Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Something Old...Something New

I have an affinity for old, abandoned buildings.  I always have, even as a child I remember an old house near where I lived in North Vancouver, British Columbia.  It was derelict, with the windows broken and walls kicked in by so many youngsters (and perhaps older kids) before me.  I couldn't bring myself to do more damage, but the result of the vandalism of others allowed me a glimpse of something new.  I think part of the fascination was seeing the guts of a building...the skeleton of the structure and the nervous system of the wires all played into the anatomical analogy.

So one can imagine my delight upon finding this abandoned powerhouse in Central Oregon.  Originally built in 1910, this hydroelectric plant took water diverted from the White River (at the White River Falls), before meeting the Deschutes River a few miles downstream.  It ceased operations in 1960 and fell into disrepair since.  Like the old house of my childhood, one can imagine all sorts of people coming in and perhaps kicking in the walls and stripping the old turbines and generators of their guts.  Personally, I tend to walk in somewhat reverentially...or perhaps cautiously so as to not fall through a hole.

This is what one sees from the viewpoint near the highway, as the White River threads its way through the canyon.

 Built of stone most likely obtained nearby, the building blends in with the bluffs in the background.  What I find particularly compelling is the process of decay, and how the structure continues to break down while the surrounding plants slowly encroach and take over.

Inside are the remains of the old Pelton water wheel turbines, the speed governors (just to the left of the turbine housing), and the generator.  Almost all of the equipment has been eviscerated of their innards, like the copper windings that lined the stators and rotors of the generator (seen below).

I tend to view something like this rather poetically, and as a glimpse into the past.  Of course the technology is primitive by today's standards, but one can certainly appreciate the ingeniuty of those who built such pioneering structures, that perhaps lit the first lightbulbs of the pioneer homes originally illuminated by candles and kerosene.
Close-up of the speed governor
Of course, General Electric supplied the equipment for many of the hydro plants built during this era.

Another view of the rusting hulks of the turbine housings

This is a view through one of several wall penetrations, looking up to the viewpoint from which the first image was taken, showing the canyon and the powerhouse along the river (at the top of this post).  I don't know if this was a window or where a pipe used to come through the wall.
Nature will eventually take over and the building will vanish, allowing the wildlife to return.

White River Falls is a spectacular and beautiful sight, seen here from the powerhouse.

As for the something new, Henry Shukman writes in his article "After the Apocalypse", about the environment around the Chernoble Nuclear Plant after it's meltdown 25 years ago in 1986 and how nature is reclaiming the land around the plant, not unlike the White River for a very profound difference in how the radiation has affected Chernobyl's surrounding flora and fauna.  To read more, see the link below:   

For more information on the White River Falls site, click here:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Off the Beaten Path - Part 2, the Sacred and the Profane

Second in a (random) series of my travels throughout the country.  A couple of weeks ago I had the occasion to travel to Spokane, Washington on business.  As it was, my work was completed earlier than i expected and I had some time to kill before my plane left to take me back to Portland...and I had my camera.  As I drove back to Spokane after my meeting, I noticed a church tower on the hills behind downtown and my curiosity was piqued.  I drove until I happened upon The Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, of the Episcopal Church.  Construction was started in 1925, the building is of classic gothic architecture and could easily be at home in England.  I started taking photos outside, but the rain prevented me from capturing any noteworthy images.  However, a bold moment and the generosity of church staff allowed me some shots of the beautiful interior.  For more information, here is a link:

I love arches, especially when there are several in a row.

This is looking east, toward the Chancel and the Transept (Imagine a cross, and the transept is where the two parts cross.  The chancel is the end or the "top" of the cross, usually at the east end.)

From the lectern, looking over the Bible 

From Spokane I drove down west on Interstate 90 to the town of Ritzville, WA, a pioneer town that saw it's heyday during the growth of agriculture in eastern Washington.  It's shrunk in size and probably on it's way to becoming a ghost town. 

This is the Zion Philadelphia Church of Christ in Ritzville, built in 1888 and listed on the Washington Register of Historic Places.  This is also of a Gothic architecture, though decidely less grand than the Cathedral.

I also stopped in the town of Sprague, just off the freeway...and it was like the freeway let time pass by this little town.  There was the biggest collection of old cars and trucks from the 40's and 50's that I've seen.

 Mary Queen of Heaven Parish was established in 1882, and this building was built in 1883.
An old tow truck...I really did feel like I went through a time warp, driving through this town. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saturday Market - A Portland Tradition

Last Saturday was one of those seredipitous days, where I had originally planned to work in the office for a few hours.  A plaintive text message from our neighbor, asking for help in selecting a camera quietly but decidedly changed that...and certainly for the better.  After an hour or so at the photo store, and a freshly-purchased camera in her hand, we headed for town to learn the art of photography.  I am never one to pass up an opportunity for a photo expedition, especially during one of those non-rainy days that are so rare in Portland.

This particular Saturday also happened to be the beginning of the Saturday Market season, where one can wander by stalls of various arts and crafts and jewelry...while being entertained by all manner of musicians, performers and artists...and a host of interesting people.  Our visit wasn't planned, but such is the manner of serendipity.  The photo opportunities were...endless, as you will see.

I call this one Mr Silver.  He stands still as a statue until, at a given moment he comes to life and juggles a pair of glass balls, mesmerizing passers-by.

Not sure what this one is, but he/it sure does blend in nicely...wouldn't you say?

Portland is known for it's bridges, but we also have our fair share of fountains which attract kids even in an early March day.  Yes, I suppose we are all ready for Spring to arrive!

Most of us walk...or drive, or ride our bicycles.  For those of us who prefer not to do any of those, we can ride a pedicab...with a trailer.

Today's entertainment happened to be an Irish-type band who reminded me of Dropkick Murphy.  They were actually pretty good.  The guy in front with the blue shirt was not part of the band (duh!).  He was juggling sticks, and trying to match the band's rhythm.  It wasn't working, but he did capitalize on the band's attention.  It was all part of the atmosphere and fun to watch.

Portland's fashion scene has always been filled with those independent and eclectic sorts who march to a different fashion drum...or in this case, dance to an Irish band.  I like how her hat and pants sorta match.  Also, check out the guy wearing the balloon hat behind her.

...and what market would be complete without a balloon artist?

...or the street preacher reminding us of our sinful nature.  (If you were deafened by the volume of his oratory, you could still read his message.  Perhaps that's his "close-captions for the hard of hearing"?)

If the Irish band or the religious oratory didn't suit your tastes, there is always another musician to add his note to the music of the market.  The guy on the right was looking for anyone who would pose with him and his guitar...for a slight fee, of course.  I like his leather pants.

This one I will call "Art on a Bicycle"

Of course, what visit to the Saturday Market (or Portland for that matter) would be complete without a visit to the famous Voodoo Doughnut Store on Second Street, near Burnside?  Today the line stretched around the corner and down the block.  I'm afraid my own sampling will have to wait for another time. 

And is the proud new owner of a Nikon DSLR.  Congratulations, neighbor girl!