Monday, June 26, 2017

Sunset on the Mississippi

And just to please you with some more sugarcandy: here is the beautiful sunset over Louisiana which lies on the other side of the river.

I experienced this event in Natchez Under-the-Hill. The city itself is situated on the bluffs thus lying high above the river – with an excellent view. However, in the times of boat and steamboat traffic the town was situated directly on the river, therefore: under the hill.

This district became neglected with the arrival of railroad traffic. It became completely obsolete and ruinous when the ferry service to the other side was discontinued after the bridge was built in 1940.

However, today all the houses are bars and restaurants where the locals as well as tourists enjoy their Sunday evening.

Cotton Kingdom II

Thanks to the visitors' bureau multiple walking tours are offered and the well-disposed tourist may choose from a variety that caters to everyone's interests.

After I overdosed with the beautiful antebellum houses I decided to switch to another tour, the St. Catherine Street Trail, that takes the urban wayfarer to the backside of the town in the direction of the slave market. The riches of the people who lived in the nice houses close to the river were produced by the ancestors of the people who lived here before and who live here now. Here we find not only the rich history of slaves and former slaves, but that of free people of color, of mixed marriages that were not allowed but happened anyway, and of houses given to the dark-skinned offspring of white fathers. And of the Civil Rights Movement in Natchez and related events. Apart from that we find gas stations and pawn shops, churches and a women's hall of fame, small cabins and tract houses, and very friendly people who wave at the foreign tourist who is the only one walking in the area.

The path was packed with information boards – it seemed as if there was one in front of every other house – that I did not stop to read them all. I just gained an impression of the location and of the events unfolding throughout history.

The Forks of the Road is the end of the trail. Beyond there are no sidewalks.

Cotton Kingdom I

On a brief side trip into the time of cotton I am on my way to one of the few operating cotton plantations in the South. Before going there I stopped in Natchez, a town in the State of Mississippi on the Mississippi River, which once was the capital of the Cotton Kingdom. It was here that large numbers of cotton bales were loaded on steamboats to be transported to New Orleans. "[T]he city's forty most prominent families […] included the largest and wealthiest cotton planters in the entire South and some of the biggest slave owners in the world."

Natchez already celebrated its tricentennial in 2016, it is two years older than New Orleans. The name stems from the Native American Natchez people that lived in the area before the French came. Similar to New Orleans Natchez was founded by the French and was later ceded to Spain, who later ceded it to Great Britain before it became an American city.

As the city became very rich through the cotton trade there are multitudinous antebellum structures that are just beautiful. In the quiet streets it smells of magnolia and other – to me unknown – flowers and blossoms. It is beautiful, but, I have to admit, I overdosed. It is as if eating cotton candy: it looks great, but the minute you take the first bite it is just too sweet and has a terrible structure.

So I almost welcomed the familiar sight of inner city areas destroyed by the need to create parking space and by the ignorance of the value of historical structures that plagued so many US cities in the 1950s and 60s.

And this is the oldest house that is still standing, it dates to the 18th century. King's Tavern was built before 1789 and served as a tavern, a stage stop, and a mail station at the end of the Natchez Trace.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Greensboro Hotel

In the summer of 1936, when James Agee and Walker Evans were working with the tenant farmers, Agee would sleep in one of the tenant houses. Walker Evans didn't like that, he would rather stay at the hotel in Greensboro.

I have no idea when it was built but I found an old picture online, showing that the structure had an elaborate balcony structure not only on the side facing main street but also running down the side along Market Street.

When Walker Evans was staying at the hotel, he took two pictures of Main Street, most likely from the balcony on the second floor. One to the East in the direction of the courthouse:

Walker Evans: Greensboro, Alabama. Main street buildings and county
courthouse cupola, courtesy

Most of the buildings on this picture are still there today.

And one to the West:

Walker Evans: County seat of Hale County, Alabama, courtesy:
It took me a while to find out which buildings I see on this picture: It was the use of a long telephoto lens that is confusing. The balcony on the left side of the picture belongs to the Greensboro Opera House (the brick building on the very right on my picture below). Therefore Evans must have stood way on the left corner of the hotel's balcony to photograph this picture.

Today the Greensboro Hotel is not a hotel anymore. After closing down as a hotel the building hosted a sewing factory as well as church congregations before it was left to become quite ruinous.

A while ago the building was purchased by a donor and given to the charity organization of Project Horseshoe Farm which is offering multiple programs to strengthen the community. 

The ground floor is almost finished, therefore the move from another structure on Main Street is about to happen soon. 

The second floor is already being worked on, and the third floor, which will offer housing to volunteers and fellows, will still need some time to be finished.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Camellia Court

Camellia Court is again one of the old antebellum structures in Greensboro, Alabama. I am very happy that this will be my home for three weeks and that I will inhabit the entire house by myself. Camellia Court was built around 1835 and has been renovated to comprise open spaces on both floors. Only the bathrooms have doors.

Camellia Court is named after  what was to become the Alabama state flower in 1959, Camellia japonica, a plant introduced to Alabama from Asia. I think it was part of 19th century exoticism that people would plant this in their yards. As a state flower the camellia dethroned the local goldenrod as – according to the narrative – the state deserved something more refined than this ubiquitous wild flower. Of course there are camellias in the garden, but as they are also called the rose of winter I found only a few withered blossoms.

the side of the house

the front porch

The house is hiding behind bushes and big trees from the street, thus it feels really remote, even though it is situated just behind the court house one block off of Main Street. From the front windows I can see my last residence, the Poellnitz-Vick House.

The two story house has an open kitchen and living room downstairs and a bedroom, desk, and sofa plus TV screen upstairs. As always I like to sit in the kitchen, thus slowly I have been moving most of my work downstairs.

The kitchen has a large door and a small porch facing the garden. Just now the door is open and I hear the rain (tropical storm Cindy is sending epic masses of water from the Caribbean pouring down on Alabama) but also the crickets which tend to be really loud at the time of sunset.


Pam, the owner, has left a few walls in the old state, which adds a nice vintage feel. And the old wooden floor is just amazing.

Something that one may find odd at the beginning is taking a shower with a free view on the garden. But as there are thick greens barring the view to the next door neighbors this is a nice way to start the day.