Wheaton, Gloucester City, & the Divine Lorraine

by chrisgiuliano

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North Broad St

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"No Need For a Leader" - Unknown Mortal OrchestraThis is my latest hodgepodge of photos, from generally all over the place. I’ve combined some Stephen Shore-esque shots of old cars in motel parking lots and intersection in small towns in South Jersey with a few shots I took in Philly of more old cars, the Divine Lorraine Hotel, sunsets, and subways. Attached for music is a new personal favorite “No Need For a Leader” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

I’ve been trying to get out more in South Jersey, which is where I grew up. As I mentioned, I’m a huge fan of Stephen Shore’s photographs from across America in the 1970’s (he’s generally known as a pioneer of the new topographics movement) and since I started seriously looking at his work, I’ve subconsciously been emulating it. I think the first photo of the car in front of the motel is the most Shore-esque photo from this set, although the photos from Gloucester of the Walt Whitman Bridge are pretty comparable. They’re both supposed to represent parts of the American landscape that often get left behind and passed by on the highways that crisscross the nation. The Motel picture is off of Rt. 30 in South Jersey, which can be easily bypassed on the way to the shore via the Atlantic City Expressway. It was taken in Atco, New Jersey, generally a town that seems stuck in time, with dive bars, motels, and auto shops lining the main drag of Rt. 30 that runs through it. Likewise, Gloucester City is the small, 11,000 person town that lies at the southern edge of the Walt Whitman bridge. I’ve passed over a million times, but again, it’s one of the cities that became difficult to access after highways were built over top of and around it. In order to actually get into Gloucester City from the Walt Whitman, one has to drive around a series of local roads and then approach the city from its southern edge, while the bridge soars over the town’s northern edge, making about a 15 minute drive into town from the bridge that goes straight over its main street. Probably something Walt Whitman would not have been proud of. Gloucester City is pretty cool once there, however. Still a thriving working class city, a rarity in the Mid-Atlantic region, Gloucester has local bars and restaurants, a working shipping dock, and local restaurants and ice creams joints lining its main streets. On the day I visited, block parties were being hosted, people were sitting on their porches, and little kids were playing in makeshift pools in the beds of pickup trucks. Gloucester City is one of the more common places that became, with the building of the interstate highways, an uncommon place.

In the same vein, there are also some photos of the abandoned Wheaton Plastics Factory which sits hulking over a lake in Weymouth, New Jersey, deep in the reaches of the woods off the jersey shore. Another town that is easily forgotten because of the building of the Garden State Parkway, Weymouth and neighboring Mays Landing are interesting places that seem to have been left behind. Plans were in place around 2006 to convert the factory complex into apartments, but a fire burned down about half the complex, leaving only the buildings pictured above. They still stand proud and tall, stubbornly decaying into the surrounding landscape. I hope to get back here sometime this summer to get some better photos of the Wheaton Complex.

Finally, some photos from Philadelphia. These last shots are of the Divine Lorraine, one amazing sunset, and a SEPTA Market-Frankford Line subway car. The most interesting thing here is the Divine Lorraine, which is under development by Eric Blumenfeld, Broad Street’s most prominent developer. It’s currently abandoned, as it has been for some time, and the plan is to convert it to apartments, with plans by another developer to build a grocery store, retail and apartment complex on the lot next door. As an urban studies major who follows development in Philly, the development of this lot is huge. The Divine Lorraine is one of the key parts of opening up the development and re-population of North Philly, a region of the city that has long seen disinvestment and population decline. If anybody can do it, it seems, it would be Blumenfeld, who built both 777 South Broad and Southstar Lofts, as well as a number of properties of North Broad St. With easy access to one of two subway lines in Philly, the Divine Lorraine is located close to Temple and Center City, and offers easy access to either via the subway. Philly is finally doing good enough for this kind of project to be viable, as it would have been impossible just ten years ago when there was no faith in the Philly real estate market and the building boom around Temple had been merely a pipe dream. I’m excited to see this building get developed, I just hope it happens relatively soon, since market down cycles have killed proposals here before. My fingers will be crossed.

I have a roll of film from NYC that I shot two weeks ago and a roll from Washington DC where I just visited this weekend that I need to get developed, which I should have soon. Then, this weekend, I’ll be shooting in Philly at the Reading Viaduct for Friends of the Rail Park, which I’m really excited about, so stay tuned for a lot of photos coming up soon. I just have to find a lab near Philly to get my film developed, as I’m a little too far from my favorite lab in South Jersey to get my shots developed there. Once that happens, I’ll have a ton of photos, and probably equally long descriptions to go with them. Hope you enjoyed these, and until next time…

Chris

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