Monday, March 3, 2008
Decay in Donora and beyond
While walking around Donora today, through its seemingly endless blight, I came upon yellow tape strung around a sidewalk and a small pile of bricks that had fallen from a building.
The mess was beside a once-busy Ackerman’s newsstand where I used to buy penny candy as a kid in the 1960s when the Pennsylvania borough still held onto a few hundred steel jobs.
In recent weeks, water seeped through the roof only to freeze and then thaw in today’s warm weather, stretching the wall enough to peel off yellow bricks below the roof line and send them to the street.
A few blocks away sits a closed hardware store with a storefront window showing a dead sparrow that has been turning into a skeleton before my eyes over the past four years. Two years ago, the brick façade on that abandoned building fell onto the street, burying a car parked along McKean Avenue, the main drag through the borough. This is the legacy of the steel industry that all but walked away from the Ohio River Valley in Southwestern Pennsylvania between 1960 and the mid 1980s.
Later I opened my e-mail, only to find a letter from a stranger, Sean Posey, a journalism student at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He wanted me to take a look at a slideshow he put together of Youngstown, Ohio, a former steel town where he grew up about an hour’s drive west of Pittsburgh.
It’s one more reminder of the vastness of America’s Rust Belt that inspires photographers to capture the severe problems our nation faces in its faded industrial heartland.