This part of the city is changing fast. What was once the busy industrial center that kept this city alive, had died and gone vacant. No one dared wander these empty streets. Especially at night.
Nothing was around but an obscure coffee shop, that doubled as a music venue. My friends and I would all pile into one car, park in a scary abandoned lot and run for our lives down the street to the safety of the coffee shop.
But now things have changed. The old tobacco factories have been restored and turned into apartments, offices, research labs, restaurants and even a prestigious medical school has moved in.
I even managed to get a job working in this area.
A former sketchy area is now the cool new spot to be downtown.
That obscure coffee shop is now a popular place that also serves food, and is no longer a music venue.
I like to wander around and admire the changes. I thought this would be the perfect place to use up a precious roll of expiring Land Camera film.
An homage to the old days.
These photos were taken with one of my vintage Polaroid Land Cameras.
See my Polaroid Land Camera guide Here!
This was a day at the very end of winter a couple of years ago. These pictures have been sitting in my drafts for a while now, and it seemed time to post them. This is from another time. A bit of a sadder time, but that’s ok.
The day was warm, after many months spent in the cold. It wasn’t quite time for spring, but it was one of those days that let you know that spring was just around the corner. Winter was almost done.
It was a Sunday afternoon that felt strange, like the precious weekend had been partly wasted. So we went for a walk, and it made up for those restless feelings.
The sun was setting later and later each day, another promise that spring was on the way.
A giant pile of rubble was a surprising sight to see one day while driving downtown. A little school was in the process of being torn down, for what I later read, was to make room for the rebuilding of an interstate and the roads surrounding it.
Business 40 interstate which runs through downtown has been a disaster since it was built in the 50s, with narrow lanes and tiny on ramps. This year it is finally getting shut down to be rebuilt into something actually functional.
This sad little school just happened to be in the way of the new interstate improvements.
These next few years will be interesting for downtown’s landscape.
Just off of interstate 40, formally the old route 66, is Two Guns Ghost Town.
The land where this ghost town now sits, holds many stories.
A group of Native Americans were killed by an enemy tribe that set fire to a cave where they were hidden. After that tragic event, the area is now known as the Apache Death Cave. Years later the beginnings of a settlement started to appear as construction began on a railroad and bridges over the Canyon Diablo where the Apache Death Cave was. But this new settlement was a town of outlaws and bandits. Reportedly a group of men once robbed a train, stealing close to $200,000 and then buried it somewhere near the canyon rim. It has never been found.
Eventually a man named Harry Miller, who referred to himself as Crazy Chief Thunder, began the major construction of a town he wanted to call Two Guns.
The town included a small zoo with mountain lions, snakes, and other interesting creatures. He also apparently sold the skeletal remains of the Native Americans who died in the cave nearby.
Crazy Chief Thunder skipped town eventually after shooting a guy to death with whom he’d had a disagreement. The man’s widow kept the town going and opened a gas station, tourist store and campground. Unfortunately the gas station burned down in the 70s, and Two Guns slowly declined into a ghost town.
Now it sits, right next to the interstate, just some lonely graffiti covered buildings in the middle of the empty desert.
The setting sun was casting extreme shadows over the crumbling buildings as we arrived at the ghost town one chilly February day. The wind was tearing across the flat open land. No one else was around.
The desert is such a strange and mysterious place.
Cape Lookout Island. Only accessible by Ferry, and with no paved roads. It was once a home to a small fishing community but is now owned by the National Park system.
A short walk away from the tourist area, down the lonely shoreline, and remnants of the island’s past begin to appear.
Barnacle laden debris from the houses burned down by owners who refused to let them become acquired by the government.
And maybe parts from an old car that became engulfed in a sandstorm, only to appear again some time later.
Conch shells, still inhabited by their original owner can easily be found in the shallow waters.
This beach is different than others. A beach forgotten.
During the dive away from the Grand Canyon, towards northern Arizona, the landscape grew more and more like nothing I had ever seen.
Around every curve was an entire new world. It was a valley, with sharp red cliffs rising up to the sky. Then around just another curve, the road was on the top of a mountain, looking out over a flat golden plateau. Snow capped mountains stood in the distance.
It felt like another planet. Like Mars.
Every so often was a house, or a trailer, or what could be considered a minuscule town. But mostly, there was no sign of civilization.
The farther the drive, the more alien the landscape looked. Eventually the curvy desert roads led to this bridge. Red mountains surrounded the area, while the bright blue Colorado river flowed beneath the bridge, heading towards the Grand Canyon.
The goal was to reach Monument Valley by dusk, so not much time could be spent in this foreign place. But it stands out in my mind as one of my favorite areas of Arizona.
I hope to one day return.
On our Belle Isle Adventures, we passed by what appeared to be an old lighthouse, so we turned the car around to go check it out.
Only to find out the roads were one way around the whole island.
We tried driving the wrong way for a few minutes, but a few other random people who also came to explore this place on a cold Thanksgiving day freaked out honking at us.
So we took the long way around.
Finally we were parked and set off down the long muddy trail.
Towards the eerie lighthouse, sitting in the desolate field.
But the lighthouse was was farther away than it looked, and the ground was getting muddier and mudder. Plus we didn’t want to be late for the Thanksgiving feast. So we ran all the way back to the car and raced to dinner.
Bailey Power Plant has stood abandoned for years. As long as I can remember, it has been this mysterious run-down industrial building, surrounded by a huge wire fence, but begging to be explored.
I never had the courage to sneak in though.
It has been undergoing renovations for the past few years now, just as all the old tobacco factories have.
But on this day, as the renovations are getting closer to completion, the fence was finally down. The power plant was open for wandering.
The inside of the building still requires much work, but it was exciting to be able to wander around the outside, under all the tunnels and bridges that remained illusive for so many years.
The view inside the broken windows
A space that was once a muddy swamp, is becoming a nice little patio with string lighting. I imagine it will be a popular spot when summer comes.
This area that was once a ghost town, is now turning into one of the most popular parts of the city and I can’t wait to see it continue.