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Gary, Indiana: Unbroken spirit amid the ruins of the 20th Centry

A look back at the effectiveness of federal stimulus past and present by the BBC. Gary In was a town that received federal stimulus money after the great depression and once again when the Obama administration announced its stimulus package after the recent economic collapse. The movie takes a look at how effective stimulus can be, and the politics behind its delivery.

Watch this video over at the BBC.

To put this in context you have to know that Gary, home to what is still US Steel Corp’s biggest plant, is suffering from one of the most advanced cases of urban blight in the developed world. Its city centre is near-deserted by day. The texture of the urban landscape is cracked stone, grass, crumbled brick and buddleia.

Gary is one third poor, 84% African American, and has seen its population halve over the past three decades. If crime, as the official figures suggest, has recently dropped off then – say the critics – that is because population flight from the city is bigger than the census figures show.

Gary in the end got $266m of stimulus money and has, according to the federal “recipient reported data” created a grand total of 327 jobs. That’s $800,000 per job.

I went back determined to find out how the stimulus dollars had been spent; to get beyond the ideology and recriminations and see why President Barack Obama’s stimulus has failed to turn the country around.

The striking thing is that they are all structurally dangerous and yet totally accessible. I did not have to cross a single piece of wire, tape or fencing to get in, nor did I encounter a security guard or dog patrol. The city seems to have given up even securing these ruins.

A Tour Through Steve Jobs Abandoned Mansion

Photographer Jonathan Haeber has a great blog over at: Bearings that chronicals abandonments and other historic forgotten properties.

One of the entries that he accessed is the Jackling house a historic mansion in Woodside, California, designed and built for copper mining magnate Daniel Cowan Jackling and his family by the noted California architect George Washington Smith in 1925. Johnathan was able to access the Jacking House which is currently owned by apple big boss Steve Jobs. He takes a  series of rare, photos of the slowly decaying mansion, which has now been abandoned for over a decade.  Jobs has been trying to get permission to knock the building down so that he can put up his own ihouse (or something like that) while local preservationists have been trying to preserve the structure.  The battle is ongoing. But for now take a look at some of the great photos!

To see more prictures of the structure take a look at Jonathan`s blog.

The Oldest Subway Tunnel in the World

Photo by adam (Citynoise)

Photo by adam (Citynoise)

How often do you think about the layers of the city? Just this evening on my way home from work I was thinking about how the sidewalks and the pavement that I was walking on were likely only a couple generations old, it really wasn’t that long ago that our cities were paved with dirt when you consider the scale of history. So what’s under all this pavement, what do you get when you peel back a couple layers of tar and asphalt? In some cases you find things that have long been forgotten, well I suppose that in most cases you are going to find things that have been forgotten. For those of you who are into abandonments, we bring this post from Citynoise.org about the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel.

The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is officially the world’s oldest subway tunnel, built in 1844 by the cut-and-cover method under a City of Brooklyn Street. It is a half-mile long and accommodated two standard gauge tracks. The tunnel was built in only seven months, using only hand tools and primitive (by today’s standards) equipment. It was built to provide grade separation for early Long Island Rail Road trains that lacked brakes good enough to operate on city streets, and to eliminate vehicular and pedestrian traffic conflicts and delays. This route allowed through trains to travel quickly between Brooklyn and Boston (via ferry service to Connecticut).

The tunnel was supposedly filled in 1861 in a fraud scheme that apparently just sealed off the ends. Bob Diamond rediscovered the long forgotten Atlantic Avenue Tunnel in 1980. The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association (BHRA) was formed in 1982 to restore the historic tunnel. BHRA successfully filed and received designation for the tunnel on the National Register of Historic Places.

Oldest Subway Tunnel in the World – Brooklyn, NY : citynoise.org.

Photo by adam (citynoise)

Photo by adam (citynoise)

The 'Hotel Of Doom' Awakes!

The Hotel of Doom!

The Hotel of Doom!

The infamous 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang has awoken from its slumber and is once again seeing construction work. It has been reported that Egypt’s Orascom group has been contracted to refurbish the top floors of what has been termed by some as the ‘Hotel of Doom.’ Construction originally started in 1987 and it was thought that the tower was a jealous response to the South’s Olympic construction boom. The structure is 105 stories high and, if it were fully finished, it would contain 3.9 million square feet of floor space. Kim Ill Sung started construction to show off the state’s burgeoning economic power. Had it been completed it would have been the tallest hotel in the world at that time, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea lost one of its main economic benefactors and could no longer afford the price tag for the project which varies depending on the source (the Wiki entry estimates the bill at US$750 million according to Japanese newspapers; the Reuters article lists South Korean sources as suggesting that the structure would cost close to 2 billion to finish the structure and bring it up to code.)

The structure has been panned by critics as a horrible design, completely unrelated to the city surrounding it.

It is not a beautiful design. It carries little iconic or monumental significance, but sheer muscular and massive presence,” said Lee Sang Jun, a professor of architecture at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Design Aesthetics aside, the building is a great example of ‘Blade Runner’esque, futuristic architecture and is notable for being one of the few (partially) constructed examples of communist super architecture.

The North Korean Government used the hotel extensively for a number of years in its ideology, with it appearing on North Korean stamps before it was finished, and it was boasted about extensively in state media. However, after construction work ceased, the hotel came to be seen as a symbol of the state’s failure to become an economic power and was airbrushed out of pictures of the capital and, according to foreigners living in the North Korean capital, that even though the structure is so massive that it can be seen from anywhere in the city, it was impossible to get anyone to talk about it at all.

While it is unlikely that the current construction work is to ‘finish’ the Hotel, it appears that the top levels are going to be adapted for some sort of use. Perhaps Dr. Evil decided to lease some space for a new lair.

Check out the Reuters article here.

The Wiki entry is here.

Inside the Tyson Mansion

I have to admit that I wasn’t going to post about abandonments; when I conceptualised what I thought this blog was going to be about it didn’t include them.

Until today that is.  Illicitohio is a site devoted to exploring these areas forgotten or otherwise blocked off from the rest of the world. These photos of Tyson Mansion are of a remarkably preserved look at what was once a boxer’s swinging pad.


Mike's Front Door

Mike's Front Door