Sunday, April 10, 2011

Down the Mon' in depressed Brownsville.

I remember as a kid heading south from Pittsburgh, when crossing the Mon' river, that a sense of darkness and depression would come over me. At one point this area was booming with industry, now there are only few mills working, if that. I often drive this way, if I'm coming from Pittsburgh, towards the eastern part of the state. And, every time I do, the same feelings cloud my mind.

Monongahela River, Brownsville, PA, much of the River looks and feels like this shot.

Thoughts arise as I drive through these run down pathetic little towns of abandon buildings, shut down bars and rusted out infrastructure. Is the area cursed? How many numbers of immigrants died here while on the job being exploited? What kind of horrible unhealthy lives did these mill workers live? Maybe their spirits are still haunting the area giving it the "vibe" it has today. Whatever it is, I felt it early on and it's still with me. (forgive this last paragraph for being extremely cheesy/cliche....i sort of wanted to delete, but I'll leave it up so you all can shake your heads in disgust, if not anger at the utter sappiness of this)

Today I made the same trip and actually got out of my car to take a few photos.

I kept going south on the Mon' River. Passed some rusted bridges, housing projects, shady bars, and the amusement park, Kennywood. Cruising further down towards Dravosburg and some other factories, there was a skanky "woman" dressed in high heels hitchhiking. I drove by and was wondering if it was really a man in drag with a gun in his/her purse. It was tough to tell, I hope he/she got home to their destination safely. This was on Rt 837 if anyone reading is interested in trying to find her next week on that road to pick "it" up.

Something made in or around Brownsville, I assume.
Eventually, sticking to roads that followed the river I came across this strange run down place called Brownsville. The place is pretty much a ghost town. There are functioning businesses here and there but for the most part its empty. What was open and surprisingly well put together was an art gallery for a local artist named, Frank Melega. He did much of his work on the steel workers/miners and the local area. I was going to buy a print of an etching he did of a steel worker but they were all out. The man working the gallery was polite but somewhat creepy. He had less social skills than I do. Below is shot of the town and the gallery sign, enjoy. Here's a link to the gallery/bio webpage.

Museum, on the main drag of Brownsville.

So, while walking the street, I noticed the town came up with a nifty idea about how to handle empty store fronts. They put some brown board on a lot these store windows and painted brightly colored silhouttes of different types of people. Maybe this is done in other abandon towns but this is the first time I saw it. Below is an example. Kind of scary. Who thought of this?

I found out later I was parked in the "elegant" Historical District of Brownsville. I guess it was an off day for tourism. Below is the parking sign and I believe that middle building is the library.

The following photos are just other shots of buildings and businesses gone tits up. I hope you find these as uplifting as I do. This is our future if things keep going the way they do. Look at it!

Come Armageddon, come Armageddon come!
nifty walkway thingy
Even bats have it rough in this town....lifes hard lil guy.
These guys could've used a bail out.
As I left town, it wasn't all negativity. Some neighborhood's looked quite liveable, at least for me, and I saw a little league practice going on.  So, there are still signs of life and no reason to completely torch the place. If you have a bunch of friends with money, looking to take over a town and start businesses for pretty cheap it might be a place to go. Of course, you would always need people with enough spending money to support your businesses so it could still be a big risk. If the place has one thing, it is lots of potential.

I continued south on my journey and eventually I got to Morgantown, WV. I liked their football team years ago and was sort of curious what the town looked like. This was in complete contrast to what I felt in Brownsville as Morgantown is a lively college town with tons of young flesh walking the streets. It was a warm day and there were lots of good choices to eat. I settled on a Mediterranean Deli on the Main St. and inhaled a gyro with stuffed grape leaves as an appetizer. I did one short walk up and down the street and headed back home.

It would be another 5 hours before I'd reach my destination. Not a bad way to spend a warm spring day.

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