Aug 24, 2014

Ghost Towns in Northern California

Last month, while camping with my family at Lake Davis, we took a day trip to two of the best ghost towns in Northern California, Walker Mine and Lucky S Mine.

First was Walker Mine. The drive was actually quite straightforward and the site safe and easily accessible, with a great view from the top. Directions (and some great historical photos) can be found here.

At the top of the hill is the entrance to the mine, complete with railcar lines, old railcars, and outbuldings.

One of the outbuildings was full of shallow boxes scattered about like the one pictured below.

It was only after we left that we realized that they were for rock samples like these I photographed.

Below the main buildings are other concrete structures that we assume were used to process the copper.

We had lots of fun wondering what these structures could've been used for, from a safe distance.

I was amazed at how the ruins had partially deteriorated and revealed hints about the construction, but still left us all guessing about the function.

For example, the walls of this overgrown structure were partially constructed out of random materials, hinting that perhaps they were building and growing so fast that they had to use scrap material instead of waiting for a shipment of new materials.

From there, we headed out for Lucky S Mine, unsure if we could even find it with the vague directions we had. But by using paper maps, cell phones, our car GPS, many hours driving down dirt roads, and sharp eyes, we finally found it! (Photo credit to my dad, below)
For most of the drive, all I saw out of my window was green and brown, trees and plants, the occasional cow. The only thing man-made was the trail itself and the occasional sign (usually just a logging trail marker). I'm searching the landscape as we reach the GPS coordinates, picturing some haunted strip of overgrown buildings, when suddenly, I saw something grey and angular, definitely not a tree - a roof.

There were two cabins and two outbuildings.

I was amazed, first of all, by the fact that there were such well-built buildings here in the middle of nowhere. Then, I was amazed by the craftsmanship of the buildings, which their abandoned deterioration only exemplified. The fallen ceiling beams made you more amazed that the roof was still standing.

While amazed with this mini neighborhood, our directions promised us at least 7 buildings, one of which a 3 story hotel, so we continued our search. We continued toward the GPS coordinates and found a shed labeled "Caution: Explosives" and a steep dead end road. We assumed that we were not going towards the town, if there even was a town, and turned around. Following a small road around the cabins we found earlier, we were suddenly greeted by 3 more buildings and a number of outbuildings.

And, yes, there was a 3 story hotel!

In addition to the buildings, there were artifacts everywhere, including furniture in the houses and hotel.
My favorite was a sled.

Sadly, many of the artifacts had been used as target practice over the years.

Next to the hotel was a slanting building we assumed was a saloon or kitchen/mess hall.

Towards the end of our time at the ghost town, a truck pulled up and its driver introduced himself as a member of the family who had just purchased the land the town sits on. He was very kind in answering our questions about the town and explaining that they intended to do their best to preserve this amazing little town for generations to come.

If walls could dream... they'd dream of outliving their residents.

Aug 11, 2014

Printing Models using Sketch Up

Playing with printing models straight from Sketch Up this morning. Here is my Frog House model.

The key is to select "Parallel Projection" under camera and then the view you would like before printing.

Then I simply cut out the printed walls and taped them together!

If walls could dream... they'd dream of printing house models!

Jul 22, 2014

Map of Architecture Colleges

As all "visual people" would know, the NAAB (National Architecture Accreditation Board) list of architecture colleges is not very helpful in understanding where these schools actually are, so I created this interactive Google Maps map of all of the accredited BArch programs in the US. Now we all can easily visualize the locations of the schools as well as start to learn about the climate and the town around them to help simplify our college search.

Jul 6, 2014

Frog House with Blue-Gray Kitchen

A few weeks ago I sketched the frog house, named for its modular and frog-shaped floorplan with a great room in the center and two bedroom "legs" off an L-shaped hall.

Then, I modeled the house in Home Designer. (And had lots of fun with the paint color!)

As you can see, the floorplan stayed largely the same with a few minor modifications in the bathrooms.

I chose to put the bathroom in the guest bedroom "leg" off the hall instead of off the bedroom. I took the design one "leap" further and separated the sink area from the rest of the bathroom.

I chose a bold color in the kitchen as well with blue-gray cabinets and white marble countertops/backsplash and a white island with butcherblock.

Spoiler alert: I'm also modeling this house in SketchUp to have more freedom with the sculptural design. Check back in soon to see the finished model!

If walls could dream... they'd dream of animal-inspired houses coming to life!

Jun 27, 2014

Old Town Sacramento Street Raising

Just blocks from the urban hustle and bustle of modern Sacramento, Old Town Sacramento seems to be frozen in time. Once you finally get a parking spot, you are enchanted by railroad cars, horse-drawn carriages, and, of course, beautiful brick buildings. And though it may seem like this is the original Sacramento, that is not the case. The original Sacramento is nine feet under ground.

At the start of the Gold Rush, Sam Brannan opened a store on the Sacramento River. This waterfront location was great for business, but prone to flooding. The settlement that grew around his store became Sacramento.

Without much lumber from trees, the gold rush town of Sacramento was built out of abandoned ships, like the Eagle Theatre building. The frame was made out of wood and the walls were made out of canvas from the sails. The entire town was built like this in the early days.

The town grew and more permanent buildings were constructed. However, flooding was a big problem. In January of 1862, a huge storm plunged all of California's Central Valley underwater. In 1862, you could sail from Sacramento to Bakersfield. However, this flood did create the rich farming soil the Central Valley is known for today as well as spur the town of Sacramento into action.

There were three camps of thought on how to save Sacramento: reroute the river, build a bigger levee, and raise the town. They all won in their own way. The river was rerouted with the help of some "volunteers" from the prison. The railroads built levees for Sacramento, with the condition that they could put their rail lines on top of them of course. But my personal favorite is the raising of the town. Hungry for more information about it, I went on the Historic Old Sacramento Underground Tour. And next time you're in Sacramento, I'd advise you do as well.

Following our time-period-accurately-dressed tour guide Rose, wearing our not-so-time-period-accurate-headsets so we could clearly hear what she said, we headed out on our tour. We went to two different basement areas where Rose described the businesses that were originally there and how the streets were actually raised. (Pictures weren't allowed underground, but you can find some in this document about the street raising project here
The basements had dirt floors with a wooden path to walk on and smelled very musty. You could hear the floors creak from people walking on the floor above you. It was very well maintained, though, and almost like a museum with photos and artifacts on display. The first underground space was the basement of B.F. Hastings & Co, which used to be a bank. The second space used to be three apartments.

A quick side note - ever wondered why some old buildings have giant metal shutters on their windows? Well according to my tour guide Rose, they were for if a fire were to come through town, you could lock yourself in your brick building and the fire couldn't get to you. Which was good because most of the fire escapes are made of wood like the one on the left so you couldn't get out during a fire anyways. Good thing you can stay out of the flames sealed up in your brick oven of a building!
When raising the streets, they started with the streets themselves, building brick walls where the sidewalk met the street on each side and filling the street area with dirt until it was level with the second floor of the buildings. The owners of the buildings then chose whether they wanted to rework their building so that the second floor was now the first floor and the first floor was now the basement, or raise their entire building to the new level of the street. Those who chose to raise their buildings hired a crew that used jacks to slowly lift the building up inch by inch, a process that took around 40 days.

The evidence of this process is all around town, if you know where to look.

This yellow three story building for example, sits next to a two story building. The two story building chose not to be raised. The three story building did. Which is evident when you look closely at its second floor windows...

...which aren't straight.

Or take, for example, this bricked-in doorway and window (the window is a little harder to see - it's behind the no parking pole) which are below the level of the street, indicating that the street had at one time been much lower.

The street raising project gave Old Town a very interesting horizon, both on the ground and against the sky.
All of the alleys curve downward in between streets,

and almost none of the buildings are the same height.

It even has submerged parking lots!

I love being able to look around and read a story from the buildings around me and the story of Old Town Sacramento was a particularly interesting one. While there have been many street raising projects all over the country (the one in Chicago has an amazing 99% Invisible episode about it) Sacramento is the only one in California.

If walls could dream... they'd dream of lifting entire towns inch by inch.

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