The Phantom Subdivision

On the way to Tom and Julee's wedding this past weekend, I took the bus (a.k.a. Southwest Airlines)--because getting to Minneapolis for $10 ain't such a bad deal (frequent flyer miles). However, the routing to get there was BOS-STL-MSP (and MSP-MDW-BOS on the way home).

Anyway, on approach to land at STL, I saw a rather strange sight out my window. There were a set of streets, like a usual suburb, but no houses. Just grass and trees. And as you look closer, you can see grass growing in through the pavement cracks.

Whoah. Weird. I was wondering if this was a case of, "We're expanding the airport, so you people really don't want to live here now, right?" Or some eminent domain buyout.

First, I started exploring on Google Earth (once again, they can organize my world's information, baby). After some poking around, I found this subdivision on the west side of the airport.

And hey... check out a bit closer... there's actually one house left. Hey--it has a tennis court and a swimming pool, I think!

Hrm. A rather green and slimy swimming pool, though.

Anyway, it took a while to find out what the actual story is--it turns out that somebody else had the same question--with the following answers--it's the Carrollton subdivision in Bridgeton:

I'm a former resident, grew up there, lived there, and watched it get taken away. When i was a kid i remember the yellow ribbon campaign which had us to putting ribbons on our trees, doors, overhangs, etc to show our unity against what was called F4, the taking of Bridgeton for airport expansion. During the very late 90's and early 2000's the push came through and the airport finally bought the homes in the carollton subdivision. Very sad for all those who lived there, and even worse for those who DIDN'T get bought out, but were stuck in their unsellable homes.

Even more interesting... a former residence put up a blog documenting the demolition of the neighborhood:

This place was once a subdivision called Carrollton, located in Bridgeton, MO. It was one of the first planned communities in the U.S. that made sure to include green space, parks, schools, churches, and a community center in its development. Lambert International Airport made a proposal to the city of St. Louis to expand beyond its boundaries and build a new runway. This was pushed because, at the time, St. Louis was a hub for TWA. Despite the fledgling airline industry, the cause for eminent domain was issued in the direction of Bridgeton, including much of the city and all of the Carrollton subdivision. Although fought hard by community residents who formed a group called, “The Bridgeton Air Defense” and a number of legal battles that stretched decades, Lambert ultimately won and started taking homes as early as 1992. 2,000 structures, 2,000 parcels of land have become or will be soon property of Lambert International.

By the time I was old enough to realize that the concrete was creeping in to the edge of the subdivision where we lived… it was too late to care. Or, so I thought, until last year. Watching my own house go down, I realized that the remaining homes needed to be documented too. So, for the past year, I have been watching and photographing what little remains of the original 2,000. As of today, October 9th, 2007… only 56 houses are left.

Ah well. A sad story behind that one.


A Trip to Haverhill

Last week, I spent a Friday morning up in Haverhill, MA for work--it is one of those old industrial/mill towns on the Merrimack River, right near the New Hampshire border. According to Wikipedia, "was known for a time as the "Queen Shoe City of the World." The city was also known for the manufacture of hats." In addition, BirdJen used to work there, and live nearby. It has some chunks of nice downtown (including industrial buildings that were going to be turned into lofts... before the real estate market imploded... oops), but it appears that a chunk of it suffered through urban renewal. I've heard the wag, "... Europe had World War II to destroy its cities so they could rebuild them... the United States used urban renewal to destroy its cities instead.":

Unfortunately, during the 1950s-1970s, city leaders enthusiastically embraced the misguided concept of Urban Renewal, an approach since discredited, and received considerable federal funds used to demolish much of the north side of Merrimack Street, most of the Federal homes along Water Street (dating from the city's first hundred years of development), and throughout downtown. Many of the city's iconic buildings were lost, including the Oddfellows Hall, the Old City Hall, the Second Meetinghouse, the Pentucket Club, and the Old Library, among others.

As I first walked towards the building, I was disturbed to find a great big pool of blood on the sidewalk. With a trail of blood drop spatters leading away from it. Um... yikes? Maybe rat.... dog... person? Not sure. Given how close the town is to Lawrence (one of the sketchier towns in MA)...

Anyway, on to the building. It was a circa 1900's warehouse or mill building, right next to the Amtrak/Commuter Rail tracks. An interesting construction method--it is an all-cast in place reinforced concrete building (more on this later).

A nice view up from the roof. I have to say, I get to go to some neat places in my job.

This was followed by a nice lunch at Krueger Flatbread--thanks for the recommendation, Jen!

But one thing that was more interesting was after I went back to the office to do some research. One of the first hits when I Googled the name of the building was a Google book from 1918 that did a case study on this building: CONCRETE ENGINEERS' HANDBOOK: DATA FOR THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF PLAIN AND REINFORCED CONCRETE STRUCTURES (Hool, Johnson, & Hollister). Pretty neat stuff--it turns out that this building was innovative for its time, when they were figuring out how to build with cast-in-place steel reinforced concrete (something that is essentially a solved problem in construction nowadays).

But the book has a bunch of very classic black-and-white drawings of the building I was looking at:

You could look at the drawing... look at the building... yep, that's the one!

Cool. I've said this before, but Google Books friggin' rocks. You can organize my world's information any day, baby ;).


Birthday Bonus Round

I know that I've covered my birthday to death already... but there were a few items that needed sharing.

First of all, Sarah's grandmother sent me a birthday card. Cool--thanks Gram!

Second, Sarah's parents sent me a birthday package. Among the contents: wine bottle stopper (cool!), a nice Hawaiian shirt (win!), and this adorable picture of my sweetie at age 9:

Besides, "Ohhhh, so cuute!", my reaction was, "Man... I'm lucky to find a gal of this caliber."


Anyway, the last item--a birthday card from Canada... from Dan & Daniel!

And the inside was a pop up card, "It's the Birthday Monster... Chomp Chomp Chomp!"

Heh... that made me smile in a big way. Thanks everyone!


Wedding Post Part II: The Wedding

I kind of doubt that anyone is interested in a blog post about the wedding from... wow... a month and a half ago now. But my OCD compels me to write a Part II blog post to follow up on my post on the first half of that trip to the Bay Area. I'll try to keep it brief... but based on the photos I took, I probably won't.

Out-of-towners mostly started filtering in to the Bay Area on Thursday--U5, Rebecca, and Sarah were all on the same BOS-SFO flight, so I ran into JMD at the waiting area... it's funny being in another city, and running into your housemate at the airport without planning it.

Sarah and I headed up to SF, to pick up Bird and Jen, grab lunch, and hit the road. We had to stop, though, to look at the Golden Gateand be a little bit touristy... a beautiful day in the Bay Area...

... as well as a detour to Muir Woods (I'd never been there, so it was a must-stop).

The wedding was up in Healdsburg--wine and touristy country; a lovely area. We had a bit of slack time, so we made excellent use of it. Healdsburg is an absolutely charming place... lunch at Costeaux French Bakery; a walkable downtown. U5, Rebecca, Perlick, Sarah, and I went out kayaking... Sarah had wanted to take me out on the water for a while. A very nice, calm paddle... S. and I were in the two-seater, so we didn't do anything that challenging...

Given the tribe of folks up there, we rented houses (becoming known as 'Kid House,' 'Jess House,' etc.)... so communal meals (with Christy in charge) were a fun activity. The mix of friends included the Cornell crowd, who I've met during my many trips through Ithaca during grad school, and love dearly.

One of the food preparation highlights--Christy brought her stick blender for the carrot soup. This got our collective creativity moving... this is what you can do with stick blender + seedless watermelon. Awesome.

The morning before the wedding, Sarah, Caitlin and I managed to squeeze in a trip to a few wineries... it would be sad to go up to Wine Country, and not actually spend any time sampling. I enjoyed geeking out on the various technological pieces of winemaking--such as the gigantic fans used to keep frost from damaging the vines during cold snaps.

Oh yeah... the wedding itself! It was held at the Alexander Valley Community Hall, nestled between vineyards.

A lovely outdoor ceremony... both sets of parents were completely wonderful and gracious hosts. Some excellent toasts delivered Jofish's sister Sarah, Kip, all MC'd by the lovely and brilliant Miss Janet. Also, Indy followed the flower girls in the procession, as the Fairy Queen. Yay!

... and Jofish and Erin were utterly brilliant... but who would expect otherwise?

The Cornell crowd did an a capella rewrite of For the Longest Time, in regards to Jofish and Erin. Also, the tEps inflicted a crock song on the crowd... as well as the usual Hava Nagila (did anyone get a picture of that?).

Oh yeah--in case anyone wants some linky goodness--JMD's pics, Kip's pics, some great ones from somebody I don't know, but Google found them for me. If there are more links to add, let me know!

Oh yeah... the family photo, c/o JMDBirdJen!:

Incidentally, this was the first time I had ever taken a date to a wedding--turns out that this was true for my sweetie as well. Cool.

Anyway, this is the newest photo that is proudly displayed among my collection of wedding group photos. Yay!