Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Fourth of July -- Main Street, USA

Saratoga Springs, New York -- June 25, 2006


What is it about "Main Street" in a small American town, it's grand Victorian-era buildings draped in bunting, that says "it's the Fourth of July in the good old U.S. of A"? This image is such an ingrained cliche that Walt Disney, the master of the obviousl-evocative image, turned it into the entry-walkway-cum-shopping-mall of his theme parks.

Maybe it's because so many of these Main Streets, in Anytown, USA, were built around 1876, when our nation celebrated its Centennial. I have the distinct (though vaguely informed) impression the Centennial celebration was grand.

Today is the 230th anniversary of Declaration of Independence, which also happens to be the 30th anniversary of the Bicentennial celebration. You may recall what an incredible dud that was. Except for the "tall ships" sailing into a couple of east coast ports, the celebration wasn't worthy of a great nation. (It was a good deal less than the excitement over the more-or-less meaningless millenium, for example.)

In Washington, D.C., our nation's capital for god's sake, the splashiest bicentennial attraction was the ill-conceived idea of gutting DC's Union Station and converting it into a huge standing-only theatre for the screening of a cheesy 15-minute film. The conversion was (fittingly perhpas) over budget and behind schedule, and right after the Bicentennial, the decisionmakers thought better of it, dismantled the theatre, and launched the 12-year construction project that converted Union Station into the well-appointed transportation hub it is today.

1976 was not a fortuitous year for a national celebration. At the tail end of the Vietnam and Watergate eras, in the midst of the energy crisis and the great fiscal crisis of our major cities, on the eve of disco, it was something of a low point in national self esteem. It was certainly a time when public works projects were heavily stinted. Thus, as a matter of available fisc and public taste, the Bicentennial could hardly help being cheesy.

I hope that our nation has a fitting celebration of its Tricentennial. I hope that in 2076 it is proud and free, that it has led the world in solving the now-looming environmental crisis, and that its democratic institutions have spread elsewhere in the world by example rather than by force. Meanwhile, here are some nice pictures on and around Main Street -- actually Broadway -- in Saratoga Springs.


Above: patriotic bunting, Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Below: Victorian storefronts.

DSCN8810 DSCN8800

Adelphi Hotel, Broadway, Saratoga Springs.

DSCN8815 DSCN8804

Above: City Hall. Below: The Algonquin.

DSCN8807 DSCN8808

DSCN8792 DSCN8824
What could be more patriotic than small town law practice? Left: "Robert L. Katzman,
Attorney at Law." Right: Chambers of the county judge, Frank B. Williams --
two windows right of the flag, one storey above the toy store "G. Willikers."

They should bottle that stuff. Saratoga's hot springs are free to the public via several drinking fountains in Congress Park. Salty, but interesting.


DSCN8853 DSCN8873


Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]