I recently took this picture on a drive from Milford, PA to Edison, NJ along Rte 206.
This is one of the things that fascinates me so much about American cities, those little towns that only have one or two small buildings, or even a little tiny downtown.
A one-building town provokes all sorts of questions –
When was it built? What made them create a high rise? What made them stop? Why did they not become NYC? Did the economy turn bad? Or was one high-rise all they ever wanted, just to add some apartments for the people who wanted to feel like they were making progress?
There is something lonely and beautiful about the “single high-rise”, or the “little downtown” of some American towns. We all know that. So did Edward Hopper
Hopper’s empty downtown was created by the Depression, in 1930. Today we have downtowns from that era which have just never been gentrified. They might contain an outdated pharmacy, a bail bonds, a 99 cent store. Here on the East Coast the forgotten downtowns turn into ghetto or they turn Hispanic. I don’t know what they become in other places, like the midwest or the south.
There are also downtowns which were abandoned a second time – gentrified in the 1990’s and made into “designer Main St.” with coffee shops and sports stores and trendy stores, only to be abandoned again because now people want to buy cheaper clothing at TJ Maxx and the pull to Target and Walmart is just too strong.
I won’t say I like downtowns best when they are in decay. I don’t really like them best when they are totally gentrified either. But it’s the empty old downtowns are the ones that I enjoy photographing and looking at the most, and decay just seems to be their destiny.