The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for July 26th, 2022

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Tuesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The western edges of the Greater Pittsburgh Metropolitan area are found in states outside of Pennsylvania. In the north, Youngstown is carved into Ohio. Youngstown is in a grim condition, I tell you. You can tell that the citizenry used to experience better times there, but that those times were a very, very long time and multiple generations ago. I didn’t take a single photo in Youngstown since, also as mentioned, I was driving the car. Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself decided to cut our explorations short in Youngstown, and proceeded southwards through Ohio.

Along the way, at a bathroomivation stop, I cracked out the shot above. It depicts a coal fired power plant in Brilliant, Ohio – shooting toxic shit into the sky. It’s called the “Cardinal Power Plant,” and it produces 1.8 gigawatts of electricity. The owners are midstream, in terms of installing equipment to bring themselves in line with EPA standards for emissions, which is an investment that no longer makes any sense since an activist group of judges on the Supreme Court have yanked the rug out from under such regulation. Nothing is better for business than having politics swing like a pendulum every few years, ain’t it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The southwestern section of the Pittsburgh area we were exploring, and where these shots were gathered, is found in West Virginia’s Wheeling. Wheeling is about an hour’s drive from downtown Pittsburgh and about two hours from Youngstown, and we arrived there in the very late afternoon – probably a little bit after 5. Let me tell you something about the sun in this section of the country, lords and ladies… I now fully understand the Roman’s worship of Sol Invictus, or the conquering sun. Holy smokes, it was strong.

The good news is that the car was parked, and that there are a couple of pretty interesting things in Wheeling to point a lens at.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Boy oh boy, do I love learning new things.

Predicate: The National Road (aka the Cumberland Road) was the first highway built by the United States. 620 miles long, it starts at the Potomac River in Maryland’s Cumberland section, and ends at Vandalia in Illinois (about 60 miles northeast of St. Louis). The National Road was built between 1811 and 1837, and construction stopped when Congress ran out of money to fund it. The National Road is largely carried by Route 40 in modernity, and it touches or travels through Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

The border of Ohio and West Virginia in Wheeling is defined by the Ohio River, which provided an impediment to traffic on the National Road until 1849.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge was thereby erected in 1849 to carry the National Road, and although it’s been improved or reconstructed several times since, this crossing of the Ohio River is the oldest suspension bridge in the country. For a few years, it was the largest suspension bridge that America could boast about as well.

It’s currently closed to vehicular traffic, due to somebody trying to drive an overweight road bus over it a few years ago, and there was a construction project underway at the time I was there to gussy and shore up the roadway. Saying that, the pedestrian and bike paths on it were open. Apparently, the project to rebuild the thing is where Senator Manchin decided to spend his “Biden Bucks” after voting against the infrastructure bill a couple of years ago.

Pork is pork, even in a red state, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

West Virginia is one of our formerly “United” States which I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, so these photos mark a first for me personally. Wheeling is ancient, by American standards. It was quite an industrial power in the First Civil War era, situated neatly nearby several other large industrial cities in the region like Pittsburgh and Youngstown and Cleveland. Wheeling was called “Nail City” for a while, and there was a thriving series of mills which produced iron products like stoves, boiler plates, and – as the nickname would imply – nails. They were also quite a power in the Tobacco business. In 1899, Wheeling saw the emergence of the National Tube Company, which manufactured iron pipes for plumbing usage. Believe it or not, Wheeling used to be a hotbed of socialist labor movement activity.

Wheeling began to decline as a manufacturing town after the Great Depression. Its downtown area, where we were, hosts a series of delightful late 19th century buildings, many of which are unfortunately crumbling. We found a great Tacqueria in Wheeling, and got to interact with several of the locals. While I was outside shooting a photo, Our Lady of the Pentacle got to meet the Mayor of Wheeling at the Tacqueria, who was coincidentally picking up a dinner order.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mid span on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River, the 1955 vintage Fort Henry Bridge is observed. A “tied arch” bridge, it carries Interstate 70 over the Ohio River. Couldn’t help but crack out a couple of shots of the thing. I’m planning on spending some time in Wheeling in the future, I tell you.

More tomorrow from the great rusty unknown, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 26, 2022 at 11:00 am

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