Saturday, June 16, 2018

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Demolition Pictures

Taking pictures of a house being demolished can be sad and yet exhilarating at the same time. Here are some photographs of a house in the Covington area being rapidly dismantled by a backhoe. Woods to woods. Click on the images to make them larger. 












Video segment, click on image above

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Green Thumb Program Participants 1978

This is a group photo of the participants of the "Green Thumb Program" conducted in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, around 1978. Click on the image to make it larger. 


The Green Thumb members took part in a variety of landscaping and maintenance activities for the parish government.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Masonic Temple Becomes Community Center

The Ancient Free & Accepted Masons built a new meeting hall in Salina, Kansas, back in the early 1920's. It was a pretty ambitious project, but since build buildings is what they do, it turned out to be quite a landmark. The Masons know how to construct impressive buildings.

 I was driving through Salina, KS, recently and came across the place. I had to stop and take a bunch of pictures, because, well, it is a very picture-worthy subject, plus it has a very interesting new mission.


Click on the images to make them larger. 



About a year ago I had read an internet article about this place, so it was quite a shock when I was driving along and suddenly saw it, recognizing it from pictures accompanying the article. What was the article about?  Well, the Masons had put it up for sale. They didn't need the entire seven-story 160,000 square foot building any longer (it was pretty big for their purposes), but they hoped someone would buy it and put it to good use.  They planned to get a smaller, more modern building for their meetings.


For sale: Would make good conference center, community center, or corporate office.


The Masons chartered their Lodge in Salina back in 1867, back in the days of the Old West.


The cornerstone for the building was laid in 1922, and the finished building was dedicated in 1927. That must have been quite an addition to the Salina skyline.


Here are several pictures of the interior, mainly the front lobby.



Old steam radiators for heat

Quite a lot of marble in the walls and flooring


The ceiling in the lobby is incredible.

 
So the building was for sale for quite a while, and the only stipulation the Masons put on the sale was that the new purchaser could use the bottom floors, but the top floor was reserved for the Masonic Lodge meeting room. Apparently, this provision did not go over too well, however. So, what finally happened to the building was quite remarkable.

According to radio station KSAL, "A newly formed organization had an “innovative idea. The mission of the  Salina Innovation Foundation is to  “to protect and endow the Masonic Center building, and infuse it with new spirit and life.”. 

"The historic building was donated to the recently formed local community foundation. The foundation has the use of the entire facility, with the exception of the top two floors which are still used by the local Masonic organization. Mary Landes, the Director of the Salina Innovation Foundation, told KSAL News that the building, with all of its history, is the perfect place of an organization like hers."
 


The Masonic Temple is now home to a wide variety of community activities, including art displays such as the collection of locally-produced pottery above.

 Some of the uses planned for the building are a local art gallery, artist loft spaces, a wedding venue, meetings, Cultural Art performances, lectures, and yoga and meditation classes. The first floor also offers a commercial kitchen which is being used for Culinary Classes & Internships,  Restaurant Incubation, a Kitchen for Hire and local Food Tastings and Events. 


The building was designed around its third floor Grand Theatre, which features a 36-foot high ceiling and has a seating capacity of over 1,200 people. The elevated stage contains 104-year old, hand-painted scenery drops. These backdrops were painted in 1895 at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Architecture, and were purchased by Salina in 1930 for $30,000. They were brought by specially made rail car, and were hung with rope rigging, which is still functioning today. Above info came from the Salina Innovation webpage.


The Theatre has a large ballroom dance floor, vintage mirrored light, and 3 balconies of seating. "The acoustics are incredible in this masterfully designed space," a foundation spokesman said. 



One of the ways the Foundation raises funds to help operate the facility is through an "Adopt a Gargoyle" project. Yes, that's right. There are 120 hand-hammered copper gargoyles lining the top edge of the building and people can help "save their home" by donating money to the cause. One hundred dollars gets them a nice certificate, and five hundred dollars gives them the opportunity to name their own gargoyle. These folks are really creative.



The masonry work above the main entrance doors.

CLICK HERE to view a video featuring the Foundation director explaining the "re-purposing" of the Masonic Temple building. The group also has a Facebook page at this link.






Gargoyles up for adoption: see any you like?

All in all, it's a very encouraging model for how communities can help save old landmark buildings that need a new lease on life and a new mission for the 21st century.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Cosmosphere Space Museum

When you visit the Cosmosphere Space Museum, viewing the many diverse exhibits on early rocketry, the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, the Space Shuttle and other programs in other countries, you may think you're not in Kansas anymore. 


But you will indeed be in Kansas, because the museum, a fascinating walk through the history of the world's space programs, is located next to the community college in Hutchinson, Kansas. Click on the images to make them larger.



A visit to the museum is definitely a learning experience, I know this because as I was reading the informational displays on the exhibits, I kept saying aloud, "I didn't know that." The research and the presentation of the displays are incredible, not always reinforcing what we were taught in school history classes or even movies and documentaries about the American space program. 


The first two things you see when you walk in the front door are a full-size replica of the Endeavor space shuttle and an actual SR-71A Blackbird stealth aircraft, hanging from the ceiling (with some ground support). The impact of seeing this is not subtle. There is also a NASA T-38 Talon jet aircraft up there, but it's small compared to the other two. 



 The museum offers a variety of paintings and works of art to accompany the theme of the museum, with most of them spotlighting the international contributions to space flight. 



But the exhibits also spotlight the many achievements of individuals who made it all happen. 



The largest number of items on exhibit are just "things" with buttons and switches and lights and, while no doubt they played an important part in the space program, it is not immediately obvious what they are and what they did. Even after reading the detailed explanation on the nearby signage, you nod in appreciation of how important they were, but you still don't know what they are or what they did. 




The cockpit instrument panel of a SR-71 Blackbird.

The exhibits start off telling about the early "rocketing enthusiasts" of Germany who, when World War II broke out, became very important to the development of the V-1 and V-2 ballistic missiles which Hitler used to great advantage in his war with Britain. 

Once the Allies figured out what he was up to, huge bombing runs over Germany sought to disrupt and destroy the development and production of the V-2 rockets. 


Special displays tell of Werner Von Braun and how distraught he was to work with the Nazi's in the development and use of the V-2 rockets. As the war was drawing to a close and the Allies were storming into Germany, Von Braun and his team of key rocket scientists and engineers came out of their secret hiding place and surrendered to American troops.


And suddenly, the war ended.


The German scientists were taken to the United States and began working for the American rocket program, which eventually became NASA. Working with American engineers and technology developers, Von Braun and his fellow rocket scientists were responsible for many of the early U.S. space program successes.  

The Russians became extremely angry that the German scientists surrendered to American troops instead of their own troops, and felt that the United States had "stolen" the rocket design and building experts from them. While the Soviets captured all the rocket production facilities and many of the remaining rocket production crews, they felt cheated by not gaining access to many of the design blueprints and production documents. It became tense, and that feeling lasted for decades. 


American rocket development accelerated at a rapid pace, aided by a "rocket sled" and other human tolerance testing equipment (see above photo) that sought to determine how many G-forces a human being could withstand. There were test flights, spinning gravity simulators, and all kinds of other experiments, getting folks ready for "faster than sound" flight. 

And then along came Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on October 4, 1957,  scaring the wits off of complacent Americans who were a little nervous when they could look up in the American sky and see a Soviet satellite passing overhead. Things became to really heat up after that. 



The exhibits then branch out into the actual space programs, the first astronauts, the first cosmonauts, the successes, the failures, the hopes and dreams, and then the statement by President John Kennedy that Americans would land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's. That was quite an ambitious challenge, given the status of the design, building and testing of components at that point.


 The museum features room after room after room filled with exhibits that are actual hardware, space suits, space capsules, gear and various kinds of equipment, all explained in great detail. One exhibit is an actual "clean room" where astronauts were able to climb into the capsules atop massive rockets that would blast them into space. The "white rooms" were attached to huge launch gantries and provided a bridge from the elevators to the capsule. Another exhibit is an actual Apollo capsule.

And, of course, we all remember this piece of hardware, the "Eagle."


 Probably a replica since the bottom part is still on the moon somewhere. 



 As well as a replica of the famous "moon buggy," also still on the moon somewhere. It kind of reminds me of the foot-powered car that Fred Flintstone drove around in. 

  The "Space Photography" exhibit explained the various cameras, the different sizes of negative formats, and the other specialized equipment used to take pictures on the moon missions and orbital adventures.





 Every space museum has some kind of international space station toilet exhibit. 





Fashions worn by International Space Station occupants

A large scale model of the Space Station itself


At the end of the tour comes a room filled with exhibits of the work being done by "private space exploration companies," Spaceship 1, and other efforts by private corporations. 


Overall, the Cosmosphere is a great experience. There's a lot to read, a lot to think about after reading, and a diverse collection of hardware, big and small. Here are some additional pictures. 





For more information about the museum, visit its website at Cosmo.org. And when you are finished visiting the Space Museum, you can drive several blocks over to the underground salt mine tourist attraction where you are lowered some 600 feet into the earth to see where salt comes from. That's pretty deep.