Monday, May 25, 2009


The Yuma State Teritorial Prison was opened July 1, 1876 and housed inmates for 33 years until it became overcrowded. It was closed and used briefly as a high school from 1910 to 1914 and is why Yuma High's football team's name became the Criminals. Later abandoned, it was used in the 1930's by itinerants as housing. There is graffiti scratched on the walls of some cells. Names of complete family members are found in in one. The prison is now a state park and museum. I visited there a while back and took a photo of number 2500's picture to draw. The original shows him holding a specially designed mirror that fits on his shoulder to give a side view. A clever idea because the negatives were probably glass plates and expensive. I'm not sure what type of miscreant he was. I assume he was a robber since most of the 3069 inmates that stayed there over the years were. I also don't know why they displayed his photo. There wasn't any caption about him. Maybe the warden gave out prizes when they hit 2500.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Aged Buildings

The Portland Benson Hotel is one of those old buildings I love so well. It was built by Simon Benson, a lumber barron, at a cost of one million dollars. Then, a tidy sum and indicates it's grand opulence for the time. It was opened in 1913. Done in the Arts and Crafts style, it has marble and wood paneling all throughout the lobby; a very stately old gentlemanly building.

The photo shows the stairwell also done in marble with polished bannisters. It was taken on the ninth floor and shows the type of things I look for in old places. Stairwells are where I like to go just to experience the spaces and angles the steps and rails create. Every turn gives another graphic view.

My wife and I stayed in the Benson for two nights over a couple of Christmas holiday seasons. We chose from the least expensive suites. They are nicely furnished and upgraded to current standards except for the windows. A single paned glass is held in with putty, standard building practice for the era when they were put in place. We had a cold breeze from one once where the putty had pulled away from the window. It wasn't a problem. The individuality of the old place made it fun. We enjoyed ourselves.

We also lived in an old house built about the same time, 1910 to be exact. We were there for three years. It was originally the home of Malcom MacDonald, co-owner of the Oregon Nursery Company, ORENCO. Another Arts and Crafts style home or perhaps I should say mansion. It has eight thousand square feet of floor space. It was to be demolished but was converted to a home for unsuported young pregnant women and is leased from the Elks who are the landlords. The organization we worked for is still using it.

Built when heating was done with fireplaces, the walls had no insulation and windows were once again single paned. Winters there reminded me of Shackleton's antarctic expedition. It felt like a wooden ship stuck in the ice. I would often think of the person who invented the electric blanket. I had very warm feelings for him.

It was a great experience to be there, but I'm done living in old buildings. I now just like to visit.

Saturday, May 9, 2009