Tag Archives: art deco buildings

A Short Time-Out in Charleston WV


My daughter, Elena, had a wedding to attend in West Virginia last week-end and I invited myself to go along for the ride. Elena and her friend, Megan, left me at Reservations to join 20 other Delta Gamma sorority sisters to start the festivities. I looked forward to taking photographs around Charleston, a town I had never visited.

I asked the young woman at the front desk if she could recommend places in town that I might like to photograph. She very obligingly took out a map, came around to my side of the desk and began circling and talking about areas and attractions. I anticipated a long afternoon of strolling and stopping and wanted to “travel light”, one camera and one lens. Do other photographers have trouble deciding what lenses to carry?

I set out on this walk the way I usually do – with a destination in mind. Today’s goal was an independent bookshop called Taylor Bookstore.  The weather was perfect that afternoon so I decided to walk towards the bookstore by way of the Kanawha River  which runs through Charleston. There are two paths along the river, an upper (which borders the street) and a lower. Joggers, couples both young and old, children with and without parents, were enjoying the day along the river. The occasional boat passed by and frequently the train whistle sounded as trains pulled up at the train station across the river. During summer evenings along the river at Haddad Riverfront Park there are live performances that Charlestonians can enjoy while relaxing on the riverbank or on their own boats. I don’t know what the city of Charleston has planned for this area, but I liked that there were no stores or restaurants along the riverfront, competing for my attention. Without that distraction I could see better and think clearer.

While Kanawha River borders the south side of Kanawha Boulevard, several well preserved  art deco buildings line the north side. You can see images I took of these in my Urban Landscape Gallery.

At one point in my wanderings I turned a corner and came upon an early 20th century building with the words Kanawha County Public Library chiseled across the top. There is almost nothing I love more than an old public library. As I walked up the wide steps, I imagined the original wood floors and oak tables, wrought iron railings leading up to an open second floor and perhaps some well preserved WPA art on the walls. Opening the wide doors and stepping inside, my heart dropped. Various “updates”  or modernization over the years had removed any historically significant architectural details from the library reading room, a space that I can only describe as desultory. Most of the patrons seemed to have settled in for the day and could only be what I recognized as “homeless or near homeless” and the staff was lackluster. With keen disappointment I walked out.

I did finally arrive at Taylor Bookstore. I was not disappointed. There was an impressive selection of recent fiction and non-fiction, popular as well as literary and academic. The magazine section included mainstream and small press publications. There was a small gallery along the left side of the bookshop that displayed fine local craft work such as glassware, jewelry and paintings. Very pretty to look at but you could also purchase a piece if it appealed to you. To the right of the main section of the bookshop there was a small cafe where you could look through your purchases or meet with a friend while you enjoyed a latte or tea and a pastry. Truthfully, I could have spent the rest of the afternoon in that bookstore…I had reached my destination, after all. But my camera was tugging at me, telling me to finish that latte and apple pie and go take more pictures.

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