Thursday, April 1, 2010

A visit from BMac

My old friend, BMac, stopped by for a few days on his way to New Orleans. He brought beer, steak and news of the outside world. Sitting around the bonfire with an Alaskan was the recharge I sorely needed.

On a trip south to Chambers County for more beer, we took a side-trip through Roanoke, Randolph County's largest town. BMac wanted to see the deserted and dilapidated buildings that litter the old downtown.

Downtown Roanoke has lots of cool old brick buildings. Sadly, many are not only uninhabited, they are in varying degrees of decay. The place definitely has a ghost town feel.

We peered through storefront windows, ooohing and aahhing over all the great things these buildings could be turned into or the lost opportunities of buildings so far gone they could only be gutted. Of course, most of our ideas had to do with bars, pubs and cute little sidewalk bistros with nice wine lists.

There was a Saturday Night Live sketch with a guy that looked at any kind of container and said "You put your weed in there!" That was Brian and I looking at old buildings: "You put a bar in there!" Since Randolph County inexplicably still clings to its economically crushing status as a Bible-thumping backwater that bans the sale of demon booze (plus me and BMac's lack of necessary capital), they were just silly daydreams.

You could totally put a bar in here.

This place didn't even have glass on the storefront windows anymore.

Notice the light streaming out the doors from the inside? That's because the entire roof has collapsed. If you were to buy this property, you'd essentially be getting just the facade - if that. (As always, you can click on the pictures for a larger version.)

I've been told downtown's decay started when the bypass was built. Not sure when that was - maybe the 70s? 80s? Soon after, ugly boxy stores popped up like zits along the bypass and a lot of downtown died. Now everybody shops at Mall-Wart and eats at McDonalds. Same story as a lot of other towns across the country.

My favorite falling-down Roanoke building is the old Martin Theatre.

Note how you can see blue sky through the windows. That means no roof. If you look closely at the top right of the building, you can see what appear to be bare tree tops.

The mural has to be post 9-11. The fireman is the obvious clue. I'm guessing that flag is supposed to be Afghanistan's. The colors are right anyway - for the Afghanistan of 1992-1996, before the Taliban took over. After we invaded Afghanistan, the pre-Taliban flag was used again for another year before a new flag was introduced. (Afghanistan holds the record for nation going through the most flag design changes.) But Afghanistan's flag didn't have a big bird on it. And I have no idea why the bald eagle is wearing a big gold necklace.

Last but not least, another favorite abandoned building of mine:

I'm guessing the cave motif is from the 50s or 60s. Somewhere along the line, somebody said "Paint an eye on it and it'll look like an elephant!" I'd much rather buy gas at a cave/elephant than at Mall-Wart. People need more whimsy in their day-to-day routines.

Randolph County is poorer for letting such cool architecture crumble to dust.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! Those pictures are great!