Four Corners, Part 3 (Towns)

On August 10, 2017 · 0 Comments

While the great outdoors flavored many of our decisions across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, we also spent some time in "civilization" too. I tied to stay at least two nights in each place to create a little mental anchor. Otherwise we’d feel adrift in a vagabond existence. That offered time to explore a few towns along the way to complement amazing National Park Service properties. Nothing here should be confused with a comprehensive city guide. Sometimes we did the tourist thing and sometimes we avoided it. Twelve Mile Circle didn’t necessarily cling to conventions.

Santa Fe


Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe fell along our direct route. I figured we needed to stay near its historic Plaza (map) rather than a generic chain hotel out by the highway. I don’t mind cookie-cutter hotels ordinarily. It’s just a bed. However, Santa Fe always seemed to be one of those magical places best experienced in person. We needed to nestle near the action, an obvious choice for an extraordinary location.

The Santa Fe Plaza dated back to its earliest days as a Spanish outpost at the farthest reaches of the colonial empire. Don Pedro de Peralta served as governor of New Mexico and founded Santa Fe in 1610. Consider that for a moment. At that same time England barely maintained and nearly lost a foothold on the Atlantic coast at Jamestown. Meanwhile, the Spanish pushed their domain deep into the North American interior.

Santa Fe began as a walled fort to tame New Mexico and protect the Governor’s authority. The Plaza occupied a central space within that original fort. Santa Fe remained tremendously important continuously thereafter, with roads such as the El Camino Real and Santa Fe trail terminating there. It became and remained a capital city for much of its existence, and seemed a natural choice for the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. Albuquerque grew larger although Santa Fe never ceded its crown.

The Plaza didn’t disappoint either. Pueblo-inspired architecture ringed the perimeter, filled with the art galleries and jewelry stores that typified Santa Fe. We didn’t buy anything. We’re cheap. I enjoyed people-watching though. A row of stalls staffed by Native Americans selling traditional crafts defined its northern edge. Buskers of all types filled the square, my favorite being the men beating drums rhythmically accompanied by chants in traditional languages as sundown approached.


Los Alamos


Bathtub Row Brewing

Los Alamos offered a complete contrast to Santa Fe. It didn’t exist on a map until the Second World War ended. Even today only twelve thousand people lived there, many associated in some manner with the nearby National Laboratory. Everything seemed sleek and modern. No patina of age appeared on buildings, streets or landscapes. We didn’t stay overnight in Los Alamos although we stopped for lunch and toured the Bradbury Science Museum. There we saw artifacts from the Manhattan Project and replicas of the atomic bombs created in Los Alamos during the war. We also saw a curiously-named byway in the heart of town, Bathtub Row (map).

The United States government needed a remote, secret location to develop its atomic bomb. New Mexico met the criteria so the government seized the campus of the Los Alamos Ranch School. The most important scientists working on the Manhattan Project occupied homes on the vacated campus that once held the school’s teachers and administrators. Everyone else — the vast preponderance of workers — lived in temporary shacks or barracks. Only the original homes contained bathtubs. Everyone else used showers. Bathtub Row became shorthand for the the street where all of the bigwigs lived.


Durango


Durango, Colorado

Durango seemed a bit of a tourist town although we enjoyed it anyway. Once again, staying at a central location at the heart of town seemed to be the best alternative for us. Most of the action lined a half-mile stretch of Main Avenue east of the Animas River (map). Imagine a stereotypical "Western" town straight out of the old movies and that pretty much described Durango’s appearance. I’m not sure what drew me there other than its proximity to Mesa Verde, not that I regretted the decision. I liked waking up early each morning for a stroll through its quiet residential neighborhoods. It seemed like a well maintained and prosperous place.

Someone will be sure to ask if we rode the famous Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Most people seemed to come to Durango for that express purpose. Our hotel sat within walking distance of the terminal. I’ve even enjoyed tourist trains in the past (e.g., the White River Flyer in Vermont; the Big South Fork Scenic Railroad in Kentucky). Still, we didn’t do it. I think we were all at the point where we’d seen enough scenery for awhile. Our boys also needed some downtime after continuous activity all week long. Plus, I’ll be honest, the six nearby breweries and brewpubs within Durango city limits might have influenced the decision.


Denver


Denver Zoo

I’ve been to Denver more times than I can count. We stopped there so we could spend some time with friends before heading to the airport, not to see anything specific. Our kids behaved themselves so well during the trip that we wanted to do something just for them. My older son in particular loves animals. He decided awhile ago that he wanted to visit every zoo in the United States and collect a map at each one. Hmmm… I wonder where he got that compulsive need to count things and look at maps? That’s how we ended up at the Denver Zoo (map). Our friends seemed up for it so they decided to tag along. I’m not sure they expected to spend six hours viewing, literally, every animal accompanied by a full set of stream of consciousness commentary. However, that’s how my older son roles. He earned it.


Articles in the Four Corners Series:

  1. Orientation
  2. Hikes
  3. Towns
  4. Native Americans
  5. Breweries
  6. Reflections

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

From Camp to Town

On January 12, 2014 · 1 Comments

When I mentioned The Bloodshot Eye recently I hadn’t realized that I’d stumbled upon a "thing," a long history of annual Camp Meetings held by the Methodist Church.



Pitman Grove, New Jersey, USA

I featured the unusual circle-and-spokes streets of Pitman Grove, New Jersey, and the tiny Victorian-era cottages that lined them. Further research uncovered Pitman Grove’s origins as a Camp Meeting spot first used in the 1870’s that had since evolved into a distinct neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A "long time reader, first time caller" who preferred to remain anonymous brought a similar place to my attention in North Merrick, New York. It was known colloquially as Tiny Town.



Tiny Town, Merrick, New York, USA

As described by Long Island Newsday,

The neighborhood, known as Campgrounds or Tiny Town, arose from Methodist summer revival camp meetings held by the Long Island Camp Meeting Association beginning in 1869… There was a large population of Methodists in Brooklyn and Queens, but not a lot of land there… During the first summers, the campground consisted of the tabernacle in the open field in the center encircled by two rows where tents were pitched and carriages parked for 10 days of services.

Camp Meetings were popularized by several Protestant denominations in the nascent United States beginning in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. People on the frontier didn’t cluster close enough together in the early years to justify enough physical churches to meet the religious needs of a widely scattered population. Itinerant preachers migrated across the countryside, erecting tents in convenient places and holding camp for a week or more at a time as the seasons permitted. Local residents didn’t live close enough to attend these services in a single day so they brought their wagons and tents and camped for awhile. This might be their only contact with friends and family for an entire year so camp meetings met social needs as well as spiritual. There were hundreds of such campgrounds. Dozens have survived into the modern era where people continue to gather each year as they’ve done for a century and a half or longer.

The Methodist variation — the one I’d stumbled upon — entrenched solidly within the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The Methodist church and its camps were based upon the teachings of John Wesley. Invariably one will find a road or a street named Wesley near many of the campgrounds mentioned in this article.

The Mid-Atlantic wasn’t quite as "frontier" as the expanding areas of the nation. Campgrounds tended to cluster near the seashore. They provided respite from city living, a means to separate oneself from the daily hassles of densely-packed tenements and allowed oneself to immerse and rejuvenate spiritually in an attractive holiday-like setting.

I found way too many examples of Methodist campgrounds that later became towns to attempt to discuss them all. Instead I selected a few representative places to show the transition from camp to town as well as to highlight the geographic spread within and beyond the periphery of the Mid-Atlantic.


Denver, North Carolina, USA



Rock Springs, Denver, North Carolina, USA

The Rock Springs Campmeeting has gathered at the same spot outside of Denver, NC since at least 1830, and at earlier incarnations as far back as 1794.

For over two centuries, God has called the people together in worship and community under the Rock Springs’ arbor… People would travel many miles to attend the annual event, camping in tents, covered wagons, and makeshift shelters of brush. They’d cook over open fires and attend the religious services throughout the morning, afternoon and evening… The camp is incorporated after the style of a town, and governed much the same way. There is a central meeting pavilion, called the Arbor, which is surrounded by some 258+ “tents”. The tents, as they are called, are small; roughly built cabins… Most all of the tents have been passed down from one generation to the next.


Rock Springs Methodist Campground
Rock Springs Campground, Denver, NC, USA
via Google Street View, May 2013

Rock Springs is the sole surviving Methodist Camp Meeting in North Carolina. It represented a good example of the initial step from camp to town with its rough, weather-beaten structures. They are permanent structures, however, probably suitable only for seasonal use.


Lancaster, Ohio, USA



Lancaster, Ohio, USA

The Lancaster Camp Ground traced back to 1878 at its current location, and first began in 1872.

For its first twenty years or so, the Camp Ground stressed a strictly evangelism oriented “Camp Meeting”. Around 1892, however, the Chautauqua Movement was introduced into the program… thousands of people came by way of the railroad and horses and buggies to the Lancaster Camp Ground. They came to hear speakers like Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan, and President William McKinley…

To accommodate crowds, an auditorium followed, then a hotel, then a grocery, then streets, then cottages, and then year-round residents. Today approximately 240 cottages remain within the National Historic District. Many structures house permanent residents and many others can be purchased or rented for seasonal use.

The Lancaster Camp Ground continues to remain very active in pursuit of its original purpose. The "town" that formed around it focuses clearly on religion and learning.


Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, USA



Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, USA

The Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association was "created in 1835, to conduct religious meetings on Martha’s Vineyard, during the summer." Today "there are just over 300" cottages in Oak Bluffs in an area known as Cottage City.



The tiny Gingerbread Houses of Oak Bluffs by vbecker on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

Many of these buildings are elaborate albeit diminutive structures often described as "gingerbread cottages." The Camp Meeting Association remains active although the surrounding area has become rather more secular. The neighborhood of dollhouse cottages has also become somewhat of a tourist attraction.

Along with the hordes of people making the pilgrimage to Cottage City, as the town was then called, came commerce. Though attracted by the spectacle of the campmeeting, the beauty of the area soon became a draw on its own and developers started buying up the area around the campground. Businesses sprouted and the resort town of Oak Bluffs was born.

The final step of the evolution would be those Methodist Camp Meetings that evolved into completely secular towns with little meaningful connection to their original religious purpose. Pitman Grove might be close to that point even though events are still held in its tabernacle. Tiny Town in New York may have also reached that point. I found occasional if minor contemporary references to the Long Island Camp Meeting Association. Other places completed the transition. For instance, I go to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware regularly. I had no idea until I researched this article that the town originated from the Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association.


What Might the Future Bring?



Black Rock City, Nevada, USA

I couldn’t help thinking, as I continued to research the Camp Meeting phenomenon further, of certain similarities to the Burning Man festival. While not a Christian religious gathering, Burning Man also occurs annually, creates a sense of community, and demonstrates a level of devotion and fervor through its participants. It seemed to be a modern incarnation of the Camp Meeting phenomenon. While Black Rock City follows the precepts of "leave no trace" each year, what will the playa look like after another 150 years of gatherings? Will we ever witness the germination of a Tiny Town on the Black Rock Desert?

Follow the Letter

On December 12, 2013 · 10 Comments

Streets and roads appear frequently on Twelve Mile Circle. So do patterns. The two can be combined as seen with a logical street grid featuring either numbers or letters. I’ll focus on the latter. Lists of alphabetical patterns can be found elsewhere on the Intertubes so I sorted through a multitude of possibilities and selected a few of my favorites. This was not intended to be an exhaustive examination.



Notice the Address on the Sign in this Low-Quality Video I Took a Few Years Ago

My fascination probably originated with my longtime hometown, Arlington, Virginia. The north-south streets fell nicely into order for three complete alphabets plus the first letter of a fourth alphabet, as the county explained. The number of syllables represented alphabet sequences, so Arizona Street — four syllables — fell within the fourth alphabet and became the final street on the grid (map). This location was actually a triple-geo-oddity: (1) the only Arlington street in the 4th Alphabet; (2) a practical exclave separated by road from the rest of Arlington and approachable only through Fairfax Co. or the City of Falls Church; and (3) the location of the West Cornerstone of the original District of Columbia.

I was also quite familiar with the Washington, DC alphabet system for east-west streets, which went first with single letters of the alphabet, then two-syllable words, then three syllable words, and finally and somewhat enigmatically with flowers and trees. Greater Greater Washington provided the best concise explanation I’ve seen. The final District street all the way up next to the North Cornerstone was Verbena Street. I wasn’t familiar with Verbena although apparently it’s a flowering plant.

Before we proceed I’ll note that I found anomalies and exceptions on all of the grids so there’s no need to point them out unless something truly bizarre comes to light. For instance, Washington, DC doesn’t have a "J" Street, which is something already well known and cited frequently.


Tulsa, Oklahoma



Tulsa, OK: Alphabets begin on either side of Main Street

I think Tulsa might have been my favorite occurrence. North-South avenues located east of Main Street got alphabetic names of cities geographically east of Tulsa; those west of Main were named alphabetically for cities west of Tulsa. The pattern continued for quite a distance, too. Heading east it appeared to run for about two-and-a-half alphabets ending with Maplewood (map), which could represent a town in Minnesota or New Jersey.

Tulsa won a 12MC award for creativity.


Twin Cities, Minnesota



Brockton Lane, End of the Alphabets?

I stumbled upon a wonderful explanation and a detailed map that I can’t possibly improve upon at Streets.MN, which somehow snagged a Mongolian IP address that shares a common abbreviation with Minnesota (".mn"). Maybe I should grab a domain from Monaco so the 12MC website could become 12.mc?

"Applications for persons or informal groups are not accepted." Darn. So much for that idea.

The Twin Cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and immediate environs developed an absolutely crazy number of alphabets. The website I referenced suggested a naming convention extending all the way to the second letter of the eighth alphabet, Brockton Lane. Another site with a very old school design explained the source of the names behind many of the streets in the grid’s first alphabet.


Denver–Aurora Metropolitan Area, Colorado



End of the Line. Calhoun-Byers Road

Denver and surrounding areas certainly rivaled and maybe exceeded the Twin Cities for alphabetical street naming wackiness. The alphabets went on-and-on even into distant rural areas in the vague hope that maybe someday the matrix would fill-in. The last one seemed to be Calhoun-Byers Road, a distance of 45 miles / 73 kilometres (map) from the grid’s baseline intersection at Ellsworth Ave. and Broadway!


New York City, New York



Avenue Q (Quentin) Where It Meets the Q Line Subway

A lot of 12MC readers live in New York City and I’m sure many were already wondering whether I’d mention Alphabet City in the East Village. The name derived from Avenues A, B, C and D, which ran through the neighborhood, the only single-letter avenues in Manhattan (map). That was nice and such, although it represented a measly four letters of the alphabet.

There were better alphabets in NYC. However one must leave Manhattan and enter Brooklyn to experience them. The Greenpoint neighborhood, just across the East River from Manhattan incorporated a partial alphabet from Ash through Quay with a couple of letters missing (map).

Travel farther into Brooklyn and one can experience Avenues A through Z (map). This might lead one to wonder — well, it lead ME to wonder — if the Sesame Street parody musical Avenue Q happened to be named for this particular alphabetic progression. It’s claimed that it was not:

The set of Avenue Q depicts several tenements on a rundown fictional street located “in an outer borough of New York City.” This fictional Avenue Q could be in the Midwood and Gravesend area of Brooklyn, where there are Avenues A through Z, with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is Avenue Q. The street between Avenue P and Avenue R is known as Quentin Road, named for the youngest son of President Roosevelt. The Q subway train, whose symbol used to be a Q in an orange circle resembling the Avenue Q logo, travels through this neighborhood. However, the authors have stated that Avenue Q is fictional and is not related to this or any other particular street.

I’m not sure I necessarily believe that, though. Or maybe I don’t want to believe it.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Subscribe
Don't miss an article -
Subscribe to the feed!

RSS G+ Twitter
RSS Twelve Mile Circle Google Plus Twitter
Categories
Monthly Archives
Days with Posts
August 2017
S M T W T F S
« Jul    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031