Sunday, May 31, 2009

100 Shots

Five "20-packs" of expired Polaroid Spectra film fell into my lap yesterday for free, original price $36.98 each. Suddenly the Polaroid Spectra I've had for over a year (with dedicated leather attache-style case, $5 at Unique Thrift) came to life, at least for a little while.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blue Stairs

In the carriage house on the grounds of the Corning mansion in Bratenahl, 05-24-09.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

China Ghost Town

Not Cleveland's original Chinatown, but the oldest one within living memory. The single block of Rockwell Avenue between East 21st St. and East 24th St. became the focus of Chinese life and culture in Cleveland when development around Public Square displaced the city's first Chinatown in the late 1920s.

Cleveland's Chinese community was never large. The 1882 immigration laws saw to it that only men from China arrived in the United States; women and children were barred from entering. By 1930, the Chinese community in Cleveland numbered only 800.

The larger of the two merchants' associations, On Leong Tong, built a three-story edifice with a beautiful tiled doorway. On the third floor there was a Buddhist temple that was also used for community meetings.

By the 1980s, new immigration from Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand was moving the focus of Asian commercial activity eastward toward East 40th and Payne. Asia Plaza was built at that intersection and became a center for Chinese merchants, restaurateurs, grocers and health practitioners.

The Rockwell Avenue Chinatown declined precipitously in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century. The Shanghai Restaurant was the last business to remain open, rebranding itself Wu's before closing its doors. By 2009, the street was empty.

The economy in Cleveland has resulted in the demolition of a wide range of historic or culturally significant buildings, including churches (the Catholic diocese has recently shuttered numerous downtown and inner city parishes, and begun razing the edifices) and attractive industrial and commercial properties that have long been empty and in disrepair. The sad fact is that there is nothing to replace them, and Cleveland has more empty urban spaces than at any time since the wholesale destruction of "urban renewal" in the 1960s.

It's only a matter of time before this small block of buildings disappears too.

Photos of vanishing urban artifacts taken with a vanishing technology: Polaroid 600 film in a Polaroid Sun 660 instant camera with sonar focus.

UPDATE: It seems that a new temple has opened in the On Leong Tong building. Snaps with pocket digital 08-01-09.

Do I need to say how much I love the faded wall sign? Evidence of a faded era in Cleveland.

How fine it would be if this little block of buildings came back to life!