Saturday, October 31, 2015

Abandoned railroad depot, Lavrion, Greece

In the early 20th century, a narrow-gauge railroad (1-meter gauge?) ran from Kiffisia (a northern suburb of Athens, to Lavrion. At that time, Lavrion was a mining town on the east coast of the Attica Peninsula, a few miles south of Rafina and north of Cape Sunio. According to Wikipedia, the railroad opened in 1885 and was later extended to downtown Athens. Here is an 1888 photograph from Wikipedia Commons (in the common domain):
Today, Lavrion is no longer a mining town. It was rather rough for decades but has rebuilt itself into a popular yachting center with a clean and cheerful downtown.
A few weeks ago, I was driving on the coast road and saw this derelict railroad depot in the distance. Of course, it was too good to pass up.
It was just a simple little shed but had handsome stonework. It is architecturally similar to a railroad station in Markópoulo that I photographed in 2012.
Wow, great red plaster ceiling. Maybe the station master used the building as a disco.
Here is one of the diesel rail busses on a display in the main town. Pity it is deteriorating.
Lavrion was a mining town as long ago as the Classical Era. Athens' wealth was derived from the silver mined here by slaves. These old works are now part of the Lavrion Technological and Cultural Park, operated by the National Technical University of Athens.
Here is a coffee and pastry shop in another one of the railroad buildings in town. It's a nice way to reuse these sturdy old structures.

The 2015 photographs were taken with a Panasonic G3 camera with 12-32mm LUMIX lens, with raw files processed in PhotoNinja software.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

No more flights: Athens' abandoned Ellinikon International Airport

For six decades, the Ellinikon International Airport, located near of the seaside community of Glyfada, served as the main port of entry for international travelers visiting Athens and, typically, the rest of Greece. Years ago, one of the runways extended almost to the sea. As a child, I recall riding on Leoforos Poseidonos, and a stop light would halt all traffic. A big 4-engine propeller plane would lumber in over the Saronic Gulf with its landing gear almost grazing the fence line. Then the light would turn green and traffic could proceed.
Between 1945 and 1991, part of the airport site was occupied by a US Air Force base. I recall that when the base closed, many local restaurant operators and other merchants sorely missed the servicemen who had provided patronage for decades.
Now, when you drive in the access road to the old airport, the buildings are just sitting there with graffiti and bushes.
No Heineken here any more.
This was the building used for Olympic Airlines flights in the 1980s and 1990s. Another building was on this site in the 1950s, but I do not know when it was replaced by this homely concrete box. A newer international terminal was built on the east side of the airport, but it was a mess, with inefficient queues, inadequate restrooms, and poor air conditioning. Not much of a welcome to visitors who had spent a lot of money to fly here.
This is the former queue for taxis. I recall waiting in the blazing heat.
No more baggage here - maybe this could go in an airport museum.
This fence has been erected since some other photographers visited the site. So someone is trying to maintain some security.
I could not find a way to get out to the tarmac, because there are some airplanes parked or abandoned there that I wanted to see.
Some space is in use. Is this an Olympic Airlines museum?
This is a family portrait, waiting at Ellinikon sometime in the early-1960s.
Boarding a TWA flight (do any of you readers remember TWA?) en route to Colombo, Ceylon. This is a Kodachrome slide taken with a Leica camera.

Wikipedia has a short article on Ellinikon Airport.

Friday, October 16, 2015

TB sanatorium, Parnitha, Athens, Greece

Mount Parnitha (in Greek, Πάρνηθα) is a mountain about 30 km north of downtown Athens. When I was a child, it was a common Sunday outing to drive up the winding mountain road to the upper reaches of Parnitha to play in the snow of just enjoy the dense forests. We always passed a hulking old hospital that my parents said was a former sanatorium. In the 1950s, the memory of tuberculosis (or TB) was still fresh in many people's minds. Before the era of antibiotics, a long rest in an environment with clean air was the only hope for TB sufferers (and even then, the recovery rate was low).
A hospital on Parnitha was first was built in 1912 to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis. The facility treated many prominent citizens of Athens over the years. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of doctors and the purported benefits of the fresh air in sanatoria, in the early 20th century, over 50 percent of patients died within five years. The first successful immunization against tuberculosis was based on attenuated bovine-strain tuberculosis, known as the bacille Calmette–Guérin (BCG). The BCG vaccine only received wide acceptance in USA and Europe after World War II. Thanks to public health initiatives, tuberculosis was largely eradicated from most Greece and the Parnitha hospital closed in the 1950s or early 1960s. The building at the site now is newer than 1912, I guess a reconstruction the 1950s.
Around 1965, the Greek National Tourist Organization bought the hospital and renovated it as part of the now-defunct Xenia hotel chain. What a disgusting concept: a TB hospital as a hotel? The Xenia hotels were a major infrastructure program in the 1950s and 1960s, when Greece wanted to enhance its tourist potential. After the devastating civil war that ended in 1949, Greece lay in ruins and only major cities had hotels. The Xenias were often built in beautiful locations near archaeological sites. Many were of post-war modernist architecture. But they were government-run, and by the 1970s (even the 1960s) were hopelessly outclassed by commercial hotels. I recall drafty, echoey entry halls, erratic hot water, and grim breakfasts that featured stale bread, Nescafe, and tang-like orange drink. According to Wikipedia, the Xenia program was terminated in 1983. Many of the concrete buildings have not aged well, and they often looked out of place in towns among classical stone buildings.
The intrepid visitor ascends the crumbling steps into what was once the main entry hall. Some of the carpet is still there. I processed these photographs in color to show the red and blue carpeting, probably not very elegant even in the 1960s.
I suppose in the past, the public rooms might have been reasonably cheerful on sunny days.
The hallways are long and gloomy, and the concrete and plaster is spalling and crumbling into powder.
Some of the graffiti is pretty imaginative and worth showing in color.
I did not see much furniture. Some bloggers have shown kitchen equipment, but I was hesitant to explore too deeply by myself. My nephew said drug activity happens there, but on the weekday that I visited, all I saw was some other photographers. Still, I decided to not venture alone into the dark cellar.
In 2007, a devastating fire burned a wide area around Parnitha. Rare Greek Fir and Aleppo Pine was destroyed. Since then, the fallen timber has been removed, leaving a wasteland of bare rock and thin soil. The forest will take decades or centuries to recover. The odd sculpture garden used fire-damaged tree trunks. The lower photograph shows the Regency Casino Mount Parnes, minus the once-beautiful forest. The casino and hotel have a cable car, but the site is so remote from Athens, I am surprised it can remain in business.

Click the links for a couple of other articles on the TB sanatorium:

The Greek Reporter

Deserted Places blog (from 2012)

PBS (Public Broadcast System) aired an excellent documentary in February, 2015, on tuberculosis in America, titled The Forgotten Plague. I recommend it highly.

Photographs taken with a Panasonic G3 digital camera, with RAW files processed in PhotoNinja. The map was drawn with ESRI ArcMap software.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Lower 9th Ward in Film - Katrina 10-year anniversary

This is the fifth is a series of posts about the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. The storm made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, with sustained winds of more than 125 mph. Because of a breach in the Industrial Canal, by 09:00 AM CDT, there was 6–8 feet of water in the Lower Ninth Ward. People had been warned to evacuate, but many did not heed the warnings or were unable to leave, requiring days of rescue efforts by the National Guard and Coast Guard.
The paint marks on the buildings show where a rescue team inspected the house and recorded what they found or did not find.
I took these photographs in October of 2006 in the Holy Cross area of the Lower Ninth Ward. The historic cottages had been flooded, but the water drained out and most looked like the were reasonably intact. Sheetrock had to be cut out, but the cypress boards were fine.
These photographs are scanned from Kodak B+W film, exposed in a Leica M3 rangefinder camera with 35mm and 50mm Summicron lenses. The B+W film scans well and is fine grain - I need to use the current equivalent film. I love film, especially black and white; it looks different than all-digital photographs.
By 2006, some residents had returned and a little activity was ongoing. I think the SnowBalls truck was operational.
Please click any of the photographs to enlarge them or use the search function to see earlier posts about Katrina damage.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hurricane Katrina 10-year anniversary - return to the Lower Ninth Ward

On the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this the fourth in a series of articles showing some of the damage in New Orleans. 
In December of 2006, I returned to New Orleans with some out-of-town visitors. I took them to the Lower Ninth Ward, whose damage and general state of abandonment was still a common topic in the news media at the time.
Derbigny Street was still a mess. We found an abandoned Juke Joint with pool table and cassette tapes still in place.
On Reynes Street, an abandoned restaurant had not been cleared out. It was sad - this was once someone's business, probably their dream of making a better life for themselves and their family.
A church on Forstall Street had a plea for restoration.
Further west, in the Upper Ninth Ward, a traditional New Orleans cottage on Chatres Street was in poor condition. The roof had lost many of its asbestos shingles. Many of these asbestos roofs were installed in the 1910s and 1920s because the tiles were fireproof and much safer than wood shingles.
The French Quarter, which had not flooded, had plenty of tourists, and the cottages were decorated for the Christmas season.
Lafayette Cemetery, in the Garden District, is the oldest of the seven municipal cemeteries in New Orleans. The cemetery was first surveyed in 1832 and laid out with two center aisles in a cruciform (cross) pattern. Save Our Cemeteries is an organization dedicated to preserving and documenting the history of New Orleans' historic cemeteries.

All photographs taken with a compact Sony DSC-W7 digital camera (a very competent 7 megapixel camera).