campaign designed to offset the impact of lower prices for imported products. Nevertheless, this factor, in combination with a loss in popularity for corduroy, caused Cone to close, convert, or sell ten of its mills in the years between 1977 and 1990. Such founding pillars of the company as the Proximity Cotton Mills and Print Works, the Revolution Mill, and the Minneola Mill shut their doors forever during this time.

Aerial View of Proximity Warehouse from the 1950's
Proximity Warehouse - October 2010

Upper Level of Warehouse Area
Abandoned Water Tower

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'll Be Back!

I'm off-line for a little bit. The computer developed the Blue Screen of Death and was beyond my capability to repair it through my backup software. It is now at the computer repair place having its insides poked, prodded and replaced and should be back to me this Friday.

I'll be back to finish the Proximity Mills story then!