AMERICAN GUIDE WEEK - QUESTIONNAIRE FOR FIELD REPORTS, ASSIGNMENT #6

Take Pride, It’s the American Guide

YOUR ASSIGNMENT, TRUSTED GUIDE:

The original American Guide series of books was produced by the federal government’s Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and ’40s. Your A/G editors unearthed the actual mimeographed field manual from 1935 that was sent out to each WPA state research office. Editors, researchers, and volunteers used the manual as a basis for collecting information on their district.

We’re asking you to do the same. Stay tuned all this week as we release 10 assignments drawn from the 1935 manual for the upcoming American Guide Week (Nov. 18-24). Use these questions as your guide for contributing #AmericanGuideWeek content. For your sixth assignment, Class III - Architecture.  (And yes, these are the actual questions from the manual.)

CLASS III - ARCHITECTURE (incl. RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS & STRUCTURES)

  • List churches in your district of special interest as regards: Architectural style; Choir; Organist; Paintings; Interesting relics; Stained glass windows; Sculpture; Woodwork; Stone work
  • Are there interesting examples of modern houses?
  • Is there a distinctive type of architecture well-represented in your district? (Ex. Adobe houses, colonial houses, plantation manors.)

BE A GUIDE. SHOW AMERICA TO AMERICANS. 

Between Monday, Nov. 18, and Sunday, Nov. 24, tag your Tumblr photosillustrations and writing that answer these questions and describe the America you live in and the America you travel through — people, places and things.

Check out a couple of past A/G posts on architecture here and here. Now go out there and describe/photograph/draw what it’s like where you live. 

This is a collaboration, folks: a living, Tumblifying documentary about the USA. You’ll be reblogged or featured on The American Guide.

Check out A/G Week assignments here.

#americanguideweek

UNDER THE APPROACH - O’HARE INTERNATIONAL - CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

I live in the shadows of one of the largest transportation hubs in the world. O’Hare International Airport lies just west of my northwest side Chicago neighborhood. Living under the final approach of two runways at the fifth busiest airport in the world definitely starts to play a pretty significant role in your life. While at home, I watch as planes fly over me. Every single day. Every night. One by one. About every two minutes like clockwork.

On a clear night you can look up and see airplane lights for miles as the line of air traffic stretches out over Lake Michigan. Airplanes from all over the world shuttle past me in the sky carrying massive amounts of people and cargo. The constant motion makes the mind wander. As an aviation geek, I usually love getting lost in curiosity while surrounded by this constant motion. However, there are those brief moments when I wish the noise of those massive machines above me would stop for just a minute so that I could appreciate silence.

In the last couple of weeks a new runway has opened at O’Hare. It’s called 10C-28C and is now bringing even more planes and more noise, contributing to even less silence and even more motion in my little world on the northwest side. In the wake of the new opening some people are worried that their property values will be negatively impacted, while others probably didn’t even notice because they’re just so used to the noise. This new runway is supposed to increase capacity of flights while at the same time (somehow) reduce delays. It will bring new jobs and revenue to the city so for many; this runway might even bring opportunity.

While some people in my community have already decided how the new runway may affect them going forward, I will take it all in and save my opinion for another day. In the meantime, I will keep looking up and wonder where all of those travelers above me are coming from and where they may be going once the wheels touch down.

* * *

Dan Caruso is a Guide to Illinois and Wisconsin. He grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Chicago to get his masters degree in architecture. He currently works as a project manager for a small local architecture firm, is trying to break into real estate, and wishes he was a photographer. You can see Dan’s photographs on flickr and his tumblr page, jonnyoptimo.tumblr.com. He also likes to keep his trigger finger loose on instagram.

PORTLAND, MAINE

Portland today lives on in a kind of somnolence that belies its past greatness and its present real activity and vitality.
—Maine, A Guide ‘Down East’ (WPA, 1937)

* * *
Benzo Harris is a photographer living in Portland, Maine. He likes fresh bagels and running. Find him on Tumblr at benzo.tumblr.com or at his website, benzoharris.com.






This dispatch arrived care of THE AMERICAN GUIDE submission page. Be a guide yourself and send a post from your state: theamericanguide.org/submit.
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PORTLAND, MAINE

Portland today lives on in a kind of somnolence that belies its past greatness and its present real activity and vitality.
Maine, A Guide ‘Down East’ (WPA, 1937)
* * *
Benzo Harris is a photographer living in Portland, Maine. He likes fresh bagels and running. Find him on Tumblr at benzo.tumblr.com or at his website, benzoharris.com.

This dispatch arrived care of THE AMERICAN GUIDE submission page. Be a guide yourself and send a post from your state: theamericanguide.org/submit.

HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.
— Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.
Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.
Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.
* * *
EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.
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HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.
— Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.
Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.
Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.
* * *
EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.
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HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.
— Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.
Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.
Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.
* * *
EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.
Zoom Info
HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.
— Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.
Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.
Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.
* * *
EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.
Zoom Info
HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.
— Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.
Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.
Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.
* * *
EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.
Zoom Info
HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.
— Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.
Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.
Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.
* * *
EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.
Zoom Info
HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.
— Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.
Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.
Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.
* * *
EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.
Zoom Info
HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.
— Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.
Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.
Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.
* * *
EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.
Zoom Info
HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.
— Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.
Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.
Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.
* * *
EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.
Zoom Info

HOLLY, MICHIGAN (ANYTOWN, USA)

Left from Fenton on State 87 is HOLLY, 5 m. (980 alt., 2,252 pop.), a small industrial city with some regional fame as a flower center. Flower gardening, encouraged by the Holly Flower Lovers’ Club, is a feature of the civic program.

Michigan, A Guide To the Wolverine State (WPA, 1941)

The town I grew up in was always quiet. It was always small and it always seemed as if it was about 20 years behind. Fifty miles north of Detroit, it was one of hundreds of other small towns that had auto and factory workers looking to live with their families away from the more traditional suburban spread of identical factory-produced homes and packed strip malls. The homes were old, but well kept. The businesses were small, but frequented by the people who lived there, grew up there and raised their kids there. By all definable standards Holly, Michigan was a thriving small town.

Not unlike the rest of the state of Michigan, Holly has been hit hard by the auto industry crash, as well as the general weak economy of the state. People have lost their homes, businesses have closed. Walking down the main through road that runs north and south within the town, Holly looks like it has literally stood still. Each time I go back to visit, I’m further saddened by the continuing spreading emptiness.

Holly, unfortunately, is not unlike a million other towns in the U.S. It’s actually totally average. Although I’d like to think the town of my childhood and the town I love so dearly is beyond being categorized as average, it really is Anytown, USA.

* * *

EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.

PENN HILLS, PENNSYLVANIA 
Penn Hills, Pennsylvania is a community in transition. As a first-ring suburb, it currently faces issues of population loss and aging infrastructure. And how innovative its municipal government can be with its limited resources will greatly determine how Penn Hills will move forward. The neighborhood of Lincoln Park’s place in Penn Hills is even more precarious. Most recently, for example, the residents of Lincoln Park defeated a redistricting measure that would have taken their neighborhood out of Penn Hills and moved it into a poorer, adjacent district. Despite these challenges, what remains special about Penn Hills is its vibrant community, and residents who have a strong sense of civic pride.
- Into the Wild: Santiago Street - 
When I parked my car at the end of Santiago Street in Lincoln Park, I half expected to find a cul-de-sac devoid of houses. That’s because days earlier, during a conversation with Chris Blackwell, principal planner from the Penn Hills Department of Planning and Economic Development, he told me how his department had demolished nearly all the street’s blighted properties in recent years. “There’s almost nothing left down there,” he said. “Almost” was the key word.
Once a quiet suburban cul-de-sac that boasted upwards of 20 or more homes, the housing stock on Santiago has dwindled to almost nothing in the last two decades. Today only four houses remain on the street. Two are vacant, with broken windows and kicked-in garage doors, weeds sprouting from gutters and trash bags lying heaped in the driveways. Two are not.
In one of the homes that appeared to be inhabited, I heard a TV set blaring and could see the dull glow of its screen. There were no signs of people, however. Allegheny County assessment records show that a man named Martin Lloyd owns the home. I would have walked the steep staircase leading to the front door, knocked and introduced myself explaining that I was a journalist working on a story, but for whatever reason, my fear won out. Maybe it was my knowledge of Lincoln Park’s sordid history that gave me pause, or knowing that people who live in isolated areas sometimes do so for a reason. However unfounded my fear may have been, I listened to instinct. Instead I walked the empty street taking photographs, waiting to see some signs of life. When I returned to my car, I opened my notepad and jotted down house numbers.
The legacy of Santiago Street and its near-death is most likely tied to foreclosures or owner abandonment that took place sometime back in the 1990s, Blackwell said. He assured me it had nothing to do with the recent string of mortgage foreclosures that have plagued the Pennsylvania suburb in the wake of the Great Recession. Regardless of how it came to be, the municipality of Penn Hills — where Santiago Street is located — now owns much of the vacant property.
Santiago Street is located off Mount Carmel Road and dead-ended on one side by a massive property housing a demolition and excavation company. That essentially makes Santiago Street, and its surrounding streets and alleyways, their own micro-province. That day the tall weeds lining the hillside at the end of Santiago swayed like prairie grass, moved by the warm August breeze. Wild rabbits darted back and forth between overgrown hedges. In the near distance, beyond a sign that discouraged dumping trash or parking your car, I heard two dogs howl, followed by a man’s voice that occasionally yelled to quiet them. But still I saw no one.
* * *
Matthew Newton is a writer, journalist and editor from Western Pennsylvania. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, Forbes and Guernica, among other publications. He’s currently at work on No Place For Disgrace, a series of nonfiction stories about the life and death of the suburban dream. You can find him on his website blog.matthewnewton.us, or at the journal he founded, Annals of Americus.
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PENN HILLS, PENNSYLVANIA 
Penn Hills, Pennsylvania is a community in transition. As a first-ring suburb, it currently faces issues of population loss and aging infrastructure. And how innovative its municipal government can be with its limited resources will greatly determine how Penn Hills will move forward. The neighborhood of Lincoln Park’s place in Penn Hills is even more precarious. Most recently, for example, the residents of Lincoln Park defeated a redistricting measure that would have taken their neighborhood out of Penn Hills and moved it into a poorer, adjacent district. Despite these challenges, what remains special about Penn Hills is its vibrant community, and residents who have a strong sense of civic pride.
- Into the Wild: Santiago Street - 
When I parked my car at the end of Santiago Street in Lincoln Park, I half expected to find a cul-de-sac devoid of houses. That’s because days earlier, during a conversation with Chris Blackwell, principal planner from the Penn Hills Department of Planning and Economic Development, he told me how his department had demolished nearly all the street’s blighted properties in recent years. “There’s almost nothing left down there,” he said. “Almost” was the key word.
Once a quiet suburban cul-de-sac that boasted upwards of 20 or more homes, the housing stock on Santiago has dwindled to almost nothing in the last two decades. Today only four houses remain on the street. Two are vacant, with broken windows and kicked-in garage doors, weeds sprouting from gutters and trash bags lying heaped in the driveways. Two are not.
In one of the homes that appeared to be inhabited, I heard a TV set blaring and could see the dull glow of its screen. There were no signs of people, however. Allegheny County assessment records show that a man named Martin Lloyd owns the home. I would have walked the steep staircase leading to the front door, knocked and introduced myself explaining that I was a journalist working on a story, but for whatever reason, my fear won out. Maybe it was my knowledge of Lincoln Park’s sordid history that gave me pause, or knowing that people who live in isolated areas sometimes do so for a reason. However unfounded my fear may have been, I listened to instinct. Instead I walked the empty street taking photographs, waiting to see some signs of life. When I returned to my car, I opened my notepad and jotted down house numbers.
The legacy of Santiago Street and its near-death is most likely tied to foreclosures or owner abandonment that took place sometime back in the 1990s, Blackwell said. He assured me it had nothing to do with the recent string of mortgage foreclosures that have plagued the Pennsylvania suburb in the wake of the Great Recession. Regardless of how it came to be, the municipality of Penn Hills — where Santiago Street is located — now owns much of the vacant property.
Santiago Street is located off Mount Carmel Road and dead-ended on one side by a massive property housing a demolition and excavation company. That essentially makes Santiago Street, and its surrounding streets and alleyways, their own micro-province. That day the tall weeds lining the hillside at the end of Santiago swayed like prairie grass, moved by the warm August breeze. Wild rabbits darted back and forth between overgrown hedges. In the near distance, beyond a sign that discouraged dumping trash or parking your car, I heard two dogs howl, followed by a man’s voice that occasionally yelled to quiet them. But still I saw no one.
* * *
Matthew Newton is a writer, journalist and editor from Western Pennsylvania. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, Forbes and Guernica, among other publications. He’s currently at work on No Place For Disgrace, a series of nonfiction stories about the life and death of the suburban dream. You can find him on his website blog.matthewnewton.us, or at the journal he founded, Annals of Americus.
Zoom Info
PENN HILLS, PENNSYLVANIA 
Penn Hills, Pennsylvania is a community in transition. As a first-ring suburb, it currently faces issues of population loss and aging infrastructure. And how innovative its municipal government can be with its limited resources will greatly determine how Penn Hills will move forward. The neighborhood of Lincoln Park’s place in Penn Hills is even more precarious. Most recently, for example, the residents of Lincoln Park defeated a redistricting measure that would have taken their neighborhood out of Penn Hills and moved it into a poorer, adjacent district. Despite these challenges, what remains special about Penn Hills is its vibrant community, and residents who have a strong sense of civic pride.
- Into the Wild: Santiago Street - 
When I parked my car at the end of Santiago Street in Lincoln Park, I half expected to find a cul-de-sac devoid of houses. That’s because days earlier, during a conversation with Chris Blackwell, principal planner from the Penn Hills Department of Planning and Economic Development, he told me how his department had demolished nearly all the street’s blighted properties in recent years. “There’s almost nothing left down there,” he said. “Almost” was the key word.
Once a quiet suburban cul-de-sac that boasted upwards of 20 or more homes, the housing stock on Santiago has dwindled to almost nothing in the last two decades. Today only four houses remain on the street. Two are vacant, with broken windows and kicked-in garage doors, weeds sprouting from gutters and trash bags lying heaped in the driveways. Two are not.
In one of the homes that appeared to be inhabited, I heard a TV set blaring and could see the dull glow of its screen. There were no signs of people, however. Allegheny County assessment records show that a man named Martin Lloyd owns the home. I would have walked the steep staircase leading to the front door, knocked and introduced myself explaining that I was a journalist working on a story, but for whatever reason, my fear won out. Maybe it was my knowledge of Lincoln Park’s sordid history that gave me pause, or knowing that people who live in isolated areas sometimes do so for a reason. However unfounded my fear may have been, I listened to instinct. Instead I walked the empty street taking photographs, waiting to see some signs of life. When I returned to my car, I opened my notepad and jotted down house numbers.
The legacy of Santiago Street and its near-death is most likely tied to foreclosures or owner abandonment that took place sometime back in the 1990s, Blackwell said. He assured me it had nothing to do with the recent string of mortgage foreclosures that have plagued the Pennsylvania suburb in the wake of the Great Recession. Regardless of how it came to be, the municipality of Penn Hills — where Santiago Street is located — now owns much of the vacant property.
Santiago Street is located off Mount Carmel Road and dead-ended on one side by a massive property housing a demolition and excavation company. That essentially makes Santiago Street, and its surrounding streets and alleyways, their own micro-province. That day the tall weeds lining the hillside at the end of Santiago swayed like prairie grass, moved by the warm August breeze. Wild rabbits darted back and forth between overgrown hedges. In the near distance, beyond a sign that discouraged dumping trash or parking your car, I heard two dogs howl, followed by a man’s voice that occasionally yelled to quiet them. But still I saw no one.
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Matthew Newton is a writer, journalist and editor from Western Pennsylvania. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, Forbes and Guernica, among other publications. He’s currently at work on No Place For Disgrace, a series of nonfiction stories about the life and death of the suburban dream. You can find him on his website blog.matthewnewton.us, or at the journal he founded, Annals of Americus.
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PENN HILLS, PENNSYLVANIA 

Penn Hills, Pennsylvania is a community in transition. As a first-ring suburb, it currently faces issues of population loss and aging infrastructure. And how innovative its municipal government can be with its limited resources will greatly determine how Penn Hills will move forward. The neighborhood of Lincoln Park’s place in Penn Hills is even more precarious. Most recently, for example, the residents of Lincoln Park defeated a redistricting measure that would have taken their neighborhood out of Penn Hills and moved it into a poorer, adjacent district. Despite these challenges, what remains special about Penn Hills is its vibrant community, and residents who have a strong sense of civic pride.

- Into the Wild: Santiago Street - 

When I parked my car at the end of Santiago Street in Lincoln Park, I half expected to find a cul-de-sac devoid of houses. That’s because days earlier, during a conversation with Chris Blackwell, principal planner from the Penn Hills Department of Planning and Economic Development, he told me how his department had demolished nearly all the street’s blighted properties in recent years. “There’s almost nothing left down there,” he said. “Almost” was the key word.

Once a quiet suburban cul-de-sac that boasted upwards of 20 or more homes, the housing stock on Santiago has dwindled to almost nothing in the last two decades. Today only four houses remain on the street. Two are vacant, with broken windows and kicked-in garage doors, weeds sprouting from gutters and trash bags lying heaped in the driveways. Two are not.

In one of the homes that appeared to be inhabited, I heard a TV set blaring and could see the dull glow of its screen. There were no signs of people, however. Allegheny County assessment records show that a man named Martin Lloyd owns the home. I would have walked the steep staircase leading to the front door, knocked and introduced myself explaining that I was a journalist working on a story, but for whatever reason, my fear won out. Maybe it was my knowledge of Lincoln Park’s sordid history that gave me pause, or knowing that people who live in isolated areas sometimes do so for a reason. However unfounded my fear may have been, I listened to instinct. Instead I walked the empty street taking photographs, waiting to see some signs of life. When I returned to my car, I opened my notepad and jotted down house numbers.

The legacy of Santiago Street and its near-death is most likely tied to foreclosures or owner abandonment that took place sometime back in the 1990s, Blackwell said. He assured me it had nothing to do with the recent string of mortgage foreclosures that have plagued the Pennsylvania suburb in the wake of the Great Recession. Regardless of how it came to be, the municipality of Penn Hills — where Santiago Street is located — now owns much of the vacant property.

Santiago Street is located off Mount Carmel Road and dead-ended on one side by a massive property housing a demolition and excavation company. That essentially makes Santiago Street, and its surrounding streets and alleyways, their own micro-province. That day the tall weeds lining the hillside at the end of Santiago swayed like prairie grass, moved by the warm August breeze. Wild rabbits darted back and forth between overgrown hedges. In the near distance, beyond a sign that discouraged dumping trash or parking your car, I heard two dogs howl, followed by a man’s voice that occasionally yelled to quiet them. But still I saw no one.

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Matthew Newton is a writer, journalist and editor from Western Pennsylvania. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, Forbes and Guernica, among other publications. He’s currently at work on No Place For Disgrace, a series of nonfiction stories about the life and death of the suburban dream. You can find him on his website blog.matthewnewton.us, or at the journal he founded, Annals of Americus.

STEARNS COUNTY, MINNESOTA

ST. CLOUD (alt. 1,032; pop. 21,000), on the Mississippi River, which forms the eastern boundary of Stearns County, is the county seat and trade center for a large agricultural area that extends in all directions…In other parts of the country, St. Cloud’s importance rests on its numerous quarries, the stones of which have been used since the 1870’s by builders and architects throughout the United States for many of their most noteworthy structures.

— Minnesota, A State Guide (WPA, 1938)
Artist and Guide to Minnesota Nate Burbeck scouts around the country, shooting panoramic images to use as the basis of his paintings. Yesterday, we posted part one of his dispatch — the photos from his latest reconnoiter. Today, Nate provides images of the process and results:
Stearns County, Minn., Oil on Canvas, 24x50 inches, 2013.
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Nate Burbeck is a State Guide to Minnesota and an At-Large Guide to the Midwest. He curates a few regionally-themed art tumblrs — beyond 9th avenue (Northeastern artists), fly over art (Midwestern artists) and in the new frontier (Western artists) and has himself been named one of “Ten Artists to Watch in 2013” on the Walker Art Center’s mnartists blog. Follow Nate’s work on Tumblr at nburbeck.tumblr.com or on his website.
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STEARNS COUNTY, MINNESOTA

ST. CLOUD (alt. 1,032; pop. 21,000), on the Mississippi River, which forms the eastern boundary of Stearns County, is the county seat and trade center for a large agricultural area that extends in all directions…In other parts of the country, St. Cloud’s importance rests on its numerous quarries, the stones of which have been used since the 1870’s by builders and architects throughout the United States for many of their most noteworthy structures.

— Minnesota, A State Guide (WPA, 1938)

Artist and Guide to Minnesota Nate Burbeck scouts around the country, shooting panoramic images to use as the basis of his paintings. Yesterday, we posted part one of his dispatch — the photos from his latest reconnoiter. Today, Nate provides images of the process and results:

Stearns County, Minn., Oil on Canvas, 24x50 inches, 2013.

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Nate Burbeck is a State Guide to Minnesota and an At-Large Guide to the Midwest. He curates a few regionally-themed art tumblrs — beyond 9th avenue (Northeastern artists), fly over art (Midwestern artists) and in the new frontier (Western artists) and has himself been named one of “Ten Artists to Watch in 2013” on the Walker Art Center’s mnartists blog. Follow Nate’s work on Tumblr at nburbeck.tumblr.com or on his website.

WHITE BEAR LAKE / STEARNS COUNTY, MINNESOTA

WHITE BEAR LAKE, 142.9 m. (941 alt., 2,600 pop.), is a resort town favored by St. Paulites. Indians believed that the lake, whose shores are lined with summer homes, was haunted by the spirit of a white bear, slain by a brave as it was about to attack his beloved.

— Minnesota, A State Guide (WPA, 1938)

Artist and Guide to Minnesota Nate Burbeck scouts around the country, shooting panoramic images to use as the basis of his paintings. We’ll be bringing you another post with the results of this expedition, but for now, part one of his dispatch:

The first cluster of photos I took was in White Bear Lake, Minn., a northern, “inner-ring” suburb of St. Paul that I suppose I would categorize as older (post-War housing boom), with maybe even slightly blue-collar type of neighborhoods — at least when compared to some of the further out, newer exurbs I’ve photographed before. 

A few weeks later I drove up I-94 to Stearns County, Minn., to take pictures of a small cluster of houses just outside the St. Joseph/St. Cloud area. This part of Central Minnesota (and Stearns County in particular) is considered by many to be one of the more politically conservative areas in the state. I even saw a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag flying on a pole in one of the neighboring yards (not pictured here). Though still mostly rural, the area’s been steadily growing as more people have flocked to commuter towns spilling out of the Twin Cities Metro. The housing sites I photographed here worked very well and thankfully the weather was nice and gloomy — just what I was hoping for. It’s a lot more open than the more established suburb of White Bear Lake, and the house/backyard I ended up using for my painting is right next to unused wooded areas and small-scale farmland that surrounds it.

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Nate Burbeck is a State Guide to Minnesota and an At-Large Guide to the Midwest. he curates a few regionally-themed art tumblrs — beyond 9th avenue (Northeastern artists), fly over art (Midwestern artists) and in the new frontier (Western artists) and has himself been named one of “Ten Artists to Watch in 2013" on the Walker Art Center’s mnartists blog. Follow Nate’s work on Tumblr at nburbeck.tumblr.com or on his website.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - STATION TO STATION

Even the casual visitor (when he overcomes his bewilderment and determines into which city he has wandered), cannot fail to note certain obvious differences. The St. Paul skyline is all of a piece, Minneapolis sprawls; St. Paul is hilly, Minneapolis level; St. Paul’s bridges leap down from the high shore to the loop; in Minneapolis they snake across the river with no regard for distance; St. Paul’s loop streets are narrow and concentrated, while in its twin city the center of activity extends many blocks along the broad shopping avenues. Minneapolis marks its streets and ornaments its lakes, but leaves its river shore ragged and unkempt below the cream-colored elevators. St. Paul makes much of its river shore but illumines no street sign for a nervous driver. St. Paul has already attained a degree of mellowness and seems to be clinging to its Victorian dignity, while in Minneapolis dignity is less prized than modern spruceness. The visitor from the East will perhaps feel more at home in St. Paul; if from the West he is likely to prefer Minneapolis.

—Minnesota: A State Guide (WPA, 1938)

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Mark Ryan is an environmental engineer from the Twin Cities.

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THE AMERICAN GUIDE is joining STATION TO STATION for a cross-country train ride. Stop: Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Follow your guide along the rails and see America. [Track A/G’s trip here]