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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

After my last trip to the Pittsburgh area, one of the places that really stuck out for me was the City of Wheeling in West Virginia. It’s another one of the so called “rust belt” cities, and is in the middle of trying to reinvent its downtown. It’s a small city, with about 27,000 people living in the city center, but with nearly 150,000 residents residing in the Greater Wheeling Metropolitan Area. The Ohio River defines not just one of its borders, but West Virginia’s border with the State of Ohio. Wheeling is about 60 miles west/southwest from Pittsburgh.

Pictured throughout this post in the 1849 vintage Wheeling Suspension Bridge.

Here’s a mega massive panorama of the Ohio River span, with the more modern Fort Henry Bridge visible in the background.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I find Wheeling very, very interesting – speaking from a photographic point of view. While we driving around, one of the destinations which I wanted to check out was a small overlook park found high above the city. That’s the Ohio River again on the right hand side. I plan on returning here in the future, and especially so during the cold months when the trees are less vivacious.

We had other destinations to visit, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Max had an interest in Pennsylvania’s Washington County. We drove there, and we were soon standing in front of the magnificent 1900 vintage Washington County Courthouse. This governmental facility is where the seat of Washington County is found.

Washington, PA. also hosts Washington and Jefferson College, and it used to be a “railroad city.” Then it was an “oil city.”

This municipality was at the very center of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1791-94 that challenged the authority of the newly minted Federal Government to tax its citizens. It got all the way up to President George Washington marching towards the rebels with 13,000 militia troops following him.

Shit get real when George Washington is coming at you with an army, yo. That’s what they say in Washington.

No, not really.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was pretty impressed by the grandiosity and obvious abundance of funding which were incorporated into this court house building. Surprisingly, while casting my research nets out, one of the little fishies that came back revealed that the Pittsburgh Railway Company operated an inter urban trolley service between 1909 and 1953 between Washington and Pittsburgh.

Another pretty interesting place, and not terribly far from Pittsburgh either. Western Pennsylvania is fascinating.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, the Washington County Seat is found here, and apparently there’s an architecturally noteworthy City Hall as well, quite nearby where I was standing. In one of the cardinal distances, pictured above, the spires of the Washington and Jefferson College campus rise above the town.

The other direction though…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something wicked this way comes, thought a humble narrator, and that we should start driving my pal Max’s Mercedes in the opposite direction of an oncoming thunderhead and back towards Pittsburgh with haste.

More! Next Week! 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

September 30, 2022 at 11:00 am

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Wednesday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few more shots from West Virginia’s Wheeling today, and offered above is one from the walkway of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, which is said to be the oldest bridge of this type still standing in the United States. Although I did offer a few observations in yesterday’s post which were colored by the political tides of the present day, that’s a subject which I assiduously avoided while “in country.”

Pepsi comes in a blue can, Coca Cola in a red one. Both are chemical concoctions that are really, really bad for your health and actually make you thirstier when you drink them. Water is clear, and when served icy cold, exactly what you need. Drink water to calm down, and avoid both red and blue talk – that’s my advice. Alternatively – take the Pepsi challenge or have a Coke and a smile and argue about which one “tastes great or is less filling” like a pack of lemmings while heading for a cliff.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were several utterly vacant buildings in Wheeling, including this old department store on Main Street. It was recently purchased by a church, I’m told. Apparently, a major project is underway in the City of Wheeling, revolving around the rejuvenation of the downtown area. Were Wheeling in NYC, I’d describe most of the downtown people I’d spoken to as being “hipsters.” Saying that, these were hipsters who owned houses and drove $50,000 trucks.

The sun was absolutely brutal on the day we were there, and the locals seemed to observe what Mediterranean communities call an “intermedio” during this hot part of the day – heading inside for a rest and a meal and then re-emerging after the heat and light subsided.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mad dogs and Englishmen, right? I’m crazy, and Our Lady is British, so…

I was nevertheless still marching around with the camera, capturing whatever glimpses of this little city that I could for the short interval I was there. Fascinating place, this is.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not sure what this building was originally purposed for. To me, it looks like there was a shop downstairs and warehouse space above. The windows on the street level had historic photos printed as posters displayed in them. The photos depicted street cars coming off of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, and offered a “once upon a time, long ago” narrative of a thriving industrial city.

The “Rust Belt,” that’s what this section of the United States is called. The decline in manufacturing activity in the Rust Belt is universally described as being caused by NYC’s Wall Street driving corporate consolidations and selling off the assets. 1980 is considered to be the year that this process really kicked into gear. If you want a primer on this process, watch Oliver Stone’s film “Wall Street.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing, politics wise, that I can report to you is that whereas in prior trips to this section of the country I observed a plethora of red MAGA hats, coupled with car flags and lawn signs advocating for the disgraced former standard bearer of the Republican Party, this time around there was barely a red baseball hat to be seen. I wasn’t in the so called “blue state” areas, either, rather I was often moving about in extremely politically “conservative” communities with agricultural based economies for much of the time. What does that mean? Who knows? Nothing matters, nobody cares – remember? Drink water instead of Coke or Pepsi.

On our return from Wheeling to Pittsburgh proper, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself checked into a different AirBNB than the one we had been staying in, this one was in the Bloomfield section. Bloomfield was apparently Pittsburgh’s Little Italy – back in the day. There was a definite “collegiate” feeling to the place, but that’s logical given the nearby Duquesne University and University of Pennsylvania (U Penn) campuses. This section of the City of Pittsburgh was quite “urban” as compared to the somewhat suburban vibe of Brookline, where our first rented room was located on the south side of the City.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that my personal frame of reference is NYC based, I pronounced Bloomfield as reminding me a great deal of North Brooklyn prior to the ignition of the gentrification furnaces. Brookline, on the other hand, reminded me a great deal of Brooklyn’s Midwood, or Queens’ Forest Hills. Monroeville and Crandberry Township were not unlike the Nassau County “Five Towns” area, Wheeling felt a great deal like Yonkers or Newark, and Youngstown was reminiscent of the borderlands between Mt. Vernon and the Northern Bronx or the Queens/Nassau County line nearby JFK Airport. Latrobe was eerily similar to the rural counties around Albany and southern Vermont, and both Butler and Bethel Park reminded me of Westchester County’s tony Katonah or Mahopac.

Distance means something very different in this part of the country than it does in NYC. The highway speed limits range between 55 and 70, and a web of high speed roads penetrate even into the city center. “Traffic” is not what a New Yorker would call the congestion encountered on these roads. A “traffic jam” moves along at about 30-40 mph. I was chatting with one of the “Yinzers” about this, and described a recent trip that My Pal Val and I made to get to Fresh Kills on Staten Island from Astoria (38 miles) as having taken nearly two hours to complete. I helped them gather their jaw up off of the bar.

“Yinzer” is Pittsburgh slang for a native of the area.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

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 27, 2022 at 11:00 am

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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.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

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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