Tag Archives: urban

The Mystery Man Who Spent 20 Years Photographing North American Buildings

10 Jul
Grand Forks, North Dakota, May 1990.

Grand Forks, North Dakota, May 1990.

In May of 1982, Barry Gfeller left his home in Camas, Washington,* got into his car, and began to drive.

His plan was similar to eight previous road trips he’d already taken, and 14 more he would embark on in the years to come: to photograph the streets and buildings of towns across the United States and Canada. For nearly two decades, Gfeller would periodically hit the road to continue what became a mammoth photographic survey. In May 1982 alone, he photographed over 200 towns, traveling as far north as Edmonton and as far east as Milwaukee. When Gfeller died in 1999, his collection—which he arranged alphabetically, stored in long wooden boxes—consisted of 50,000 prints and negatives.

“Ultimately, Gfeller drove over 100,000 miles across 44 states and six Canadian provinces between 1977 and 1996,” says Mike O’Neill, a political strategist who first learned about Gfeller in 2016. After Gfeller died, the collection made its way from his estate to a Canadian charity. Sixteen years later, the charity asked O’Neill to help find a buyer who could donate the work to a museum. They didn’t have to look far. Fascinated, O’Neill purchased the collection himself in 2017. He’s now begun to digitize the prints, and is searching for a long-term home for Gfeller’s archive.

So begins Anika Burgess’s fascinating post about Barry Gfeller the photographer. You may read the rest of story, with sample photographs, at Atlas Obscura here.

Gentrification and the Church: A Case

2 Jan

The skyline of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A few Sundays ago, at the first weekly service of New City Church in Minneapolis, the Bible wasn’t the only book Reverend Tyler Sit used to preach his sermon. The other text was How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood.

So begins a Pacific Standard story by Serena Solomon. You may read the rest of the story here.

International Church of Cannabis – Denver, Colorado

24 Jul

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Now Online

25 May

The Library of Congress has placed online nearly 25,000 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, which depict the structure and use of buildings in U.S. cities and towns. Maps will be added monthly until 2020, for a total of approximately 500,000.The online collection now features maps published prior to 1900.  The states available include Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Alaska is also online, with maps published through the early 1960s.  By 2020, all the states will be online, showing maps from the late 1880s through the early 1960s.

Source: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Now Online | Library of Congress

Centuries of New York History Prepare for a Move

6 Jan

An Immigrant Named Trump

1 Oct

A teen-ager from Germany arrived in New York in 1885 with high aspirations. His descendant is now vying for the Presidency. Historian Ted Widmer offers a fascinating account of the first American Trump(f) at the New Yorker: An Immigrant Named Trump – The New Yorker

The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

22 Mar

In 1919 a wave of molasses traveling at 35mph destroyed an entire Boston neighborhood. Find out about this strange disaster at Atlas Obscura: 100 Wonders: The Great Boston Molasses Flood | Atlas Obscura

Renewing Des Moines: How America’s Dullest City Got Cool

22 Jan

At Politico, historian Colin Woodard has a fascinating story of the recent renewal of the city of Des Moines. Read the entire story here: How America’s Dullest City Got Cool

My Dark California Dream

25 Oct

Our­ parents had wide open spaces all around. We still had nature within reach. Now what? So wonders Daniel Duane in an op-ed in the New York Times: My Dark California Dream – The New York Times

Religion in American History: A Bibliography of Urban American Religious History

20 Oct

Historians Paul Putz and Lincoln Mullen have created a useful digital map-bibliography of some of the important studies of religion in U.S. cities. (Alas, my articles and book ms. on San Francisco were not books, and hence did not make the cut.) You can find the explanation and links here: Religion in American History: A Bibliography of Urban American Religious History

Exploring the Past

Reading, Thinking, and Blogging about History

Enough Light

"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." - Blaise Pascal

Lenten Lamentations

Preparing to Participate in God's Mosaic Kingdom

The Text Message

Discoveries from processing and reference archivists on the job

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Wirelesshogan: Reflections from the Hogan

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

The Way of Improvement Leads Home

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

The Pietist Schoolman

The website and blog of historian Chris Gehrz

Reformed Journal: The Twelve

Reformed. Done Daily.


by Alex Scarfe


Thoughtful Conversation about the American West

Northwest History

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

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