Apr 042017

The Durham (Omaha Union Station) at Twilight
Omaha Union Station at Twilight

On January 11, 2017, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior designated Omaha Union Station (listed on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1971) a National Historic Landmark. Which is kind of a big deal: only about 2,500 of the more than 85,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places are designated National Historic Landmarks.

I’ve shot this magnificent example of Art Deco architecture before, but wanted to highlight its new status with this post. Interior’s January designation noted that the Station “is one of the most distinctive and complete examples of Art Deco architecture in the nation . . . [and] outstandingly expresses the style’s innovative and diverse surface ornamentation inspired by the machine age.” That surface ornamentation includes the heroic female and male railroad worker bas-relief sculptures seen in the photos below (and close up here and here). The station’s great hall boasts a 60 foot high, sculpted plaster ceiling with gold and silver leaf trim, a terrazzo floor including marvelous starbust patterns, and impressive 13-foot tall chandeliers. See here for more on the station’s history and architecture.

Omaha Union Station (10th Street entrance façade)
Omaha Union Station (south entrance)

Designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood in 1929, Omaha Union Station opened in 1931. In addition to other rail stations and federal buildings such as the San Francisco Mint, Underwood is known for designing landmark lodges and hotels in many National Parks, including Yellowstone, Bryce, Grand Teton, and Yosemite (there the famous Ahwahnee Hotel, currently embroiled in a trademark dispute over rights to its name, but that’s another story).

mimic and pose

Blue Hour at the Durham (Union Station)

The designated landmark is actually the third Omaha Union Station at the site and replaced the second Union Station built adjacent to the historic 10th Street bridge in 1899. Omaha Burlington Station—first opened in 1898 across the rail yard from Union Station—also served passengers in the busy Omaha rail hub of the first half of the 20th Century, the fourth largest in the country. Union Station alone served about 10,000 passengers per day in the 1940s. Passenger rail service declined drastically starting in the mid-1950s, and both Omaha Union Station and Burlington Station closed in the early 1970s when a new Amtrak station opened nearby.

Donated by Union Pacific to the City of Omaha, Union Station now houses the Durham Museum. As noted on the museum’s website, the Durham showcases everything from permanent exhibits highlighting the history of Omaha and its surrounding regions, to traveling exhibitions from the museum’s national partners including the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the Field Museum.


To Trains

Inside Omaha Union Station

Soda Fountain
Setting Sun Illuminates Union Station Lights and Flags_final
Setting Sun Illuminates Union Station Lights and Flags

A full set of two dozen photos of Omaha Union Station I’ve shot over the years may be seen here, on Flickr.


Mar 042017

the sun illuminates and the wind whips the flags_new final
the sun illuminates and the wind whips the flags

Some street and architecture photos from a President’s Day trip to New York, shot with the Olympus Pen F monochrome mode.  This set includes photos shot from three different walks, including to and from Penn Station to the West Village via the High Line, and another post-brunch, Sunday walk through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea.


The Dry Cleaning Company


Bond Paige & Lumas

Sun Dappled P. F. Collier & Son

I’ve also included a couple of iPhone photos from the train, looking toward a hazy Manhattan skyline from Queens. These turned out to be relatively striking shots, with the winter sun getting low in the sky.

hazy afternoon skyline

NYC Sykline from the Train

The High Line, which I’ve shot a couple of times before, is an urban greenway—-a former elevated freight rail line transformed into a park and trail that runs from the West Village and Meatpacking District through Chelsea, ending beyond Penn Station.


. . . Swift Completion of Their Appointed Rounds

MTA Rail YardGainsvort Constructionsez WiredHigh Line Cellist

empire state

The full set may be seen here, on Flickr.

Jan 192017

Setting Sun Illuminates Union Station Lights and Flags_final
Setting Sun Illuminates Union Station Lights and Flags

A few photos–shot as monochrome B&W with my Pen F–from a twilight walk down 10th Street while in my hometown of Omaha for the holidays. The walk started at the recently renovated Burlington Station and Omaha Union Station and continued down the 10th Street Viaduct toward the the Old Market.

I also shot a few color photos of Union Station, including this shot of the late afternoon sun illuminating the flags and Art Deco street lamps, as well as this sunset shot looking out over the Union Pacific yards and river into Iowa.  But most of the photos are of old warehouses under the 10th Street Viaduct over the rail yards by Union and Burlington Stations.  The warehouses, including the old Parlin Orendorff building, have all been renovated into residential lofts.

Butternut Coffee Building & 10th St Bridge in the Late Afternoon Sun_final

Parlin Orendorff Building & 10th St Viaduct in the Late Afternoon Sun

Old Market Lofts
Old Market Lofts

Ford's Warehouse No. 14 and couple on bridge with bouquet
Ford’s Warehouse No. 14 & Couple on Bridge with Bouquet

walkway connection

Walkway Connection

eleven lights and one flag
eleven lights and one flag

Dec 312016

joslyn art museum composition
Joslyn Composition

A few iPhone photos of Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha. The museum boasts a great permanent collection, and the Art Deco architecture is worth a visit alone. As wikipedia notes, the building, opened in 1931, is constructed of “Georgia Pink marble, with 38 different marbles from all over the world in the interior.” Some of that marble is seen in these shots, including the gorgeous fountain court.

joslyn fountain court
fountain court at Joslyn Art Museum2
Looking towards the Fountain Court at Joslyn Art Museum

Nov 222016

The Whole Point (Edward Brooke Courthouse)
The Whole Point (Edward Brooke Courthouse)

I spent a sunny Sunday photographing the Government Service Center and a couple of nearby buildings in Boston’s Government Center area. I previously posted photos from this session featuring Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist masterpiece, the Government Service Center. This post features shots of the surrounding area.

Boston City Hall, designed by architects Gerhard Kallmann and Michael McKinnell, is one of the best known examples of Brutalist architecture in the United States. Completed in 1968, the new City Hall replaced old City Hall, “one of the first buildings in the French Second Empire Style to be built-in the United States and now one of the few that survive” (which I featured in a recent post).

City Hall Shadows

And here are a few shots of the area around the Government Service Center, including the adjacent Edward Brooke Courthouse, designed in the late 1990s by the same firm that designed Boston City Hall more than thirty years earlier (now Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood).

walk up out of the shadows
walk up out of the shadows

Hurley Walkway and Courtyard

Staniford Twilight

The full set may be seen here, on Flickr.

Nov 192016

almost pueblo-like in the sun
almost pueblo-like in the sun

I spent a sunny Sunday photographing the Government Service Center and a couple of surrounding buildings in Boston’s Government Center area.  This post focuses on the Government Service Center. In part II, I’ll post some shots of the surrounding area.

Architect Paul Rudolph’s Government Service Center consists of two separate, but connected buildings: the Hurley Building and the Lindemann Mental Health Center. It’s the most misunderstood building in Boston. Many consider it (wrongly, IMHO) to be the ugliest building in Boston.

One of Rudolph’s masterpieces, Boston’s Government Services Center, with its distinctive “corduroy concrete,” ranks high among the best examples of Brutalist architecture in the United States (even eclipsing Boston City Hall). Designed and constructed a couple years after Rudolph’s Yale Art and Architecture Building tour de force, the Hurley/Lindemann building was never completed according to Rudolph’s original design and vision. Construction of this high rise portion was never realized.

Hurley Silhouette
Hurley Silhouette

Lindemann from the plaza
Lindemann from the Plaza

Unfortunately, the Government Service Center has suffered from years of neglect. The northern corner of the building has long been fronted by a hideous chain-link fence enclosing a make shift parking lot in place of the landscaped park in the original design. Within the past five years, many external stairways and other means of access to terraces and other intriguing spaces have been blocked, closed off by (more, ugly) chain-link fences. This wikipedia photo gives you a glimpse of one such unique area, as does this Droid Hot Spot commercial from 6 years ago, posted below. I’ve kicked myself for years not photographing Rudolph’s Government Service Center when access to all the external spaces and stairways was still open (and when deterioration of the buildings was a bit less pronounced).

Hurley Stairs and Columns

The FrogRudolph's Lindemann Facade
Rudolph’s Frog and the Lindemann Facade

Lindermann Mental Health Center StairsLindemann connects to Hurley

Lindemann Mental Health Center Stairs and the Lindemann Building Connects to Hurley

I’ve been defending Brutalist architecture for years, and attempting to convince fellow Bostonians of the importance and charms of Rudolph’s Government Services Center (typically to no avail). But, Brutalism is back, baby! Well, sorta. See this recent New York Times “Brutalism is Back” article, including:

Brutalism is undergoing something of a revival. Despite two generations of abuse (and perhaps a little because of it), an enthusiasm for Brutalist buildings beyond the febrile, narrow precincts of architecture criticism has begun to take hold. Preservationists clamor for their survival, historians laud their ethical origins and an independent public has found beauty in their rawness.

And a couple of years ago, the Boston Globe published this piece, The dream behind Boston’s forbidding Government Service Center including:

In recent years, appreciation for Rudolph’s work has rebounded, especially among young architects. His Yale building, after a fumbled reconstruction and decades of neglect, was magnificently restored in 2009. But his Government Service Center is now only a shadow of what he envisioned. The complex was conceived as a moving, celebratory place, but mistreatment has made it resemble a prison. Yards of wire fencing overzealously fence off walkway walls now deemed too low to protect pedestrians. Parked vehicles have eroded the surface of the beautiful plaza at Staniford and Merrimac.

See also this recent Guardian article Save Our Brutalist Masterpieces.

Hurley angle
Hurley Angle

Looking through Lindemann to Saltonstall and Ashburton

The full set may be seen here, on Flickr. More photos of the Government Service Center may be seen here in this Flickr set by Kelviin, who also administers the Art and Architecture of Paul Rudolph group on Flickr.


Nov 092016

Old City Hall
Old City Hall at Late Twilight

A few (hand-held) late twilight and night shots from my soon to be retired Olympus Pen E-P3 (in favor of a just purchased Pen F). A walk home through Downtown Boston and Back Bay, stopping by Old City Hall,”one of the first buildings in the French Second Empire Style to be built-in the United States and now one of the few that survive.” Among the several statues in the courtyard is one of Ben Franklin, pictured in the photo below. It was the first portrait statue in Boston. In May, high winds toppled the statue off its pedestal, but, luckily, Ben escaped the ordeal without damage (although the same could not be said for the sidewalk below).

Ben and the printing press monument in front of Old City HallBen Franklin statue and printing press monument in front of Old City Hall

Boston’s Architectural Heritage Foundation just announced that they are putting their lease on Old City Hall on the market. Although sale of the lease, which the AHF has held since Old City Hall was renovated following construction and opening of new City Hall in 1968, would need approval by the City of Boston’s Planning and Development Agency, AHF “plans to use the proceeds to finish improvements to the building’s courtyard and create a new loan fund for historic preservation.”

I also took a few night shots of the urban park on Saint James Street in the Back Bay with the lighted waterfall sculpture and Japanese paper flowers and fish art in the trees.

Japanese paper flowers and fish in the urban park on Saint James
Japanese paper flowers and fish in the urban park on Saint James

Lighted Waterfall Sculpture
Lighted Waterfall Sculpture

Japanese paper art on Saint James Street
Japanese paper art on Saint James Street

Oct 162016

Gallery Doorway
gallery doorway

A second set of shots, this time featuring only color photos, from a walk through Boston’s South End on a glorious October day with my soon to be retired, five+ year-old Olympus E-P3 (in favor of a recently ordered Pen F.) Part one, featuring only black and white photos, may be seen here.  The full set of photos may be seen here, on Flickr.


a charming South End cornera charming South End corner

And here is a selection of a few South End neighborhood favorites, featuring the petit robert bistro, the South End Buttery cafe and restaurant, and Cafe Madeleine, a French patisserie and cafe with the best Pain au Chocolat in Boston—conveniently located just a few blocks from my house.

petit robert bistropetit robert bistro

South End Butter in buttery late afternoon sunlight
Neighborhood gems Cafe Madeleine and (bathed in buttery sunlight) South End Buttery

Long shadows on Montgomery off Dartmouth
Long shadows on Montgomery Street

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAQuintessential South End

Villa Victoria Ramón Emeterio Betances Mural
Villa Victoria Ramón Emeterio Betances Mural

Oct 122016

Bacon's Building
Bacon’s Building in stark sunlight and shadow

I took a walk from one end of the South End to the other on a glorious October day with my soon to be retired, five+ year-old Olympus E-P3. This post–the first of two from that walk–focuses on points south of Tremont, including SOWA, and features monochrome shots (straight B&W). The late afternoon sun provided long shadows and stark contrast which look so good in black and white. There are also some sun-dappled shots of a deteriorated SOWA block with an old, one-story electrical shop, as well as a very cool building around the corner near Peters Park with large receiving and loading doors labeled “IN” and “OUT” in the masonry above.

500 Roman Trattoria
500 Roman Trattoria

Leon Electric
Leon Electric

On Harrison, the  IN  . . .  and  . . .  OUT  . . .

One Way
One Way
Sun on Ivy
Sun on Ivy

Oh, and I’m retiring the Olympus E-P3 in favor of a new, just ordered Olympus Pen F, an “impeccably beautiful shooting wonder” that “reinvents the rangefinder for m4/3,” which some have called “absolutely the most beautiful digital camera yet, trumping even what Leica can do” (no argument from me). I was afraid Olympus had abandoned the higher end Pen models and may not follow-up the E-P5, relegating the Pen line to the lower-end, fashionable E-PL line. I was hesitant to buy an Olympus OM model because I still use my Nikon DSLR (and myriad lenses) and want a slimmer alternative like the rangefinder-designed Pen cameras. So, I am thrilled that Olympus not only came out with a follow-up the E-P5, but took it up a notch and placed its high-end Pen camera alongside its OM cameras in terms of features and specs.  And having a camera that continues the Pen F legacy is a plus. Oh, and my Pen F was paid for, in large part, by some recent photo sales for a calendar. But that’s a post for next month. Cheers.

Sep 112016


Looking up inside the Oculus (while others look down)

A few photos from a trip to the 9/11 Memorial, the One World Trade Center tower, and the Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation hub. Although shot in late August, it is fitting that I’m posting these now, on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11.

Yellow Rose for Christine Lee Hanson

Fountain at Ground Zero

And here are some additional photos of the Oculus and surrounding buildings, including One World Trade Center:

Oculus and One World Trade Center
Oculus and One World Trade Center

Outside Oculus
Outside the Oculus

Oculus wrap
Oculus Wrap

Oculus curve
Oculus Curve

Designed by renown Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the Oculus and World Trade Center station took 12 years to build and $4 billion in public funds– the most expensive train center ever.

As the New York Times noted, “Calatrava’s original soaring spike design was scaled back because of security issues. In the name of security, Santiago Calatrava’s bird has grown a beak. Its ribs have doubled in number and its wings have lost their interstices of glass…. [T]he main transit hall, between Church and Greenwich Streets, will almost certainly lose some of its delicate quality, while gaining structural expressiveness. It may now evoke a slender stegosaurus more than it does a bird.”

The compromised design and enormous cost of the project led to an ongoing controversy, summarized by wikipedia, with a few quotes:

Steve Cuozzo of the New York Post described the station in 2014 as it was being built as “a self-indulgent monstrosity” and “a hideous waste of public money”. Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for The New York Times, referred to the structure as “a kitsch stegosaurus”. New York magazine referred to it in 2015 as it neared completion as a “Glorious Boondoggle.”

I more or less agree with the criticism, especially given the massive cost and fact that so much of the station interior is made up of high-end shops.  But is was fun to photograph.

9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial

The full set may be seen here, on Flickr