The David & Gladys Wright House

by Derrick Bostrom in


The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

The David & Gladys Wright House

Of the 532 buildings Frank Lloyd Wright designed in his lifetime, just over 400 still remain today. The David and Gladys Wright House in Phoenix, Arizona, is one of only six Wright homes in the Valley, and one of those still standing- for now.

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his son, David, in 1950, it was sold in June 2012 to 8081 Meridian, a developer who submitted plans to tear down the home, and build two new houses on the newly subdivided lot.

Add your voice. Let 8081 Meridian and the City of Phoenix know why you feel this unique structure, inspired by the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, should be saved [UPDATE: it was]!

www.facebook.com/groups/WrightHouseAZ/members/


Spring 2009 Desert Photo Walks

by Derrick Bostrom in


After my wife's ankle surgery last summer, I was forced to pursue my love of strenuous exploratory hiking without her. But there was a bright side to this, since she has never been as keen for climbing as I am. Last spring, I was able to spend just about every Sunday morning at the the top of one of the many small mountains near my house.

I brought along my camera to keep me company. But an hour after sunrise, Arizona skies are bright and hot and the shadows are deep and dark. Getting a correct exposure under such high-contrast conditions is a challenge. While it's usually best to let the smart machine in my hands make most the decisions, I still have to know how to help it along if I want to avoid white skies and crushed shadows. There's only so much I can fix in post-processing.

I have to say I made a lot of progress working under these conditions. But one of the many skills I've not yet mastered is how to shake off my early-morning exhilaration long enough to really capture the magic of a mountain-top vantage point. I took hundreds of photos, but only a small handful of shots really give a sense of the terrain's sparse beauty. I hope this selection manages to convey the quiet extremes of the desert landscape.

Alas, you can short-list a bad picture, but its not so easy to cull Paradise Valley's rampant population. Who knew that the top of Camelback Mountain is as crowded as a shopping mall at 9AM on a Sunday? On the other hand, though it's surrounded on all sides by expensive, well-patrolled private residences, the expansive summit of Mummy Mountain is nearly desolate. Hopefully, once the summer abates, I can continue my exploration before all the remaining open space is fenced off.

North Mountain Park, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Dreamy Draw Park, Phoenix Arizona

Dreamy Draw Park, Phoenix Arizona

Dreamy Draw Park, Phoenix Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Mummy Mountain, Paradise Valley Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Phoenix Arizona

Mummy Mountain, Paradise Valley Arizona

Mummy Mountain, Paradise Valley Arizona

Mummy Mountain, Paradise Valley Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

North Mountain Park, Phoenix Arizona

North Mountain Park, Phoenix Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Phoenix Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Phoenix Arizona


Some Pictures And A Thousand Words

by Derrick Bostrom in


Many of my favorite pix from 2008 wound up on a calendar, which I gave out to friends and family last Christmas. There were no actual friends or family in any of the pictures -- just the usual collection of abandoned buildings, desert scenes and vacation photos -- but people were properly ethusiastic all the same. I spent all year trying to figure out how to make decent pictures, and in end I struggled to find a dozen images I actually felt strongly about. But I stopped short of despair when I compared them to my favorites from the year before. I'm happy to say that few of those would have made the cut this time around, so I must be making some kind of progress. I only hope I can say the same thing about this current group when next year rolls around.

 

Ron Paul Supporters

These Ron Paul supporters showed up at a poorly managed Hillary campaign stop in Phoenix. We never got near the actual event -- it was drastically over capacity and no one appeared to be directing the crowd. But we did stand in line long enough for me to capture these two. Then we walked back to our cars, where it took over an hour to untangle ourselves from the parking lot jam.

 

Phoenix, Arizona

Last year, my grandfather's memory was honored by the school that bears his name, the Bostrom Alternative Center. This photo was taken afterward, during a visit to the nearby family plot. While my father and his siblings alternated between somber contemplation of my grandparents' final resting place and enthusiastic discussion of arrangements to join them, I wandered the grounds, getting a better feel for shallow depth of field.

 

Bisbee, Arizona

When my father-in-law visited us last year, my wife dragged him down to Bisbee and the surrounding area. I stayed behind, unable to free myself until later in the week. As my wife is quick to point out, it is she who holds the true creative talent in our relationship. It would be foolish, therefore, for me to omit her very nice composition from that trip.

 

Lake Havasu, Arizona

Since my father-in-law likes to gamble and I like trips to the desert hinterlands, my wife decided that we'd kill two birds with one stone and visit Laughlin, Nevada. Along the route, we stopped at as many ghost towns and tourist traps as we could stand. This shot is from the underside of London Bridge in Lake Havasu City.

 

Phoenix, Arizona

Late one night after a lively family get-together, I accompanied my nephew Lucas and his buddy Carbon to The Ice House, where they were preparing for a small exhibit of their work. Lucas' triptych was stunning, but my photos of it sucked. But I liked this detail from Carbon's piece.

 

Bumble Bee, Arizona

I always wanted to visit Crown King, but neither of our little cars are worthy of the rough dirt road up into the Bradshaw Mountains. Last summer,we rented something large enough to take us there. Turns out Crown King is less a ghost town than a thriving community of off-road enthusiasts, bikers and folks otherwise disabused of city living. Even nearby Bumble Bee is more of an abandoned tourist exhibit than a bona fide ghost town. This shell looks to be barely a couple decades old.

 

Victoria, British Columbia

A trip in the fall to Victoria, British Columbia on Vancouver Island gave us a nice break before the onslaught of holiday season. It also gave me the opportunity to to shoot in something other than my desert environment for a change.

 

Victoria, British Columbia

These two shots are both from the gardens of Hatley Castle, a beautiful early 20th Century estate built by coal and railway magnate James Dunsmuir, and later used by the military for officer training. It now serves as grounds of Royal Roads University.

 

Victoria, British Columbia

While in Victoria, we stayed in a very nice b&b right on the water. It was during this trip that I came to understand that vacations are not for sleeping late.

 

Victoria, British Columbia

At some point during our trip to Canada, detail started creeping into my highlights and my shadows began to not block up so much. As I started to not mess up my technique, my composition started to improve and I started seeing greater rewards from my efforts.

 

Victoria, British Columbia

I can only imagine what someone with actual skill could do with such a location.

 

Vancouver, British Columbia

Eventually, we had to leave the island and prepare for re-absorption into our real lives. But I couldn't leave without a quick tour of Vancouver's historic Gastown district. I chose my wife's point-and-shoot for the early morning photo walk, but what I lost in control I more than made up for in feelings of personal security.

 

Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix, Arizona

A short afternoon rainstorm, rush-hour freeway traffic and someone else behind the wheel all contributed to this shot. As my wife cursed the other drivers, I scrambled around in the back seat getting this picture of a very lucky Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

 

Tucson, Arizona

Thanks to the recession, you can find smokin' deals on some pretty swell digs. No sooner had we settled into our Pricelined room at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in the Tucson foothills, I grabbed my gear and went hunting for some long exposures. The night was overcast, and the lights of the city reflected an eerie brick red back up into the clouds. Afterward, I told my wife, "don't ever let me leave the house again without my tripod."

 

Pearce, Arizona

I don't get out to my brother's property in Pearce nearly as often as I'd like. Last fall, we decided to visit him for Thanksgiving. As luck would have it, the day was gorgeous. The sky was full of fat clouds which combined with the open terrain to charge the scene with magical hues of gold, blue and gray. The vegan feast wasn't half bad either.

 

Georgetown, Texas

We took our final trip of the year around Christmastime, to visit family in Georgetown, Texas, north of Austin. Georgetown is home to Southwestern University. Founded in 1840, Southwestern is the oldest university in Texas. And as such, its surrounding neighborhoods are a treat for the eye, full of classic old homes.

 

Georgetown, Texas

The light was right for this one.

 

Georgetown, Texas

Salado College was built in 1860 in Salado, Texas, just north of Georgetown. One last ruin to round out the year.


Downtown Report: Luhrs Tower and Office Building

by Derrick Bostrom in


I actually worked at the Luhrs Building on Central and Jefferson several years ago. During the lowest point of my last bout with unemployment, I spent a couple of weeks at ten dollars an hour cleaning out the office of a guy who worked behind the main building in the Annex. In addition to my hourly rate, I also got a ladder and a carpenter's level in a swell case, as well as a handful of empty jewel cases. I also got a tour of a piece of Phoenix history that up until then, I'd never really explored.

Erected the 1920s, the Luhrs Office Buidling and Tower were Phoenix's very first skyscrapers. The two-story 1914 Luhrs Central Building that separates them served as Phoenix's first post office. The top four floors of the office building originally housed something called "The Arizona Club," a hale institution that continues to this day under different haunts. But by the time I came to work there, both buildings and their annex offered nothing but seedy office space. But the charm that remained was undeniable. From the funky parking lot ramp-ways and the brass mail schutes to the marble walls in the lobby and the barber shop by the elevators, the place threw off some serious ambiance. I was badly smitten.

Since everything else downtown is being demolished, gutted or re-purposed, I knew it was only a matter of time for the Luhrs collection. Recently, I was summoned to the area for jury duty. I spent a relaxing afternoon away from work, dozing, listening to music, and stumbling from courtroom to courtroom before I was finally released. That evening, as I walked from the courthouse back to my car, I noticed that the windows on the Luhrs Office Building were all boarded up.

The renovation of the two main historic buildings is being carried out by new owners with the approval of the Office of Historic Preservation. However, it sacrifices the connecting arcade, the southern annex and the Luhrs Central Building, as well as the fifties-era parking structure in the back. According to one city official, plans include "a full-service, AAA, well-branded hotel; some historic office buildings; a contemporary high-rise building in the center; and then another building over where the parking garage is."

Given the direction the economy's moving -- with condo developers backing out of projects up and down the central corridor to the tune of over a thousand units at last count -- who knows, we may have the boards in place of the historic window glass for many months to come. But I like the boarded-up aesthetic, so I grabbed my camera and my walking around lens and went on a commando mission. Unfortunately, my low light stealth shots from inside the gutted structure didn't come out so good, but I got decent coverage of the outside:

Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Building

Luhrs

Luhrs Building

Luhrs Building

Luhrs Building and Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Building and Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Tower

Luhrs Building

Luhrs Building

Luhrs Building

Luhrs Building

Luhrs Building

Luhrs Building

Luhrs Tower Parking Garage

Luhrs Tower Parking Garage

Luhrs Annex and Parking Garage

Luhrs Building Annex

Luhrs Building and Annex


Summer Walks In The Desert

by Derrick Bostrom in


I know a lot of readers out there, especially those of you starting a new school year, have already said your farewells to Summer 2008. But here in the desert, folks are just getting started. Alas, it won't truly be safe to turn off the air conditioner until around the time we start to make the stuffing and put the Tofurky in the oven.

I've been shut indoors now for over a month, venturing outside only to forage for food and to keep my plants alive. But my wife and I did manage to get in a couple quick walks earlier this season. As you can see from the photo documentation I brought back, even the sky itself seems to be ablaze. As far north as Meteor Crater, about an hour east of Flagstaff, where we took refuge one weekend, the terrain is achingly bright. (By the way, this is not desert, it's forest country denuded of trees by the force of meteor impact.)

The so-called "monsoon" season commences in July. The heat sucks enough moisture from the ground to creates a thunder cloud theater every afternoon. Sometimes, the clouds are even strong enough to jump Phoenix's concrete island and actually rain in town. The storms come up quick and brief, but if they're heavy enough they can cool things down for a day or two.

During one such cool-down, we grabbed our cameras and lit out to the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project. This piece of dry river bottom reclaimed by the city on the south edge of town is not only wild and beautiful, but it also reminds me of the kind of open spaces Phoenix used to have a lot more of. Now that such areas are afforded the same protection as an endangered species, the city can hopefully keep it safe from taggers and teenage partiers.

The low point in the summer came last week when our air conditioner gave up the ghost. After pounding away non-stop for months, the motor finally shook loose from its brackets. Hundreds of units go down in any given day here, so we had to wait almost a week before it was fixed. Such is the backlog for repairs in a city where over a million people rely on these piuny machines to shield them from the extreme elements. In the meantime, we spent a couple days at a resort about five miles away. It was easily Priceline-able, so cheap and so huge that I'm certain we weren't the only guests exiled from their homes, waiting out the repairman.

I made the best of it, however, rising early enough to scout out the surrounding hills and check out the great view of the city. I got good and soaked, but managed to keep the sweat away from the camera. As much as I enjoy the shots, I think I prefer to shoot when white hot highlights and fierce lens flare are mere technical anomalies and not unavoidable features of the landscape.

The Road To Meteor Crater

The Road To Meteor Crater

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Phoenix Monsoon Sunset

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project, landscape

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Project

The Point At Tapatilo

Downtown From The Pointe


Scenes From A Short Sprint Along Route 66

by Derrick Bostrom in


Even the most amateur photographer cannot resist Historic Route 66.

Did I say "even?" I'm sorry, I meant "especially." There's a whole cottage industry around vending pix of America's Highway. It's practically a cliche, like going to Niagra Falls for your honeymoon, or going to New York City to see "Cats." If you visit any of the cool rotting towns along Historic Route 66, you bring your camera, then you can tell the world you're a Great Artist.  If you don't know anyone with a large format photo printer, you can post your pix to Panoramio and stash 'em up on Google Earth.

Despite it's remoteness, HR66 can get kind of touristy in spots. Oatman is a great example. It's definitely got that "get your picture take with a real cowboy" kind of vibe to it, with daily wild west shows in the streets and the old main drag restored to a tarted-up faux "authenticity" for the folks visiting from just a stone's throw across the river over in Laughlin. But once you pass beyond Kingman, things take a distinctly more desolate turn. Get off the main drag of Interstate Route 40 and head north into the reservation land below the southwestern rim of the Grand Canyon (home of the controversial "skywalk" attraction). Except for the lovingly curated homages to Burma Shave, you'll find nothing but long stretches of wide open space in between a few rustic wood and stone structures collapsing in isolation.

Of course, you'd expect Winslow to make a grab for tourist dollars. Only fifty miles east of Flagstaff and right on the doorstep of earth's first verified impact crater, Winslow also holds the dubious distinction of being immortalized in classic rock. Home to the Standin' On The Corner Park (and host of the annual Standin' On The Corner Festival), Winslow boasts of  "a life size bronze statue and a two story mural depicting the story behind the famous song." And that's not all -- while in town, be sure to visit the Winslow Remembrance Garden ("Who can forget 9/11?"), which contains "actual wreckage from the World Trade Center."

It's odd that Winslow felt it necessary to import ruined buildings. They have so many picturesque homegrown examples. But these will no doubt fall by the wayside as outside investors price the local entrepreneurs right off the scene. But never fear: our Bostworld cameras were on the scene to take you around the corner and down the street of Winslow, Arizona (and vicinity), where buildings still fall apart they way they used to back in the old days: one crack, peel and splinter at a time.

Oatman, Arizona

Oatman, Arizona

Oatman, Arizona

Kingman, Arizona

Kingman, Arizona

Kingman, Arizona

Kingman, Arizona

Peach Springs, Arizona

Peach Springs, Arizona

Peach Springs, Arizona

Peach Springs, Arizona

Peach Springs, Arizona

Peach Springs, Arizona

Peach Springs, Arizona

Winslow, Arizona

Winslow, Arizona

Winslow, Arizona

Winslow, Arizona


Downtown Encroaches

by Derrick Bostrom in


What kind of developer are you? When you encounter that dilapidated old wooden hovel on an otherwise empty lot, do you think "MacDonalds!!" or do the wheels inside your head begin to spin with all the ways you could retrofit it into a popular night spot, replete with hot fusion cuisine and perhaps a deejay on the weekends, serving up the latest in "chill out" mood music along with the finest local microbrews? Does that burned out shooting gallery of an abandoned hotel or apartment make your heart flutter with dreams of a glorious student housing/gallery combo, ready to take advantage of the soon to be completed downtown annex of the local university? All using only the latest in "green" building techniques?

That's probably what's on your mind if you're developing here in Phoenix. Rennovation is the key to the current building cycle. What with all the doings downtown, all that beat up space south of the freeway is pretty much up for grabs these days. Or it was; you might actually be  too late to get in on the ground floor. Happily, there still appears to be plenty of banked vacant lots just waiting for the right deal to come along to pry them loose from their owners. They say that development is running so rampant that Phoenix is experiencing a city-wide crane shortage.

Here at Bostworld, we've seen too many of these building cycles of come and go. It's hard for us to get too excited about them. They say it's all about attracting entertainment dollars to the downtown area. But it seems most of the money spent downtown is by enthusiast developers, who come in, knock a bunch of stuff down, put up a bunch of crappier stuff, and move on until they find another city to pick on. All this stuff about "putting feet on sidewalks" is just part of the shell game. Even the so-called "renovations" appeal to me less than what was there before. So whenever I get the chance, I like to head downtown with my camera to capture what's left, before it's all gone.

I'm not the only person on the web obsessed with Phoenix's vanishing urban terrain. Some of my favorite sites on the web include John Arthur's Sierra Estralla site, and it's magnificent history of Van Buren Avenue, Mitch Glaser's loving tribute to Smitty's Big Town, the 4-H's Club's photo archive, and the site that stands above all others in my mind, Ron Heberlee's Vintage Phoenix Photos site. Ron's pages devoted to the old Art Deco Fox Theater take my breath away. Ron's poignant description of that building's demise pretty much says it all:

The Fox theater was probably the most important building in Phoenix left in 1975 so naturally the city wanted to tear it down, for a city shoe box shaped bus terminal that lasted only a few years. There was an auction for the contents of the Fox Theater, The whole thing only brought $8,500! A chandelier that cost $8000 during the Depression brought $250 in 1975.

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches

Downtown Encroaches


Boom Town

by Derrick Bostrom in


A couple weekends ago, time and the weather permitted my wife and I the opportunity to hit the road. Naturally, I wanted to take pictures, so I lobbied for a drive to my old fave haunt, the Miami/Globe area.

Miami's charm is undeniable. Huddled around decrepit mining operations, crumbling homes rub shoulders with shuttered processing plants and massive barren tailing mounds. The best stuff is out of public view, hidden behind locked gates and barbed wire fences on land owned by the mines, which continue to function. But the neighborhoods offer up plenty of wealth on their own. My wife hates it when I hunt for subjects in the residential streets. She feels that homes should be off limits, and says it's only a matter of time before I earn a confrontation with an irate resident. But these places are clearly empty, and not long for this world. Besides, I can always say I work for a real estate company.

Miami's main street lies empty, aside from the antique stores slowly reclaiming the area, just up the road, Globe looks to be experiencing a comparative boom. No doubt, folks are flocking in, hoping to take advantage of the so-called small town experience. Though not as "picturesque" as Miami, Globe has a drawing power all its own. I've always loved the old Elks Building, the so-called "tallest three-story building in the world." Though it's not the most challenging subject in the world, it was a good excuse to put the cheap kit lens that came with my camera through its paces.

One thing is certain: though this lens gets a pretty wide angle, its fish-eye and chromatic distortion make it far from usable. I had to pound the crap outta these pics to make 'em look halfway good. But I'm hoping if I use it enough, I'll get so fed up that I'll lose any hesitation about spending a lot more money on a better one. But I should at least shell out a couple of bucks for a polorizing filter, since these pics also suffer greatly from being taken in the midday Arizona sun -- all blown highlights, washed out color and lost detail in the shadows. But don't let me discourage you:

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Miami, Arizona

Globe, Arizona

Globe, Arizona

Globe, Arizona

Globe, Arizona

Globe, Arizona

Globe, Arizona


Only Exhibit Your Best Work

by Derrick Bostrom in


A month into 2008, I've finally settled on my so-called "new years resolution" -- to take better pictures. Time to set aside the automatic modes of my point-and-shoot. Instead of composing quirky sentences to delight the Bostworld visitor, I find myself trying to memorize the various formulas of f-stop, focal length, ISO and depth of field. I'll need to brush up on my math as well. (What's the reciprocal of x times 1.6?) The whole thing reminds me of balancing the chemicals in my swimming pool. If the black algae spots in my plaster are any indication, 2008 should be a banner year.

Anyway, I've finally finished my yearly task of archiving last year's photos, and already my nascent education is affecting what I consider worth keeping. Suddenly, a whole new catalog of errors jumps out at me: blown out skies, camera shake, clueless use of flash, noise, chromatic aberration, and of course, mediocre composition.

But they say that a healthy part of any education is putting your work out there for better or worse, so here's the short list from 2007. It's no surprise that my favorites of the bunch are actually the ones taken by my wife. But this year, I hope to surpass her in at least the math department, which she hates.

Kitt Peak, Arizona

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Arizona

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Arizona

Scottsdale, AZ - General Dynamics building

Scottsdale, AZ - General Dynamics building

Tucson, AZ - Mt. Lemmon

Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island, Florida

Mesa, AZ - Mesa Historic Museum

Mesa, AZ - Mesa Historic Museum

Phoenix, AZ - Downtown

Phoenix, AZ - Downtown

Mayer, AZ

Humboldt, AZ

Mayer, AZ - Antique Store

Miami, Floria

Miami Beach, Floria

Big Pine Key, Florida

Big Pine Key, Florida

Big Pine Key, Florida

Big Pine Key, Florida

Key West, Florida

Big Pine Key, Florida


Walking Among The Giants, Part Two

by Derrick Bostrom in


I tend to steer clear of downtown Phoenix these days. It seems every time I venture down there, I discover another of my old favorites consigned to the scrap heap or worse, a target for "renovation." The cheerfully run-down squalorous downtown Phoenix of my childhood is all but gone, a victim of the kind of people who have always complained that there's not enough to "do" in Phoenix. Our downtown has never reflected the cultural aspirations of these folks who envision a shiny urban entertainment mecca full of fun for the whole family and free from spontaneous structural failure and those annoying homeless people. But now that they're finally getting their way, I hardly recognize the place any more.

My wife and I don't have much reason to go downtown very often, aside from the odd sporting event or circus protest. But she dragged me to a particularly galling theatrical performance one evening recently, and afterward we were restless from sitting on our hands for two hours. The night was warm and pleasant, and somehow, my wife got the notion that we might find something open up the street. So she forewent her usual fear of the empty after-hours desolation of the area and suggested we walk a little. As luck would have it, the Irish bar in the Hotel San Carlos was still open. While we drank beer and ate french fries, a group of college football fans watched the home team finish up a game across town.

As we headed back towards our car, we saw the old Professional Building at Central and Monroe, sitting empty as it has for the past two decades. But something made me stop and cross the street. As my wife's paranoia began to reawaken, I peered conspicuously through the cracks in the boarded up windows. Sure enough, the ground floor showed signs of being recently gutted. As I looked left and right for some sort of posted zoning documentation, my wife began to make noises like it was time to go. When I began to move around the corner and towards the back alley, she grabbed my arm and hurried me towards the parking garage.

Fearing the worst, I returned home and hit the net. Sure enough, renovation was indeed slated to occur. Our once proud bedrock of former financial stability will soon be a holding space for upscale lodgers besotted with gourmet chocolate and high-end champagne. What's more, I also discovered the old Hanny's Building was undergoing a similar fate. I admit, I greeted this news with mixed emotions -- I didn't even know the Hanny's Building was still standing (I told you: I don't go downtown much any more).

Don't get me wrong. I'm delighted that these wonderful old giants will not be sacrificed to make way for downtown's "invigoration." I hate to see what to me represents an important part of my city's past scraped away just because a theater or fast food chain is desperate to maintain the unrealistic runaway growth they've conned their stockholders into expecting. But I'd rather these beautiful buildings stand abandoned forever than be thrown under the wheels of a doomed business plan. But that seems to be the way things inevitably go.

Anyway, the next chance I got, I grabbed my trusty point-and-shoot and went downtown. I need to start doing that a lot more.

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Behind the Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Behind the Professional Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Hanny's Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Hanny's Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Hanny's Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Hanny's Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Hanny's Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Hanny's Building - Phoenix, Arizona

Hanny's Building - Phoenix, Arizona


Hayden Flour Mill

by Derrick Bostrom in


Tempe was still a pretty sleepy town when I moved there in 1985. It hadn't changed much in the ten years since I first started visiting its head shops and record stores in my mid-teens. A block east of my house, downtown Mill Avenue was still "home to little more than biker bars, tattoo parlors, and other unsavory businesses." But I was a young punker, and I took to my ratty neighborhood like a fly to shit. I used to love to to walk along the cracked sidewalks upended by roots from the overgrown yards that hid both crummy stone hovels and ancient Victorian style farm houses. It was a quiet neighborhood -- the streets were usually deserted as everyone hid from the scorching heat, often with nothing to aid us but giant swamp coolers propped up against the walls with rickety wooden frames.

But about the time the dump I lived in started getting really depressing, I got an eviction notice. Soon, the whole area was scraped clean to make way for a new shopping development and its necessary parking structures. That was two decades ago this month. I didn't own a camera back then, and have no visual record from those days. I found some great images at the online collection of the Tempe Historical Society, as well as its Doors To The Past site. But they only go so far to jog my fading memory.

Cranes are everywhere in downtown Tempe nowadays. If you find an old building that hasn't been condemned, chances are it's in the process of being repurposed in service to the grand vision of a sparkling Mill Avenue destination mecca. But down at the northern end of the street, the soon-to-be-completed transit line threatens to cut off the riverfront area from all foot traffic. The powers that be have already fixed their gaze on some of Tempe's oldest structures, La Casa Vieja (home of Monti's steakhouse) and the Hayden Flour Mill. In their current state, these landmarks apparently contribute nothing but a "hayseed" ambiance that doesn't have enough impact on the city's bottom line. It's only a matter of time before the mill that gave the street its name gets thrown from the train.

I've been around long enough to know that no matter how loudly you complain or how hard you demonstrate, if our masters want something bad enough, they'll find a way to get it. But this time I'm ready. My photos may not win any contests, but at least they'll help me to remember once it's too late to undo the damage.

Update: [**Tempe flour mill to reopen as events venue**](http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2011/06/09/20110609tempe-flour-mill-events-venue.htm)

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ

Hayden Mill, Tempe AZ


Iconic 'Musroom' Bank Focus Of Preservation Fight

by Derrick Bostrom in


Recently, I've been meaning to get some photos of the old Valley National Bank building on the corner of 44th St and Camelback Road here in Phoenix. This year has already seen the demolition of the Washburn Piano Company building on 20th St. and Camelback and the Tempe Geodesic Dome Branch building, on Rural and Apache, so I knew I'd better get out there soon. Sure enough, over the weekend, a story appeared in the Arizona Republic entitled "Iconic 'Mushroom' Bank Focus Of Preservation Fight." Here's an excerpt:

JP Morgan Chase & Co. owns the building and is willing to save the bank...if the neighborhood will play nice and let developers rezone and make over the bank's yard with four-story condos and luxe shopping...The neighborhood wants nothing of the kind: no more condos, no demolition...

Preservationists lean in favor of giving up the green space in order to save the bank. "In order to keep this icon," Councilman Tom Simplot said, "they need to develop that green space. They are not going to be able to save the building if they don't give it up." But wedging condos onto the lawn, said Frank Henry, 73, the building's celebrated architect [sic], is "like taking a painting and cutting off a corner of it."

The empty land has been a pawn before. The bank was the first commercial development in that area, and the space was offered to placate neighbors. Now, it's the only grassy expanse on a heavily commercial intersection that has grown up around it. Neighbors insist that the bank made a promise to keep that land green, but according to Chase and city zoning officials, no formal record requires the space to remain open.

It's just a shame, Henry said. "The whole park and the building are all one thing, one composition. The geometry of it all was together..." When Henry was dreaming up the building in the '60s, he was making an anti-war, anti-establishment statement. He took his inspiration from the circle so that he could combat the boring square box. "I always thought that the circle, the curved line, the curved space is so beautiful," Henry said. "It's always changing."

(Note: Walt Lockley informs me that Frank Henry was the designer; Weaver & Drover were the actual architects.)

I have house guests this week, relatives visiting from out of town. But when I read the article, I had to drag them out in 110 degree temperatures to get my pics. They're not great: it was afternoon and half the building was in shadow. But I managed to stitch together some nice panoramas. The Modern Phoenix web mag offers much greater detail on the subject.

Of all the VNB buildings left in the Phoenix area, this one is the jewel. It combines space age aesthetics with desert motifs, playing nice with civic responsibilities in the bargain. It's even got two bronze nudes which I can only assume are the work of John Henry Waddell. I still remember when it was built in 1967. I'll miss it when it's gone, and the best intentions of various factions notwithstanding, I full expect it to go away soon.

UPDATE: Here's an audio interview about the bank with Phoenix architecture critic Walt Lockley, plus a link to his site.

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch

Valley National Bank Frank Henry Branch


Ghost Towns Part Three: Bisbee & Vicinity

by Derrick Bostrom in


Summer is back again, friends. Here in the desert, folks are bracing for the usual six month stretch of triple digit temperatures. (As I write these words, it's 105 degrees outside; tomorrow threatens to reach 114.) But that won't stop my wife and me from piling the car with maps and bottles of water and going in search for local old shit.

Last year at this time, we set out for the area southeast of Tucson, home of the Chiricaua mountain range. The region boasts such pictureque towns as Tombstone and Bisbee, as well as small but determined agricultural community. (It's also an area popular with smugglers and private militias, but that's another story.)

Unfortunately, many of the sites on our must-see list of ghost towns cannot be approached in a vehicle as small as ours. In fact, we had to abort one hunt after more than an hour, for fear of getting stuck in the sandy terrain. Actually, we were lucky. Once we were back safe in the city, we discovered the heat had killed our battery. So, if we HAD managed to access our destination, we most likely would have been stranded there, more than fifty miles away from anywhere, in the middle of the desert, in the middle of summer. Nice.

As it was, we pushed ourselves pretty hard that day. We arrived at Fairbank just before lunchtime, and actually walked over a mile in the midday heat to a nearby graveyard atop a hill. This was borderline stupid behavior, so afterward we quicky fled to Bisbee for food, rest and water.

Despite its remote location, as a destination, Bisbee never dissapoints. You can point your camera anywhere -- you're bound to catch plenty of standard picturesque Bisbee fare: makeshift cement staircases, open drainage pits, narrow streets winding precariously up the into the hillside neighborhoods, and lots of European-style homes that make it easy to forget you're but a dozen miles from Mexico.

Ironically, European influence was thought to be so prevalent in the town that Bisbee authorities staged a huge roundup and deportation of immigrants during World War One. Incited by a labor dispute between the copper mines and a work force "infiltrated" by the Industrial Workers of the World, the cops packed more than one thousand European miners onto trains at gunpoint and dumped them in the New Mexico desert. All perfectly legal.

North of Bisbee, abandoned settlements in various states of ruin dot the landscape all the way up to Interstate 10. There are as many exploration opportunities as you have the energy for. Unfortunately, we were running out of steam by this time, and were both getting cranky. So we wandered around Gleason for a bit, then called it a day.

Naturally, the pages devoted to Fairbank, Bisbee and Gleason at the Ghost Town Gallery site run by Daniel Ter-Nedden and Carola Schibli put my meager Flickr offerings to shame. They also have some great pictures of Lowell, which is right across the road from Bisbee. Or what's left of it anyway.

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Fairbank, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona

Gleason, Arizona


Ghost Towns, Part Two: Vulture, Arizona

by Derrick Bostrom in


Though it may be Arizona's capital and largest city, Phoenix began as a small agricultural community set up to supply food to the mining towns that thrived north of the valley. The most famous of these is Jerome, which still supports a mini tourist mecca perched on the side of Mingus mountain atop a maze of abandoned mine shafts. But a hundred years ago, over a dozen boomtowns clustered among the Bradshaw mountain range. These were sustained by the "Impossible Railroad," so named for its ambitiously precarious route into the remote hllls.

At the foot of the the Bradshaws lies the remains of Arizona's most prosperous gold mine. Discovered in 1862 by immigrant Henry Wickenberg, it lies about ten miles south of the town that still bear his name. The Vulture mine maintained a population of five thousand during its heyday, and brought in millions of dolllars. Though crime and fraud were rampant throughout its history, the mine stayed in operation until the 1940s, changing hands serveral times. It only closed for good after wartime restrictions on the production of non-strategic metals pulled the final rug out from under it.

My wife and I discovered Vulture a couple years ago, during one of our desperate periodic weekend flights from the effects of our workaholic lifestyle. As enchanted as I was, I still managed to "produce." That is to say, I took some dandy photos.

The two-story assay office building is still intact, as are its upstairs apartments. The remaining machines at the worksite are awesome to behold, especially the huge ancient diesel engine which towers above the rest of the powerhouse bulidling, rusted to lustrous craggy hues of copper and gold. The mess hall and many residential buildings also all remain in various degrees of ruinous detail.

The Vulture mine is far and away the best of its kind here in Arizona, and if I ever graduate to a better camera than my little Canon PowerShot, I will definitely return. Fortunately, the town has attracted the attention of folks who've made a greater investment in photographic equipment than I. The Ghost Town Gallery site run by the Swiss team of Daniel Ter-Nedden and Carola Schibli smokes anything you're likely to find on my Flickr pages. Likewise, the site by Christian L. Deichert also offers excellent coverage.

If you're like me, however, these pix won't be enough. You'll want to find a way to visit Vulture yourself. Fear not -- it's entirely doable, as this page attests. And if that's not enough, you might even want to buy it. Of course, if that's more of a commitment than you can handle, there's always the DVD.

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona

Vulture, Arizona


Ghost Towns, Part One: A Flickr Photo St

by Derrick Bostrom in


It's starting to warm up in Phoenix. What we lovingly refer to as "winter" is starting to turn to "summer" and for the next nine days or so, the weather will emulate something akin to "spring" before beginning its annual rapid climb to triple digits. This is the time of year when the wanderlust takes hold. When the weekend arrives, I like drag my wife out of bed and haul her into the car for a day trip into the back roads.

For those of you requiring documentation of my claim, I'm creating some Flickr photosets from some of our trips. (Hey: I'm no Ansel Adams, but I do love me some scenery.) This first set covers visits to the Arizona towns of Superior, Clifton, Morenci and Carefree (as well as a brief stop in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York).

Just east of the Superstition mountains, Superior was the home of mining magnate Boyce Thompson's Magma Copper Company. While no longer thriving, Superior is ripe for regentrification. Here's an aerial view I found on the town's Web site. Thompson left more than just an old town as his legacy, the nearby arboretum that bears his name is one of Arizona's most beautiful state parks.

About 150 miles east of Superior, out on the edge of the New Mexico in the middle of nowhere, sits one of the largest open pit mines in the world. It used to be a town called Morenci, but that was dismantled 40 years ago to accomodate the ever widening pit excavation. All that remains are a few rows of homes and a couple of stores. As one resident puts it on her wonderful Web site of oral history, Morenci doesn't even qualify as a ghost town, since there's nothing left to haunt.

The Mistress Mine museum is a more recent victim of progress.  About an hour north of Phoenix, it sat adjacent to the Tonto National Forest on tract of private land. It was felled last year when the property changed hands and the new owner decided to kick the curator Ron Kaczor off the premises. We paid the museum a visit shortly before its demise, and  I got a chance to chat with Ron while I was there. I  also bought a box of Brazilian postcards off him for five bucks. While sorry to see the museum go, Ron was already looking ahead to new opportunities. And besides, we both agreed the danger of fire was increasingly ominous. Sure enough, less than a month after our conversation, the whole area north of Carefree was in flames.

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

Morenci, Arizona

Morenci, Arizona

Morenci, Arizona

Morenci, Arizona

Spencer, New York

Spencer, New York

Spencer, New York

Spencer, New York

Ithica, New York

Ithica, New York

Carefree, Arizona

Carefree, Arizona

Carefree, Arizona

Carefree, Arizona

Carefree, Arizona