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in a web of glass, pinned to the edges of vision

Urban archaeology

I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

mucha mosaic

Urban archaeology

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mucha mosaic
Got to nosing around on the web looking at photos on the NYTA website of closed subway stops in NYC. This reminded me of some of the obscure stuff in San Francisco (examples: Jack Kerouac street. The fact a lot of alleys south of Market are named for various prostitutes. The original Levi-Strauss factory, located in the Mission.); which made me wonder about other people's urban landscapes.
What's in your hometown that is weird or obscure? The kind of things that natives know that newcomers don't? Links appreciated in your reply.
  • Not actually my hometown, but San Luis Obispo has Bubble gum alley - it's a place where people go to deposit their gum. Kinda gross, but also amusing. ;)
  • fresno's underground garden

    • Have you ever visited that? The last time Sherilyn and I were in town (the first time since I'd heard about it), it was closed. (I don't think permanently, I just think we missed business hours.)
    • And in a similar note: WOW! That is so weird.
      I'd love to take a look at this oddity.
    • sadly, no. never went.

      i've also never been to alcatraz or the sf zoo.

  • This is only slightly obscure, but here's this: In Washington, DC, if you are taking the Metro to the National Zoo on a nice bright summer day, or any day really, go one stop PAST the Woodley Park-Zoo station -- that is, one stop north -- and walk south to the Zoo from the Cleveland Park stop. The two stations are equidistant from the Zoo, but getting out at Cleveland Park lets you walk downhill and in the shade -- and past a few places to grab lunch that are far, far better than the Zoo vendor crap.
    • very, very true. That's definitely something only a native would know.

      My own DC contributions: Most of DC is very orderly -- streets arranged by number, alphabetical, by syllable. Except downtown, where there is for no good reason 14-and-a-half Street.

      DC actually has a Chinatown. It's very small, and very unimpressive. But there is a hotel about 1 block away from the Chinatown gates that has a very cool feature: A sound walkway that makes music when you walk/leap/dance through it. Very cool.

      And one more: I went to American University in Washington, DC. One of the coolest buildings on campus was this old building that had been built back when the military was using the campus during, I believe, WWII. The building is domed, and designed to implode in case of bomb. It also has a mysterious little half floor that can only be accessed by certain stairways.
      • DC is a great city for wacky stuff...but colubra, you already know a lot of the hidden areas of DC, because we've discussed them.

        There really are stalactites and stalagmites in a cavern underneath the Lincoln Memorial. You used to be able to go down there and tour it, but the tour groups were deteriorating the foundations of the Memorial, so they stopped.

        Marian 'Clover' Adams did live in DC, and was rumored to haunt her home across Lafeyette Square from the White House...until they tore that home down, as well as the home of John Hay beside it, and built the Hay-Adams Hotel in their place. Now she haunts Rock Creek Cemetery where she's buried under one of the most breathtakingly beautiful pieces of statuary in DC.

        One window of Stephen Decatur's house had to be bricked over, because his ghost was always seen standing at it. You can still see his house, and the bricked-over window.

        DC's east-west streets run alphabetically, increasing as you go north or south from the Capitol. There is no J street. This is either because 'I' and 'J' looked alike way back when, or because L'Enfant, the city planner, really didn't like Chief Justice John Jay. Go with whichever story you like best.

        Much of central DC is riddled with tunnels, so the politicos can get to and from the major office buildings without using the streets. I used to date a girl with worked as an aide in the Senate Office Building, and she showed me around once. For the steam-tunneller in me, it was a thrill...I'd love to go exploring without being shot by Secret Service.

        As a side note, let me tell you -- making out with a boy and a girl at the same time in front of a Republican Senator from Wyoming's office in the Senate Office Building was an experience not to be forgotten. I miss her...

        • Yes, It is true, I DID know some of that. But how many other people reading this entry knew it? And of those people, how many are in DC and can go experience this weirdness today? Part of the purpose of this thread was, in addition to my own edification, to disseminate interesting info to people who could use it. :)
  • Well, I don't know that I have any kind of urban landscape, but:

    This one came up today in conversation; mamamoira's sister noticed that there were loaner Pente sets at Hideaway Pizza, where we were having lunch. I was pleased to inform her that, in fact, Pente was invented at that very restaurant in our very town, in the days when you had to wait 45 minutes for your pizza. Legend has it the original sets had pieces rendered from discard beer bottle glass, but anyway, Hideaway Pizza, origin point of Pente.

    The first Sonic Drive-Thru as such is in Stillwater, I have been told.

    Our school mascot, Pistol Pete, has the unusual distinction of having been a real person, Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton, who has a delightful cowboy story about him complete with murder and revenge and all that good stuff. Eaton wound up being sheriff just down the road, so the other school or two who use him are just wannabes.


    I just learned the real facts about Pente and Hideaway by googling on it. So ignore my misremembered stuff above.

    You can learn the story about how the Stillwater Top Hat became the first Sonic here.

  • abandonment.

    Providence has the grave of HP Lovecraft and many buildings he wrote about in his stories. It has the warrens of Brown University. It also has a darker side.

    Right in the middle of downtown is an abandoned Freemason hall -- apparently the inside is a riot of graffiti, and the graffiti's so interesting that anyone who purchases it has to ensure that the graffiti gets preserved in one form or another. it will probably stay abadoned.

    Also abandoned, are creepy railroad tunnels.
    • Re: abandonment.

      If it's abandoned, then from whom would it be purchased?
      • Re: abandonment.

        One would assume the city government.

        I don't know. It's owned by someone, most likely a state, federal, or local agency that ended up with it after the original owners went out of business? This is america. Many things are abandoned, few things are unowned.

        Are you looking to make a purchase? I'm afraid I don't have the contacts to hook you up.
        • Re: abandonment.

          No- more just wondering what 'abandoned' means in this context. So the interior of this thing has been landmarked or something?

          If it were here, I think I would be tempted to try to buy it. Make a great nightclub just for the surreal value.
  • the cradle of Liberty

    Boston had a tragic molasses explosion in 1919 (also here and here). The site is marked with a plaque.

    Plus, various historical sites from the Revolution as well as the grave of Mother Goose and houses on the Common with pre-Revolutionary glass in the windows. The glass has turned purple with age so the old panes are easily identifiable.

    My favorite wacky street name in Boston is Louis Prang Street, near the Museum of Fine Arts. It is named after the founder of the modern greeting card industry.
    • Re: the cradle of Liberty

      Good heavens that's wonderful. I'd heard about the molasses explosion, and staaaared in awe at the information I had. And damn, that picture is amazing.

      We have Minna, Clementina- a bunch of female names down SoMa which are just mystifying. If you ever wondered if habits in names changed in 100 years, looking at these streets will pin that down for you.
      I don't know why the alleys were specifically named for women of ill repute: that's sort of mystifying to me. Just north of Market, we have a whole area where there are alleys between every east-west street, and they are all named for plants. Unfortunately, Hemlock got non-existed ages back, or I'd be all about getting a condo there.

      Thanks a bunch!
  • My favourite bit of urban obsurity is The Stump.
  • Indiana is an insanely basketball-crazy state; among other things, I'm told that 17 of the 20 largest high school gyms in the world are there. My hometown of Crawfordsville was the first place in the state that the game was played (just a few years after it was invented in Kansas), and in fact Crawfordsville won the first state high school basketball tournament, but there is nothing to signify either of these events anywhere I know of in the town. No plaque, no banner, no nothing. I had known about the first state championship, but I had no idea the first game played in the state was played there until I read about it years after moving away.
  • Urban Archaeology - street names of London

    In London there is a street innocently called Grape Street. Its original name was changed to this in the Victorian era as it was thought of as too offensive. It is a small alley but at the time it was well known for prostitution and brothels and had been a den of sin for generations. Its original name was 'Grope C**t Street' I have censored out the offending word, but I am sure you know what it was.
    Naming a street after the trade carried out there was a common custom, which gives London names such as 'Bread street', 'Leather Lane', 'Tanners Yard', 'Poultry', etc as well as many other 'Love lanes' and 'Maiden Streets'
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