Rust Belt

I love this old bridge across the Ohio river, though my mother says it’s the official Town Embarrassment. It was closed years ago (that gateway on the right used to frame a road that went right into the middle of town) but was never fully torn down due to lack of money for demolition, and it gets rustier and more decrepit with each year. I remember going over this bridge as a kid on our way to the circus in Wheeling or to the airport, a time when commercial flights still went into and out of there.

This used to be a thriving* coal mining town, even up until the late 1960’s, but now many of the buildings are empty, and the area is economically depressed. It’s too bad, as it’s beautiful country with rolling forested hills and farmlands. You still see some remnants of coal mining: the processing plants and coal barges that move up and down the river.

*”thriving,” if you don’t count environmental damage, black lung, and a higher-than-normal incidence of respiratory diseases and various cancers. The creeks and rivers used to run yellow from sulfur (a by-product of coal processing) which as kids we thought was really pretty, but it was also very unhealthy, and water from the well on my grandparents’ farm smelled like rotten eggs.

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  1. It’s a bridge that features its engineering in a Meccano-set way, none of the fancy “look-ma-no-hands” of more contemporary structures. That could be reassuring, but with all the rust now, I guess I’m glad I don’t have to cross it.
    And what a verdant countryside it rises above — nice photo.

  2. Ooh, mater, I like your new avatar!

    Yes, it always reminded me of an Erector set project. I remember looking up as we crossed the bridge at those orange ball spires on the tops.

    tessa – yes we were shocked to see a beautiful 4 bedroom, totally refurbished house in my aunt’s (nice) neighborhood selling for around $150K. The same house in our neighborhood in LA would probably go for over a mil.

  3. I saw a recent article in the NY Times about Buffalo, NY marketing itself to folks from NYC…precisely because for people who work out of the home(writers, artists, etc.), their housing dollar just goes intergalactic-ally farther in Buffalo(or actually almost any place in Upstate NY from Sullivan County on north and west). Location is everything.

  4. We were in Kansas last year and the amount of small towns that were “dying” was shocking to me. Gorgeous homes at rock bottom prices. Plenty of parks and yards. “Safe” streets for kids to ride bikes on… In So. Cal. we’re practically living on top of each other! And you can hardly let your children outside to play unless you watch them like a hawk!