What is: The old steel mill wheel at the front of Tredegar iron works which is today the main visitor center for the Richmond National Battlefield Park and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.

What was: the iron works plant in Richmond opened in 1837 by a group of businessmen and industrialists who sought to capitalize on the Transportation Revolution. Tredegar operated on hydro power by harnessing the James River and the canal. The plant employed skilled domestic and foreign workers as well as slaves and free blacks. By 1860 it was the largest facility of its kind in the South – a contributing factor to the choice of Richmond as the capital of the confederacy.

It produced the steel for the first Confederate ironclad ship, as well as about half of the artillery production. It also manufactured steam locomotives, rail spikes and clamps. The iron works is one of the few Civil War era buildings that survived the burning of Richmond.

Tredegar began producing again by the end of 1865. By 1873 it employed 1,200 workers and was profitable business. The financial panic of 1873 hit the company hard and it did not make the transition to steel. The Tredegar company remained in business throughout the first half of the 20th century, and supplied requirements of the armed forces of the United States during World War I and World War II.

The company name Tredegar derives from the Welsh industrial town that supplied much of the company’s early workforce.

What is: Original Route 66, ghostly and abandoned Route 66 near Hext, OK.

What Was: Route 66 has been the path of migrants, dreamers, desperados, and an entire generation of vacationers discovering the way west. America’s Mother Road originally meandered more than 2,400 miles between Chicago and Los Angeles, including nearly 400 miles across Oklahoma. Route 66 through Oklahoma was also known as the Will Rodgers Highway, a tribute to stage, film and vaudeville actor, cowboy, humorist and social commentator of Cherokee descent.

Originally Hext grew as the railroad passed through on the way to Texas. A ranch and farm community, it only had a post office for a year in the early 1900s. As Route 66 came through it had a smattering of buildings and a gas station. Hext also featured a fairly large brick school that was built by the Work Progress Administration in the 1930’s.

Route 66 was never just one road. It was continually realigned through communities and upgraded from 2 to 4 lanes and from cement to asphalt. Route 66 came through Hext in 1929 after being upgraded in a realignment. This section of Route 66 was paved with asphalt over the original 1929 concrete base. In 1973, Route 66 through Hext became the last section of Route 66 to lose its designation to I-40.

What is: Closed Lunenburg High School.

What was: On this site The Lunenburg Training School was founded in 1920 with support from the Jeanes Fund. In 1924, Rosenwald Funds aided in the construction of a larger school and later a shop building. More than 370 “Rosenwalds,” as they are commonly known, were built in Virginia between 1917 and 1932. They supported educational opportunities for black youth living in segregated communities throughout the South. In 1949 Lunenburg County built a new brick building that became Lunenburg High School. After the county desegregated its schools in 1969, it became a junior high school. Source: https://www.kenbridgevictoriadispatch.com/2018/04/11/book-preserves-countys-educational-history/

 

What is: The Fork Union Drive In Theatre,  Route 612, Fork Union, VA,

What was: Frayser Francis “F.F.” White II opened the Fork Union Drive-In in 1953.  It was closed in 2013. This single screen drive-in has a capacity for 180 cars, making it Virginia’s smallest. This Drive In has traditional pole speakers and it was a classic drive-in located in a grass field.  (Source: Driveinmovie.com)

There are currently about 330 drive-in theaters that remain in operation in the United States compared to a peak of about 4,000 in the late 1950’s. In the 1980s there were fewer than 200 Drive-Ins operating in Canada and the United States.

Drive-in theatres were especially popular with the post WWII and baby boomer generation, especially in rural areas. Drive in theatres were affordable and attractive to families (older adults could see a movie while taking their children in the car with them. Some drive-ins even offered diaper vending machines). Eventually many Drive-Ins added mini golf and play areas for the children to further expand the family friendly night of entertainment. Drive-Ins were also an affordable date night.  By the 1950s those affordable date nights, combined with the privacy of the car, gave Drive-ins a new reputation — as passion pits.

For the owners of the Drive-Ins, the cost of building and maintaining a drive-in theater was cheaper than that of an in-door theater. The decline for Drive-Ins is often viewed through the lens of the emergence of color TV, cable TV and the advent of VCRs. Other factors include the 1970s gas crisis, inflation and increased real estate values, making the land less affordable for this kind of business.

 

What is: Cohasset Depot, is an unincorporated community in Fluvanna County, Virginia

What was: Cohasset became a community because of the Virginia Air Line Railway, with the train station being known as the Fork Union Depot. The station served the community of Cohasset itself which grew up around the depot soon after it was built – a general store and post office, four houses, a very early gas station, all of which still stand. Mrs. Lettie Dickey, who with her husband sold the land for the station to the railroad, had named the community Cohasset for her hometown in Massachusetts.

The train traveled from Strathmore Yard on the James River to Cohasset, Carysbrook, Palmyra, Troy and to Gordonsville or Charlotttesville. The railroad was completed and began operating in October 1908. This branch route was built to handle cargo that would have otherwise been too tall or wide to fit through the tunnels that crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains between Charlottesville and Waynesboro.

Coal destined for Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia was sent down the James River Line to the southern junction of the route at Strathmore Yard, near Bremo Bluff. The shipments then proceeded up the Virginia Air Line to the northern junction at Lindsay, and continued on to Gordonsville. The Fork Union Depot served as a typical small railroad station of its day. Much of the local commercial business was associated with the nearby sawmill, canning factory, and two small oil storage companies. The passengers came from the surrounding farms, small towns, and the Fork Union Military Academy. The train was the main transportation for Cadets attending nearby Fork Union Military Academy for many years.

The railway also became an important line of communication that connected the small communities along the route with larger cities, such as Washington, D.C. C&O began to operate the company directly in July 1909, and acquired it outright in July 1912. In 1927, dedicated passenger rail service was reduced to one train per day in each direction, and replaced by mixed (passenger and freight) trains in June 1932. Mixed trains stopped running in 1954. The growing adoption of automobiles, trucks and airplanes had been taking business away from railroads since the 1930s.

On October 26, 1971, the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors unsuccessfully sued the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad to keep the railway in operation; it was abandoned in November 1975. Source: Wikipedia

What is: Cotton Gin near Friars Point, Mississippi. Abandoned cotton gin between Clarksdale and Friars Point, MS.

What was: Founded in the 1830s and continuing to operate into the 20th century, the King and Anderson Plantation was an enormous spread of seventeen thousand acres just northwest of Clarksdale and reputed to be the largest family plantation in Mississippi. It was located near this Cotton Gin.

Originally, large plantations had their own private cotton gins. Over time, the increasing number of smaller farms, the emergence of sharecropping after the civil war and new technologies led to the rise of public gins. By the early twentieth century, large, public facilities that not only ginned cotton but also sold seeds to cottonseed oil firms, populated nearly every town and county in the state’s cotton belt.

In addition to the economic function, public gins served a social function. “Trips to the gin provided farmers living in the far reaches of Mississippi’s counties with breaks in the tedium and solitude of toiling on small, isolated farms. The same gins served black and white farmers, and gin operators made no efforts to serve whites before blacks. While waiting in line to gin their cotton, farmers of both races came together to discuss pests, weather patterns, and prices. As shared public spaces, therefore, gins offered brief respites from the stifling confines of Mississippi’s racial caste system.” Source: https://mississippiencyclopedia.org/entries/cotton-gins/.

What is: the railroad running through the abandoned rail yard towards the mountains.

What was: Transportation across Texas was originally hindered by impassable roads across large expanses of land often damaged by unpredictable weather. Shallow rivers and desert prohibited major water routes across the State. The railroad changed that. For about 160 years the trains have rolled across the large state of Texas. Freight trains, a mile and half long or more, roll right on by the small towns, around the mountains and pass through the countryside. The railroad was not just a path to economic development, but also settlement. The early steam locomotives needed water every thirty miles and so across great swaths of Texas, there was a small town every 30 miles. Wherever the train went, a community built up and commerce bloomed. Short lines connected to larger cities connecting people and commerce throughout the State. The longer rail lines went across the country and connected to both coasts and the midwest.

What is: Marathon Texas, The train doesnt stop anymore and the corral and cattle chute are empty. A dusty little ranch town is being turned into a new tourist destination.

What was: Marathon was founded after the Southern Pacific railroad came through Texas in 1882 after threats of Comanche and Apache attacks were squelched in the region. Marathon was a major shipping center for cattle. One rancher ran as many as 25,000 head of cattle in the open range around Marathon. The train also picked up silver, zinc and quicksilver. Around World War I it also had a processing plant for a desert shrub that was used to make rubber. The town had its own newspaper, a bank, several mercantile stores, and a bustling main street. Until recently Marathon was a string of empty storefronts with tumbleweed blowing across the highway and the trains passing through.

 

What is: Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas.  Abandoned and crumbling adobe and rock houses from the mining town of Terlingua, TX. Today official population 58, an artists community and Texas’ most visited ghost town. They say “Stop by, sip a cool drink, enjoy the shade of our front porch, and hang out. You’ll go home with some stories to tell.” Home of the national chili cookoff that draws thousands every year.

What was: In the mid 1800s cinnabar was discovered here. It is the key element from which metal mercury is extracted. For a period of time in the early 1900s it was the largest area producing mercury in the United States and the company installed a 20 ton Scott furnance to advance its industrialization and productivity . Prior to the use of vehicles in the early 1930s, mule-drawn wagon trains delivered the quicksilver to the railroad at Alpine, Texas. The Chisos Mining Company ran the “large general store, provided a company doctor, operated the post office, the Chisos Hotel, a commissary, erratic telephone service, dependable water service, and a school. Later, it would also operate a gasoline station, a theater, and a confectionary shop. Growing to a population of close to 2000 people. It was estimated that by 1934 the company had sold over $12 million in mercury and one employee claimed the company averaged daily profits of $2,000 during the early war years.” (source: legendsofamerica.comhttps://www.legendsofamerica.com/tx-terlingua/). It closed in 1945 after World War II.

What is: The Alamo Village, the remains of the movie set built for John Wayne’s “The Alamo,” then used in numerous other movies, documentaries, commercials and music videos, as well as a tourist attraction

What was: The set was built by James T. “Happy” Shahan of Brackettville, who in 1995 was named the “Father of the Texas movie industry.” Shahan began building the set on his ranch in September, 1957 for John Wayne, who had tried for years to make a movie about the Battle of the Alamo. As Wayne ran out of money and called a halt to construction, Shahan agreed to continue working while Wayne raised more money, if Wayne would agree to building full sets with four walls, floor and roofs, rather than simply facades. Wayne signed on to the deal. Filming began in August, 1959.

The town is a representation of the village of San Antonio de Béxar circa 1836. The building of the set required over 1.5 million adobe bricks (which were manufactured on site), 14 miles of gravel road and a 4,000-foot runway. The $12 million building program involved up to 400 workmen at one time. Artisans from Mexico made adobe bricks as they were made three centuries ago. More than a million bricks were used to construct 200,000 square feet of permanent buildings. The Alamo replica was based on careful research that included obtaining plans sent to Spain by the Catholic priests who built the mission. There were no “false front” streets. Electrical and telephone wiring was concealed in more than ten miles of underground casing.