Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Brooklyn Army Terminal Building B

The Brooklyn Army Terminal complex was built in 1918 and was the largest military supply base in the United States through World War II. The US government sold the property to the city in 1981, and it has since been redeveloped for commercial use. The terminal was designed by Cass Gilbert—other famous Gilbert buildings include the Woolworth Building and the US Supreme Court—and building B was the largest individual building in the world when it was completed in 1919.

Building B was the last of the places I visited during Open House New York weekend (after the Marine Air Terminal and the Treasures in the Trash collection). The atrium in Building B is the showstopper—it was once used as a loading dock and train station, processing more than 37 million tons of military supplies in its lifetime. In addition to supplies, more than 3 million troops passed through the terminal, including Elvis Presley on his way to Germany in 1958.

The concrete, off-set loading docks are beautiful in their own utilitarian way, but the skylight (once paneled in glass but now open to the sky) makes the space feel really special. New York can feel overcrowded and squeezed for space, so it always amazes me to step into a place like the Brooklyn Army Terminal that feels completely different than any other place I've ever been. I love that a building built for a decidedly unglamorous purpose—as a working, military warehouse—can be fully functional as well as incredibly beautiful.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Salem Wax Museum

The Salem Wax Museum of Witches & Seafarers features 50 London-made wax figures depicting scenes from Salem's history, from the notorious 1692 witch hysteria to its days as a bustling seaport. When we visited Salem in October, we had to be choosy about which attractions we visited because the lines were prohibitively long, especially in the "Haunted Neighborhood." I had wanted to see the wax museum even if it has pretty terrible reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp—I've never met a creepy, dusty, glassy-eyed wax figure that I didn't love.

The Salem Wax Museum is full of figures that will make you look twice—crossed eyes, missing fingers and questionable wardrobe choices abound. The museum has been in operation for more than 20 years, and attractions like this just don't get made anymore. Wax museums feel so analog in our world of screens and graphics, but no amount of digital effects will ever be able to recreate the feeling you get standing before a dimly-lit scene set with life-size and life-like wax figures.

The line was long, but moved quickly and while I'm sure the other attractions are fun, I don't at all regret our choice. Our experience at the Salem Wax Museum was similar to the one we had at Niagra's Wax Museum of History—most people were not impressed, a bit confused and hurried through the exhibit, while I loved every weird minute of it.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bayside Cemetery: Fall

Ever since I went to Bayside Cemetery earlier this year, I've been thinking about going back. Bayside has fallen into disrepair throughout the years, and around Halloween someone actually broke into one of the mausoleums and stole remains—I promise it wasn't me. I first went in May of this year, and it was overgrown with grass and weeds. I remarked that I would love to see it in the fall, so I went on Sunday to fulfill that need.

I didn't realize just how different the cemetery looked in the fall vs. in the spring, until I looked back at my photos from my first visit. Everything is covered in piles of yellow, orange and brown leaves—sometimes I found myself hopping from one fallen tombstone to another like they were paving stones. Bayside isn't totally abandoned (we saw grounds workers in May) and new security measures seem to be in place since the Halloween incident (new barbed wire along the fence and "No Trespassing" signs) but it's the closest I've seen to an "abandoned" cemetery within city limits.

Most cemeteries I visit have noticeable decay and even the most well-kept places can't avoid crumbling stones or the effects of weather, time and vandals. The most interesting thing about the condition of Bayside is the amount of stones that have been knocked clear off their bases. Most of these stones are enormous—I can't imagine the noise they must make when they take their final fall.

  I was surprised to see at least two fresh burials from September of this year, so maybe Bayside is finally getting the attention it hasn't had in the recent past. As thrilled as I was to be traipsing through rows of tightly packed tombstones and piles of leaves, I couldn't help but already start to look forward to revisiting Bayside in the snow.