Cleveland’s Elizabeth Baptist Church: an historical essay

Introductory Notes

I wish I could deal ONLY with the joy of discovering history for this article, but will focus for a minute on advertisements herein (not a pleasant surprise) and a few basic technical nuts and bolts right here.

In an early reading of this article, I noticed multiple ads and, later – as a relative relief – only one. I would take less than the latter if you get my idea (!) but in any event want to convey to new readers and others that I will take zero action to solicit ads but accept them if they are deemed necessary by as part of the cost of this…labor of love.

As for technical matters….

They include moving all the way from the “text” portion of this blog to the bottom of it all to access any endnotes, and I would say on the one hand that those notes are a mix of routine diligence in identifying sources but also matters of human interest, etc.

If, at the same time, you have a decent computer, your “cursoring down” all the way to the endnotes will hopefully be too quick to curse at!

Additionally, “url’s”, aka websites, are not necessarily accessible in milliseconds:) and may need to be cut and pasted to a search engine box to access their writings, sites, etc.

Appendices, are I would say, useful for serious interest in side topics, but if I had to recommend just one, it would be Appendix 2 in regards to James Tillman.


I would be honored if I could call this a “history” of Elizabeth Baptist Church, now entering its second century, and still on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio as always. I am happy that I can offer a set of historical islands at Elizabeth that are part of the stories of my native region of Northeastern Ohio, and that this introduction continues to celebrate that larger story, so close to the bridge that has spiritually brought me to Elizabeth and other points of Cleveland and its suburbs.

As an introduction for new readers of this blog and a related website, I have been drawn for over 30 years to the cause of saving an abandoned but noble suspension bridge just four blocks northeast of the Church, and since 2011 have spent time at the bridge and nearby on visits from Philadelphia, where I have lived since 1988. [Endnote 1]

Since I began to write about the Sidaway Avenue Suspension Bridge and its surrounding area over seven years ago, I knew that in spreading the “gospel” of saving the bridge, seen here this past February 14….

…I would only be comfortable in that mission if I began to share the stories of its surroundings, and it turns out that Elizabeth was an appropriate choice partly because the major home of its life so far was near 79th and Holton, perhaps just a 15-minute walk northeast of the Bridge….

former Elizabeth Baptist Church Building at 8005 Holton, seen from East 79th Street, Aug. 25, 2016

…and it is now closer to the bridge, in a happy home of over eight years seen right here….

Elizabeth Baptist Church seen from the northeast corner of 61st & Francis on Sunday August 4, 2019

…a few blocks southwest of the engineering landmark that initially brought me to its area.

The Church may be best known for its most famous “alumnus” – the entertainer and program host Arsenio Hall, whose father Fred Hall, appropriately in retrospect, is the towering figure so far in the history of “EBC”. Which is saying something in that the continuity and level of leadership of this institution is like that of vaunted sports teams which have been led over much of their existence by a very short list of leaders all in for the long haul.

From what must have been humble beginnings 100 years ago, Elizabeth, for the past 95 years, has had only three main reverends, and one feels that its current head – Pastor Richard Gibson – may just be getting rolling in some ways, at the same time that he is a seasoned professional both before and during his 16-year ministry so far at the Church.

[With reference to the concept of leaders in a more stylistic sense, I am loathe to make this posting an outpost of the Arsenio Hall Show, but am grateful if embarrassed that it will clearly be led in its brief sketch of earlier decades by ONE of my interviewees; with that in mind, if you see and easily memorize the name Juanita Sanders early on, I hope you will join me in gratitude, but I also hope to deepen the Elizabeth story before recent times with a larger family of memories.]

Elizabeth Baptist Church was founded on April 23, 1919, and while I wish I could put meat on the bones of such milestones, I can at least celebrate the context of that immediate period and suggest one intriguing possibility in regards to its origins, thanks to an interviewee for this writing.

Elizabeth’s first months and years come near the beginning of the “Great Migration”, a huge stream of rural Southern African-Americans to the growing industrial cities of the North which was set in motion during the First World War, and a definite impetus to the time when Cleveland’s Black community emerges from its tiny status in the city’s 19th-century demographics.

In the early 20th century, the key spine of Cleveland’s African-American world comes to be Central Avenue from East 30th to at least East 55th, on the near east side of the city; I saw many references to that center of gravity on a quick and fruitless but enjoyable microfilm search for any news of EBC’s founding in the Spring of 1919, in an African-American newspaper of that period – not the well-known Call and Post, which is still likely to be the major newspaper representing African-American Cleveland, but The Gazette. [Endnote 2]

It was one of many expressions of a Black community in Cleveland which helped to create legends such as Langston Hughes and Jesse Owens and of which a few neighborhood buildings still remain from “pre-War” (as in World War II) years, including St. John’s AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church at 2261 East 40th Street, just north of Central Avenue….

St. John’s AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church, Sunday, August 4, 2019

[Endnote 3]

As to the “intriguing possibility” alluded to above, Carolyn Winston, the wife of Reverend Lindy Winston, who led Elizabeth for 30 years and passed away in 2015, suggested that a church that started in Alabama or another area of the South had a new beginning in Cleveland as Elizabeth. [Endnote 4] This would be fascinating in terms of learning about origins there and then changes, besides those of climate and geography, once it would have come to Cleveland.

One lesser mystery is that of the addresses where Elizabeth was situated before its long-term locations of the last 75 years on Holton and Francis Avenues. The historical note at the Church’s website offers initial guidance here, noting that its prior locations have included “Orange Avenue, Burwell Avenue, East 46th Street [and] Vinning Court”.

Sister Barbara Cowans, a member who is 73 and has been connected with EBC since she was 7, improved upon this, while also creating more questions to answer.

When I met her in early August, 2019, near the end of my current phase of research, she noted that Elizabeth started as a storefront church on Woodland Avenue, a major east-west street on Cleveland’s East Side. It is quite possible that this spot and other early ones would have been west of East 55th, a key north-south thoroughfare noted earlier, and also that – as a generalization – the congregation begins to move to relatively newer sections of Cleveland east of 55th at some point.

A more specific “improvement” in locational knowledge from Ms. Cowans was exciting and appears to have cleared up a naming discrepancy, while, again….raises questions which will hopefully be enjoyable to solve.

She informed me that the building which she said was the second edifice of Elizabeth still stood, on Kinsman just east of 55th, in one of two nearly adjacent church buildings which are among the increasingly rare pre-World War II structures in this part of Cleveland. She clarified that it was in a structure largely painted in red and recently having housed the Third Missionary Baptist Church.

I eagerly rode up to it from Elizabeth, with my happiness to see it still in existence being bittersweet, as it seemed – in early August 2019 at least – that it may have not been actively used anymore, but was still a stately and at times beautiful building as seen below.

In viewing the space in front of this church – to the right in the photo below – you will also see a partly overgrown cement pathway once known as either Venning Place or Venning Court. This most likely applies to the roadway noted as “Vinning Court” above, while its listing there implies it was the fourth and final location (and not the second), prior to the move to Holton….

Third Missionary Baptist Church, on the north side of Kinsman Avenue just three short blocks southeast of East 55th Street, Sunday, August 4, 2019

In my limited research on the first 25 years of EBC, there are no listings for it in three of the Cleveland directories in the 1920’s, suggesting the possibility of a small church. The first reference to it in my work so far comes in a 1930 directory, where the spelling of its name may just be a simple error, or perhaps telling, disrespectful or otherwise a meaningful mystery to solve – but in any event, one can see that the church is at home on 46th south of Quincy Avenue, and its listing is right below that of the “ELIZABETH BEAUTY SHOPPE”….[Endnote 5.]

Like so much of Cleveland’s heritage, Elizabeth’s building on 46th Street has been lost, but the site of that structure has certainly had the happiness of children playing in recent years, in the midst of Cleveland’s historic Outhwaite Homes public housing complex….

a recreational area including the location of EBC when it was on East 46th Street, seen on August 4, 2019, with the skyline of Downtown Cleveland in the distance

It may have been from this location that Reverend Fred Hall emerges as a part of citywide faith leadership, even if his name – as with the notation “Elizabeth’s” above – might also be incorrectly stated in an article in this regard of July 30, 1929. While he is noted there as Reverend FRANK Hall, he is one of a select group of African-American heads of Baptist congregations to take a stand in a city-wide issue at the time, in connection with what I would guess was a very rare event for our country 90 years ago, one that was both uncomfortable – and necessary – depending on one’s perspective.

That surprising occurrence was asking Harry L. Davis – a white political leader as well as both a former Ohio governor and Cleveland mayor – to leave a meeting of Black ministers, when he came to their gathering by mistake. His appearance on July 29, 1929 was part of a major effort during this period, led largely by Davis, to amend and repeal what was then a new way of governing Cleveland – as it came to be headed by a city manager – while in the previous mode it was overseen by a strong mayor and city council.

It is not clear that Reverend Hall attends that “show-down” of a meeting, but he is one of four ministers who commits his support on the same day, immediately thereafter – to oppose the amendment which would end the new experiment in city manager government and return to older mayor/council oversight of the city.

[For more information on what may be a fascinating piece of Black political change and empowerment in the 1920’s and into the 30’s, please see “Appendix One – a glimpse of Reverend Fred Hall as a community leader and of African-American civil rights in the 1920’s”.]

However much of a leader Reverend Hall was becoming, the possibility of modest early years for Elizabeth were also suggested by Juanita Sanders, seen here….

Juanita Sanders, Sunday, August 4, 2019

Now 88 and a member of Elizabeth since 1938, four years after her parents joined – she has recalled that the Church was housed for a time in an auxiliary building of Liberty Hill Baptist Church, and she added that when her sister May and her became EBC members at the same time, “we got baptized at Liberty Hill’s [baptismal] pool”.

Since Liberty Hill has since moved to one of the most prominent religious buildings on the city’s East Side, at 8206 Euclid Avenue and with a large part of its edifice seen here….

Liberty Hill Baptist Church, 8206 Euclid Avenue, on August 7, 2019

…that contrast between Liberty’s relative fame today and a “less famous” period for Elizabeth underscores for me what may have been quiet growth in the first quarter-century of EBC.

In talking with Ms. Sanders, I asked her if she remembered James Tillman, a very old man still alive and worshipping at Elizabeth in the 1930’s, as I discovered from the second article to come up in an initial search for newspaper writings on the Church. [Endnote 6]

While she did not recall him, it is remarkable to me that her life, and membership in the Church, overlaps with the life of a man who may have been born in pre-Victorian, and certainly “ante-bellum”/pre-Civil War days of our nation’s history.

Here, in thirds and – with thanks for your patience – three overlapping sections, is the obituary of this amazing centenarian, ending in part with reference to his membership in Elizabeth Baptist Church and Reverend Hall conducting his funeral service….

[The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, March 11, 1940]

[See Appendix Two in regards to James Tillman.]

As the 1940’s began and Elizabeth’s star continued to rise, the latter years of another community helped to pave the way for the longest-lasting home so far in the life of EBC. That edifice, for its first 32 years, was the home of a church that belonged to one of the most legendary demographics in Greater Cleveland – that of Hungarian-Americans.

The building to which I’m referring – at 8005 Holton – has of course been seen in a contemporary photo above, while the view right here…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20180104_160124.jpg
[Cleveland Picture Collection, main branch of Cleveland Public Library]

…is likely to be part of a brief exploration, from 1940, of what was then seen as not only the “old” Hungarian neighborhood in Cleveland, but the FIRST Hungarian neighborhood in the city, prior to “Buckeye-Woodland”, a better-known concentration of Hungarian culture for a number of years after World War II.

[Near the end of this article, I encourage you to read Appendix Three – “A one-time Hungarian Community including the long-time:) EBC edifice” – largely comprised, as with the James Tillman obituary, of another piece of “press” ink from 1940, but where in this case you are reading about places of 79 years ago, on or near East 79th:)]. Additionally, the appendix notes one legacy of Hungarian-American life in this neighborhood still standing and in use as of this writing, near 79th and Kinsman.]

Before we say “istenhozzád” (goodbye in Hungarian) to this part of Elizabeth’s puzzle, I want to again credit Juanita Sanders (who will make a few more appearances before being applauded here!) for telling me that the members of Elizabeth celebrated a joint service on Holton with members of the Hungarian-American church there on the day that they first worshipped at 8005. I am hopeful that, as compared with my initial effort to see any journalistic recognition for Elizabeth’s beginnings in 1919, that there WILL be some news coverage of this new founding of 1944 and the interracial debut within it.

Another very early and happy event on Holton was (Ms. Sanders to the rescue once again:)) – that of EBC paying off the full cost of the church building within “6 or 9 months”, in regards to which she recalls Reverend Hall saying – perhaps with some humor – that Cleveland Trust Bank didn’t like EBC because it could not keep its money for long:). It is easy – as I leap into the 1950’s – to connect this to the Church’s financial footing allowing for the installation of a feature we take for granted today – air conditioning – in or right around 1955.

Apparently, visitors from other churches were impressed with this new development, suggesting its rarity at the time. Less rare in a sense, and representative of a proudly maintained structure, is the image just below from the 1950’s, seen in full and in a close-up and one of many from neighborhoods where employment was relatively high and Cleveland could still feel that it was an industrial kingpin. While it is undated, Ms. Sanders informed me that Reverend Hall is very visible in a black coat (with an awning seen above and behind him and his car next to him)….

This beautiful image is next to a rear entry to the current sanctuary of EBC.

While Reverend Hall clearly was blessed to oversee a solid physical environment, in a more viable neighborhood than what transpired later, as suggested by this sextet of Holton Avenue images from 1949-1967…..

[Cleveland Picture Collection, main branch of Cleveland Public Library]

…he more importantly gained members.

Here, one example is provided by Georgia Thompson, a member since 1952 along with her husband – Church deacon Charles Thompson, with both of them seen here….

Deacon Charles and Georgia Thompson, Saturday, August 3, 2019

Mrs. Thompson easily recalled the Reverend’s inspiring her husband to become active in the Church.

When they initially joined, he was a cook at a Kenny King’s chicken restaurant (part of a legendary one-time chain in the Cleveland area) and at the end of a service Reverend Hall said to him -“you know what – I wanted to talk with you, Thompson, before you leave here; I would like you to join and see you working with us”.

Her husband Charles’s first reaction to that was of noting that he worked on a number of Sundays, to which Reverend Hall said “we’ll leave that up to the Lord, he’ll take care of that”. Within one week, as Deacon Thompson told me later – and without anyone approaching the manager in this regard – he told Charles Thompson that “we got someone [else] to work that shift”.

Shortly thereafter, Charles Thompson began a faithful attendance, and later was both President of EBC’s Usher Board from 1969 to 1984, and then, immediately thereafter, was on the church’s Deacon Board from 1984-2002.

Reverend Hall’s leadership style also clearly had a component of traditionalism that one associates with a past era. Bernice Prunty, seen here….

Bernice Prunty, February 18, 2018 [courtesy of her daughter Elissa Golden]

…remembers that “he was more strict” than what we might be used to in a reverend today, recalling that when Church members took a trip to the regionally famous amusement park Cedar Point, they still had to dress up, “like you were going to church”.

Georgia Thompson recalled Reverend Hall’s reaction to her and a friend of hers wearing sun dresses to a service. Ms. Thompson noted to me that prior to the service in question she was hesitant to “tell her [friend] how we dressed” and that, after her friend wore such a dress to her house, she decided to wear one to a service as well thinking it would make her friend feel comfortable. Reverend Hall politely responded to those good intentions by calling both of them up to the front of the Church after the service to let them know they should not wear sleeveless dresses.

Perhaps the most passionate praise for Reverend Fred Hall came late in my inquiries for this writing from my oldest interviewee – Willie Ligon – who turned 101 this past September 30 and who has been associated with Elizabeth for 50 years. Mr. Ligon, by phone, spoke of Pastor Hall as the “best preacher-man I know…one of the best men I ever met in my life…..Nobody else knew me [like he did]….The man took me off the streets and talked to me hours at a time – by myself….just me and him…He gave me the facts of life”.

Later in our call Willie Ligon reinforced a sense that after decades in his leadership perch, Fred Hall would have still been easily approachable, with Mr. Ligon saying that “anytime of the night, anytime of the day, I could pick up the phone…he never denied me a conversation [and] gave me all the advice that I needed. The Lord directed me to him”.

Reverend Hall retired from Elizabeth in 1973 and is seen here in a photo used for his funeral program, where one of the notations reinforces his remarkable duration at the front of the congregation – of half of Elizabeth’s existence so far….

[courtesy of Elizabeth Baptist Church files]

As Reverend Hall passed away in 1978, Lindy Winston – who became a member of Elizabeth in 1953, during Hall’s tenure – was in his fifth year of leadership there, where he would have an impressive 30 years in the pulpit.

With Reverend Winston as with a number of historical aspects here, I definitely want to gain more concrete recollections. I feel that my limitations on knowing about his works for Elizabeth are due in part to where he stands in its history right now, in between the high “mountain ranges” of the era of Reverend Hall, and of Pastor Gibson right now.

Georgia Thompson has said in summary that “Reverend Winston followed a lot of things that he learned under Reverend Hall”, who she said sent Winston to a seminary “so he could learn about God’s word”, adding that she herself “learned a lot under Reverend Winston” and he was “a lovely person”.

Bernice Prunty’s quick sense of Reverend Winston was that under him, the congregation was definitely “getting away from [being] an old-fashioned church”, and naturally, it would be interesting to see how much he continued what Fred Hall did and how much he led a new path as Ms. Prunty implies. [Endnote 7]

John Killings, seen here in his office at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland….

John Killings, January 3, 2018

…and an active member among millennials I met, referred warmly to Reverend Winston’s traditional look at least, saying that “[he was] always a stylish guy, dressed more from [the] 70’s and 80’s era with the suits….very classy” adding that “he drove [an]…80’s or 90’s model Jaguar”.

More importantly, John remembered his solidarity with his family at church and his interpersonal qualities. He told me that the Reverend and “Sister Winston” (his wife) would come to services with their children Lynne and Michael, and later some of their grandchildren, and observed that he was “very much charismatic [while] soft-spoken at times, but [that] just depended on what he was doing” and that he was “active with the kids for the most part”.

Denise Walker, who joined Elizabeth in 2005, has told me that “Emeritus Reverend Winston attended regularly when his health allowed” with her “impression [that] he was compassionate and always smiling, hugging, encouraging others [especially the young]”.

She clarified that her “interaction [with him] was limited other than sharing a hug, hello or kiss on the cheek” while adding that “his daughter, Lynne, & I shared office duties” early in Denise’s time at EBC.

It is very fortunate that Reverend Winston’s wife Carolyn, seen here….

Carolyn Winston at Elizabeth Baptist Church, August 27, 2017

…remains active, including 66 years as a member and singing in Elizabeth’s choir since 1974. While there have been extremely rare times she has had to be away from the church, she noted that “when my husband was preaching – I never missed a Sunday….When he walked in, I walked in”. In greeting worshippers, “I would stand in line with him…..When they talked with him, I [would be there and] that would keep our association going”.

Ms. Winston and many others have found great reasons to keep their connection going, as the church moved through its last years on Holton Avenue and crossed a small valley from the Cleveland neighborhood of Garden Valley to its current location in the city’s “Slavic Village”, starting its new life there in 2011. To quote John Killings, it moved primarily because “[our] membership started to grow a lot…[and] we needed a bigger building so we looked for different places”, both in the immediate area and elsewhere in the city. [Endnote 8]

This latest period of expansion has been blessed once again, this time with the leadership of Richard Gibson, who left a career as a lawyer to enter the ministry, beginning his pastorate at Elizabeth in 2003.

With his first nine years at EBC’s Holton Avenue home, and in his eight years since then on Francis Avenue, a big part of his success has been in what can widely be seen as improvements to the church surroundings in both locations. I qualify that because I am wading into the long-standing debate at times between saving old buildings and the main mission of religious organizations, which might win out over keeping historic resources; on the surface, with writings like this, I’d be expected to vote against EBC, but for a few key reasons, mainly that the best use of my time is for saving “the bridge” – as noted at the beginning of this blog – plus the fact that Reverend Gibson and other Elizabeth members have done much to extend the life of two old church buildings, I’ll mirror the lawyer in Richard Gibson’s past and defer arguments in the case right here.

That case, or battle, for neighboring church structures on both Holton and Francis was in any event won in a few instances for the argument of demolishing buildings whose blight was seen as extensive. One result of this was a “wall” that many preservationists have often tried to climb – the conclusion that tearing down particular structures will allow more resources for spiritual activities.

In reflecting on the former context – on Holton – Odis Moss, a member for 14 years, seen here with his wife Joyce….

Odis & Joyce Moss at EBC, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018

…spoke of an immediate neighborhood which was “isolated…the way it was configured [in that] it wasn’t actually…a flowing community….it wasn’t connected”. Odis said that “we did have…sparse people from the [immediate] community coming to the church / but mostly everyone drove, or took the bus”.

Joyce noted that “they had demolished a lot of the homes there” prior to the last years of the Church on Holton, and that “over a period of time that area has gone down too”.

A few of Odis’s comments at one point, just below, leave a little to untangle, as they may imply hope for remaining on Holton, but I would bet in the end that a majority of parishioners preceding the move, including Odis, are glad that it happened, if bittersweet as with so many happy memories.

He said of the Holton edifice that it “had a good feel to it [and] a good spirit within the building, [that] it felt like a church…like a home, something you could build on [and that] Reverend Gibson did build on it” when “he….tore down houses around it and [the Church] was blessed by God to get this”, by which I believe he meant the former St. Hyacinth’s building.

That sanctuary and its associated land and buildings, in the north end of the Slavic Village neighborhood, became available after its closing in 2009. I do not yet know how difficult the decision to leave a long-standing Holton home may have been, along with the many steps that must have been necessary to do so, while, from the perspective of saving the past, it is not difficult to believe in saving St. Hyacinth’s structure, as it is also steeped, like 8005 Holton, in an Eastern European-American history – with a Polish-American past in its case – when it was the leading Catholic church of a neighborhood sometimes called “Jackowo” (or “Hyacinth” in Polish)…..

At the same time, as Elizabeth’s congregation moved into the old church, there was a tension between allowing more money for programs inspired by faith and for maintenance of certain structures on the former St. Hyacinth’s “campus”. The main result here – while not without consideration of its preservation – was the demolition of the old Catholic church’s boiler plant building and its original school house structure.

Jacquie Gillon, a church member, has written to me that “[i]n theory, it is great to preserve old structures, perhaps like the two we demolished on our campus. The reality is, after some many years of decay and epic condemnation, it becomes a question of the greater good. The remaining four buildings on our campus are historic as well. We do what’s necessary to maintain them. We also know that God’s way is to choose to invest in people….” [Endnote 9]

All of those and other challenges though were, I hope, set aside on what I have heard was a glorious day – June 19, 2011 – when a procession from Holton to Francis, seen in these photos and many others….

Scenes from east of East 55th, likely on Francis Avenue, from a church scrapbook in the files of the Church office

…took place to herald the Church’s journey to its new home.

Many members considered the event “a parade”, with Joyce Moss noting that “we had the police out [and] there were some adventurous people who walked”. Bernice Prunty noted that the journey was “something to see…[giving] you that feeling of opportunity [where] I can’t believe I’m doing this”.

Looking back at the debut of the Francis location, Joyce is so happy that her father, Reamea (“Reh-mee’-uh”) Casey, renowned at the beginning of this decade as the oldest member of the Church and seen here at around age 96….

Reamea Casey, father of Joyce Moss, in or around 2008 [courtesy of Joyce Moss]

…was still alive to see it come to pass, saying “it’s amazing how everything just flows [and] he was able to see….this sanctuary”, in reference to the Francis Avenue home.

Prior to his passing in 2013, Joyce notes that her family had a 100th birthday party for him “at the Spot”, a community center at EBC’s new campus, and she again felt blessed that he could see the Church’s transition at its new site. Reamea Casey and his wife Signora, like so many Clevelanders, migrated from the South – specifically in 1950 from Inverness, Mississippi, a town in the Delta Region – and the family joined the Church in 1955, when Joyce was 7. Joyce volunteered to me that she has not had a non-stop affiliation with EBC since then, noting that “I strayed away for a while” but adding that “the bird will always return”. She has been married to Odis for 28 years.

Their union with the Church has also been a happy one, with Odis noting that Pastor Gibson “is driven by God, driven by faith”, believing that the Pastor is connected to a higher power – “the thing that I would like to learn how to do” and that “he might have [an idea], but he consults in prayer [with others]”.

Joyce noted that when her sister-in-law Janis Roddy joined the Church in 2008, she semi-jokingly, but also with some seriousness, said she “was scared to open the door” because of the way Joyce bragged about the Pastor.

Bernice Prunty says that he “has changed so much” at EBC, one example being his establishment of a place known as “The Haven” for supplies of free food for residents on the second Saturday of each month, commenting that “he is such a wonderful pastor”.

Mike Pickett, who was one of my first impressions of dedication to the church, as I saw him following his shoveling snow at its entry (way back now in January 2017)….

…talked with me at another point in fairly different attire at “The Spot”….

Mike Pickett, June 24, 2018

…a gathering place for members and community welfare programs; while there, he praised Reverend Gibson as a person whose “presence [has been] very humble”, attesting that he is “someone who takes special time with the kids” and displays a demeanor welcoming them during services that “you all come here…this is your time”.

Mike continued by saying that “Pastor Gibson comes to talk with people and do everything a pastor’s supposed to do; he does not just talk it; he shows it”.

While these praises are small in number, and they do not constitute an historical summary of the Church in the “Gibson Era” so far, my guess, from the few services I have attended since 2016, are that they would be reproduced many times, for all of the spirit and warmth I have felt at Elizabeth Baptist Church, from members and from Pastor Gibson.

Certainly, I have returned partly because there are many wonderful people at Elizabeth, and it does not hurt that Reverend Gibson has personally observed that he would love to see “the Bridge” preserved as part of his vision for the Church and its neighborhood. It is at least possible that he would not mind my returning to that bridge as I come to the end of this version of this writing.

That return, even if for just a few minutes, was made possible after a moving farewell party of recent years for Kecia Betts, a younger member of the Church on her way to Raleigh, North Carolina for a new job. I barely had a chance to meet her but was still moved by the sense of togetherness and love that she had fostered among EBC kids and others, as in this scene….

Kecia Betts, Joyce and Odis Moss and a few others in the Church family, January 7, 2018

…and afterwards was glad to briefly see her and her father, Ben, a Minister of Elizabeth….

Ben and Kecia Betts, January 7, 2018

…having previously seen him as a leader both at the front of services and in bible-study prior to a service.

While his work is definitely as a church member at times, I discovered that he coincidentally worked for the City of Cleveland’s Department of Bridges and Docks as an electrician for 29 years, and he told me about seeing the Bridge in 1968, with truly brief memories, if sustained by his career.

At that time, about to graduate from John Adams High School on the southeast side of Cleveland, he would go down to 71st Street within view of the bridge to see a friend who “was talking about the Bridge”, shortly after it had been closed due to racial unrest, with the City monitoring it to keep it closed at a time, when, according to Ben, “this neighborhood [Slavic Village] was 99% White and [Garden Valley, on the north side of the Bridge] was 99% Black”.

That stark segregation was a basis for Ben Betts’ understanding of a nickname for the bridge which I’ve heard several times, but where his definition was a first for me. A few residents of the “bridge area” have spoken of it as “the old swinging bridge” and Ben said that was due to gangs from opposite sides of the Sidaway Bridge fighting, or swinging at each other. [Endnote 10.]

Sobering notes on which to end perhaps, but in a place of both survival and of new birth for at least one church which is so welcoming across colors and classes – certainly one of a number of motivations to return to and preserve history and to cross the valleys to come, whether they are real, racial, religious and/or otherwise….

Appendix One – a glimpse of Reverend Fred Hall as a community leader and of African-American civil rights in the 1920’s

As I sat at a Cleveland Public Library main branch terminal in February 2019 to do a digital search for newspaper references to Elizabeth, the first one I saw was in an article noted above from July 3o, 1929. [This article was almost definitely from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, but see endnote 11.]

Here, I’ll reiterate and expand on aspects of the article.

It contained a very brief reference to Elizabeth’s most monumental leader to date – Reverend Fred Hall – and, to add a misstep to its brevity, it appears, as written above, to incorrectly list his first name as “Frank”.

Despite that, it can certainly be important to an article on the history of Elizabeth Baptist Church, and also offers a brief glance at Black power in the 1920’s, as it is likely to depict a rare event – basically of African-American leaders saying no, in a forceful if diplomatic way – to a major Caucasian leader in their midst at that time, something one associates more so with, say, the 1960’s.

In this case, a number of Baptist ministers in Cleveland and local Methodist leaders as well do not want former Ohio governor and former Cleveland mayor Harry L. Davis to be at a Summer, 1929 meeting, largely because a majority of them are opposed to an amendment he champions which would end a new “city manager” form of government for Cleveland and return the city to its long-time dominance by a strong Mayor and a city council.

I honestly took a brief crash course to learn a little bit of the context of this uncomfortable meeting, and one of the questions raised in my brief inquiry is whether or not Davis was unpopular in this context because he had self-interest in the “old ways” of governing the city – because he wanted to be Mayor again. In brief, he works hard to amend the city charter to go back to a “strong Mayor” rule of the city, in 1927, 1928 and 1929, is on the losing end each time, does not help out as much when this cause “wins” in 1931, and becomes Mayor thereafter for one final time, from 1933-35.

More profoundly, I would say that there is indeed – as many readers here may know – a “Black civil rights” movement in the North in the 1920’s, following African-American hope for a better life in the booming northern cities of almost a hundred years ago now, as well as African-American anger and likely disillusion at the lack of a welcome mat for Blacks coming from the South as a new phase of history began for them in Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and elsewhere at this time.

{For a broad opening to the fact of a civil rights push in the 1920’s and 30’s, the article below is useful. Within it, you might start by simply rolling halfway down or so to the section “The New Negro” and its third and final paragraph regarding the “Great Migration” and then leap over the “Marcus Garvey…” segment to the passage on the “Labor Movement….”, reading its second paragraph, partly on A. Phillip Randolph and the “Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters”; see:–1954).

Whatever our limitations in understanding, the 1929 article is a brief window onto 90 years ago, with its quaint references such as those to “the colored district”.

In reading it, you will see that that there is a little overlap from one section to the next, as with the James Tillman article of 1940 in the body of the text, above.

If you look at the top left segment of the third panel for the article, which begins “Those who joined the anti-amendment forces yesterday were…” you will very shortly read the article’s reference to Reverend Fred Hall.

At the same time, jumping through the article is a little more complex.

One example, to get you started, comes partly within the bottom section of the article – which is inserted as the third and final section below. There, when you are reading the segment at the bottom left, headed “Asked to Bring Governor.”, you jump from the words under that phrase back to the top right side in the top section of the article to the words “came to Ailer’s home Friday and…”

Appendix Two – Thoughts on EBC member James Tillman

While James Tillman would be remarkable had he just lived to 100 and not uprooted himself at the age of 93 to move from Chattanooga to Cleveland, it was the fact that he was an ex-slave in the north, and specifically my native region, that opened up a new realization of history for me.

Though I am not African-American, I have studied African-American history on a number of occasions since I was 9 years old, or for 47 years now, and have remained aware – admittedly in an abstract sense – of the pain, the drama and the triumph of various eras in that history, including, in part, those of slavery, Reconstruction, “Jim Crow” and the “Great Migration” to the North, already noted above.

Despite any familiarity I had, I never linked slavery to the story of Cleveland and its surroundings until learning about James Tillman, except in recalling the role of Cleveland, Oberlin and other Northeastern Ohio communities in the “Underground Railroad” whose network brought a number of slaves to freedom in Canada. In retrospect, it may have been as if I praised the Cleveland area for its role in liberations but held it blameless for slavery, though not for racism and racial strife as in all Northern communities.

Thanks to discovering Tillman, there will be certain places where I will never again forget that Cleveland’s Black community does not just hold the hidden stories of relatively free African-Americans leaving the South in so many cases, but that ex-slaves walked the streets of the city, and therefore, other Northern centers, whether Detroit, Chicago or elsewhere.

With that, and my lifelong attachment to “place”, it was important for me to go to what appeared to be the site of Tillman’s home in Cleveland, or at least the location of the address of 2342 East 59th noted in the obituary above, even though, not surprisingly, it was part of a grassy lot, as seen here….

grass-covered lot including the site of the Tillman family structure at 2342 East 59th Street (Feb. 13, 2019)

and its block mostly like a suburbanization of what once existed, like a number of renewed blocks in Cleveland, as seen as well from Central Avenue looking south into the block, with 2342 and other properties beyond trees on the right/west side….

Feb. 13, 2019

[Endnote 12]

Appendix Three – A one-time Hungarian Community including the long-time:) EBC edifice

Here are two mementoes of what is presented below as the “mothership” neighborhood of Hungarian-Americans in Cleveland, one of whose pillars, for over 30 years, was a Hungarian Baptist Church, situated in the building at 8005 Holton which later housed Elizabeth Baptist Church.

First, there is the joy of a journalistic jaunt from 79 years ago, if also the sadness of loss, in an article of Saturday, September 28, 1940, seen in general and then with a close-up of its text. [Much of the text, with good clarity, can be seen in the general picture and all of it, in a grainy way, can be enlarged and read in the “close-up” view thereafter.]

Below the images of the article, there are very brief notes on a firehouse built in 1898 for the adjacent Hungarian community and still used by the Cleveland Fire Department, on Kinsman just west of 79th Street.

The Cleveland News, September 28, 1940

Roughly 3/5 of the way down the left and longer column of text below, just above “Supported Orphanage”, there are four lines which refer largely to the First Hungarian Baptist Church, the predecessor to Elizabeth Baptist Church in the building at 8005 Holton Avenue.

The leader of the First Hungarian Baptist Church as of the article’s appearance is noted in the second paragraph BELOW “Supported Orphanage”, beginning “The Baptist Church is under the guidance of….”

In regards to the historic firehouse, seen here….

…See also the blog below, with its great pictures, most of them from the time of inception of the firehouse or other past eras:


Endnote 1. Please see my older website – – and especially my first blog on a number of topics, but in particular the Bridge and two neighborhoods which it structurally connects, if not as a pedestrian path at present:

Endnote 2. The site below offers – in its second image – a map of the city of Cleveland with the Central neighborhood highlighted in red:,_Cleveland.

The url below, with its pin dropped at the historic Sterling branch of the Cleveland Public Library, on East 30th just north of Central Avenue, can introduce you to a detailed sense of Central Avenue, if you zoom out from there along Central to the east and a little bit to the west:,-81.6666156,19z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x8830faf864b9e2c5:0x6fc8d385522f7194!2s2261+E+40th+St,+Cleveland,+OH+44103!8m2!3d41.4969974!4d-81.6559458!3m4!1s0x8830faf57672642f:0x37ee29c18e89013e!8m2!3d41.4975482!4d-81.6667159

As to there being no references to EBC in my first foray into its origins, that is based on a careful skim on microfilm, while of just two editions of “The Gazette” – April 26 and May 3, 1919 – at the Rhodes Library of CSU (Cleveland State University), on Feb. 11, 2019.

As to the Cleveland Call & Post, I was not able to easily get a sense of its status and size today, but it was definitely the major African-American-oriented newspaper in the area in and around the 1970’s when I was growing up, and this article on the newspaper, despite its technical mistakes, is hopefully as reputable as its tome – the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

Here is a brief article on the Great Migration: This article summarizes “A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930”, by Kenneth Kusmer, a Cleveland native who has been a long-time history professor at Temple University in my adopted city of Philadelphia; years ago, at least, Kusmer’s 1978 book was a seminal study in the history of Cleveland’s African-American neighborhood on and near Central Avenue. [He appears to have been a professor emeritus of history at Temple as of December 6, 2019, when I saw this listing:

Endnote 3. See: and

Endnote 4. Obituary of Reverend Lindy Winston at; phone conversation with Carolyn Winston, Tues., Jan. 23, 2018.

Endnote 5. As to the listing of all of the Church’s locations since it began, at least in terms of streets, see:

On a Google map highlighting Venning Place (or “Court”), it is just one block long, beginning at Kinsman about three blocks southeast of 55th, and is similar to a number of “courts”, or short streets which sometimes end in cul-de-sacs, and which still exist in Cleveland; while the map shows lot lines flanking Venning Place, it seemed to be the case, at least on Sunday, August 4, 2019, that no buildings existed next to it except for that of the Third Missionary Baptist Church, and greenery had begun to reclaim a once-denser cityscape:,+Cleveland,+OH+44104/@41.4863113,-81.6507572,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x8830fae2c47f3fe7:0x122689bb263edf6a!8m2!3d41.4863113!4d-81.6485685

As to the Third Missionary Baptist Church, there are a few sites which note it and I would love to make a new branch of my studies here in that regard…with unlimited time, but will only note that…..

Its address in at least a few cases is stated as 5803 Venning Court, while my summer sighting gave a partial sense of limited or no activity in its building; believe me that I would be glad to be enthusiastically corrected in this regard, but see, for example:

A likely Kinsman address – 5719 – can be seen in a faded form on the west wall of its edifice, just north of the front facade of its structure and near the center of this picture…..

Third Missionary Baptist Church to the left of its front doorway, Sunday, August 4, 2019

I checked in Cleveland directories for 1920, 1921 and 1924 prior to seeing the listing pictured above for EBC on page 689 of a 1930 directory. [Sources: Cleveland Directory for the Year ending 1920, as well as those for 1921, 1924 and 1930; all were published by the Cleveland Directory Co, with the 1920 directory put out in 1919 and no clear date of publication for the 1930 directory.

The 1921, 1924 and 1930 directories all have the primary title of “Cleveland City Directory…”.

Endnote 6. Phone conversation with Juanita Sanders, Weds., Feb. 13, 2019. Ms. Sanders said that “Liberty Hill had a church behind their main church, and we rented from them”.

Endnote 7. Two sites for Hungarian translation: and

Telephone conversation with Juanita Sanders on February 21, 2019; calls with Georgia Thompson on Monday, February 4 and Tuesday, February 26, 2019 and an interview with her and Deacon Charles Thompson at their home in Cleveland on Saturday, August 3, 2019; interview at the residence of Bernice Prunty in Bedford Heights, Ohio on Tuesday, January 2, 2018; phone interview with Willie Ligon on Friday, August 9, 2019. I have been unable to document the date of Ms. Sanders’ identifying Reverend Hall in the classic 1950’s photo above, but that was probably when we met on Sunday, February 10, 2019.

Ms. Sanders also recalled that the cost of air conditioning was $10,000 and spoke of the friendly rivalry between her and other captains of a donation drive for funding this asset; along with other fundraisers, she was given a list of specific members to approach, with the recommended request being that of $50 per donor.

Georgia Thompson has added a number of details to her early time at Elizabeth, and to me, they seem to be among the many examples of how African-American women have influenced the progress of the Black church.

She related that, very early in her life with her husband in Cleveland – after their moving there from their hometown of Oxford, Mississippi – “a lady we were rooming with suggested she come to Elizabeth…I was a Baptist and my husband was a Methodist…I loved it so much [when she went to her first Elizabeth service]….observing that the people were so warm”. [Later, in the interview noted above at the Thompsons’ home in August, 2019, she remembered her fellow rooming mate as Berdella Herring.]

As she spoke to me by phone, on Feb. 4, 2019, she began to remember when she first came to Elizabeth based on her history as a young mother, saying “I had the one son [her son Alex, but that she] didn’t have [her] daughter at the time”.

The feeling she got at her first Elizabeth services “made me feel right at home” leading her to decide that “I think I will join the Church”, cheered on by her fellow roomer Ms. Herring, who commented to her that “you’re going to see how nice everyone treats you there”.

Then, “we talked my husband into coming”, after which, as noted, he was motivated not only by the persuasiveness of Reverend Fred Hall, but his wife, with her noting his telling the Reverend that “I will talk to my wife about that” before he committed himself to the Church and a leadership role within it.

As to the “story of the sun dress”, Ms. Thompson added that her lady friend who came to EBC in a sun dress went to the Holy Trinity Baptist Church and that “they [probably didn’t have the dress code of….no such dresses], noting that that congregation was “Reverend Payton’s church”, that he “was a younger minister than Reverend Hall was”, with the implication that he was less traditional than Reverend Hall.

I wish I could honor Holy Trinity with its location, but was glad to get this reminder of the sub-worlds within what might otherwise be seen as a monolithic world of one type of church in one city.

One of the caps to these recollections by Ms. Thompson was a return to how children can remind one of the timeline for one’s life, with her daughter Charlene Thompson Bridges having celebrated her 66th birthday on August 9, 2018 – “so that’s how long we’ve been at Elizabeth”.

Endnote 8. Interview with John Killings, Cleveland, Weds., Jan. 3, 2018; e-mail from Denise Walker, Wed., April 24, 2019; interview with Carolyn Winston, Sunday, August 27, 2017 at EBC.

Endnote 9. Interview with Joyce and Odis Moss in the sanctuary of EBC, January 7, 2018.

Two of the references to St. Hyacinth’s Church, respectively in a broad historical sense and then in regards to its final period of existence, are at:

Frequently Asked Questions for Genealogy Research in Cuyahoga County / CLEVELAND PASTORS AND THEIR CHURCHES‎ > ‎Cleveland Individual Church Histories‎ > ‎ROMAN CATHOLIC, at:


….in a blog on “CLOSING CATHOLIC CHURCHES IN CLEVELAND”, where there is a short kind of “requiem” for St. Hyacinth’s Church about 90% of the way down:

For sources helping to reconfirm the meaning of “Jackowo”, in that they do not explicitly say the word means “hyacinth”, but implicitly reinforcing what I have heard before, that this is the origin of the name of the Church…..

First, see near the end of this short entry on the “Run” or Creek which once flowed under the Bridge:, and, secondly, near the end of the second paragraph in an article on “Polish Neighborhoods” in Cleveland:

E-mail from Jacquie Gillon, August 23, 2019; conversation with her at EBC, December 14, 2019, in which she reminded me that the two lost structures of the old St. Hyacinth’s had actually been condemned for TWENTY-FIVE years prior to Elizabeth settling down on its campus.

I give Jacquie’s views here a lot of weight in and of themselves, but also because of her professional work, as a community engagement specialist for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, whose missions include helping to preserve open space as well as established urban centers in Northeastern Ohio, as noted within its website:

Endnote 10. Joyce and Odis Moss, interview at EBC, Sun., January 7, 2018; interview at the residence of Bernice Prunty, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018; talk with Mike Pickett, June 24, 2018; conversations at EBC with Ben Betts, Sunday, January 7, 2018 and Sunday, August 4, 2019.

While my wording may be inexact as to the name of the Cleveland city department overseeing bridges, etc., in the past, my sense is that it is currently part of the City’s Department of Public Works.

Joyce, in a phone call on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, told me that Reamea Casey’s city councilman – Kevin Conwell – attended the 100th birthday party at the Church, as well as former co-workers of Mr. Casey from the Cleveland-area General Motors plant where he worked, and a personalized proclamation for his centennial from President Obama was announced at the gathering.

Both Joyce and Odis Moss have told me of a Church member they call Brother Neal – whose name was Rufus Neal, who was just a few years younger than her father, and who at the age of 97 “took three busses to visit [her] Dad before [he] became ill. Eventually, following [Reamea Casey’s passing], Brother Neal ended up in a nursing home [and] we would stop to visit him every Sunday after church and take pastries or something to him because I thought it was so nice” that he had been so dedicated to Reamea Casey.

In our July 2019 call, Joyce added that Rufus Neal would often wait on the porch in case he might interrupt the work being done for Mr. Casey and Joyce reassured him that “you’re not disturbing my Dad or the caregiver”.

But more movingly, as if an angel was with Rufus Neal on his 3-bus journey — she noted how, from the final bus stop near 123rd Street & Fairport Avenue in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood, only three doors from the Casey home – Brother Neal befriended a cat who would follow him to Reamea Casey’s residence and even waited with him on its porch.

One never knows where a story may lead you….

Endnote 11. Ironically, it is possible – semi-jokingly here – that I briefly deviate from the high journalistic standards of the man who wrote the July 30, 1929 article, because I did not note its newspaper.

It is very likely, for those still more detail-oriented than me, that it is from Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, since it was part of a data search through a url which may be accessible mainly from Cleveland Public Library terminals – with the paper’s name -

Additionally, it was by Philip W. Porter, a monumental figure in Cleveland journalism who wrote for the “PD” from 1922-1966 and who may be best known for a 1976 book “Cleveland: Confused City on a Seesaw”. See, if interested, an Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for Porter at

Endnote 12. For those with a desire for even more precise location of places, that is not possible at the moment for the Tillman family residence, with my knowing only that the three houses in the photo of the west side of East 59th are 2334 and 2340 – at the right side of the picture – and, at the left end, 2350, but they are all relatively new, and lot lines/widths for homes and their address numbers may have changed.

Old Bucharest – Beauty over Destruction?

[As with previous blogs, some url’s are “hyperlinked” and ready to click on to see their sites and some must be cut and pasted to see their content.]

I’ll introduce my thoughts here by briefly noting that while I am more critical here than in most of my other writings, I base this critique on that of others in recent years who are in or much closer to this writing’s geographical subject of Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

In addition, given the recent status of this city, I realize that there are reasons for all outcomes.  While one of the 900-pound “presences” here is the ongoing threat of a major earthquake in Bucharest and the lack of preparation for it in recent years, another huge factor looming in the background is that,  as with a traumatized person who does not make a move to improve his or her life, Romanians were scarred by 45 years of oppressive rule, and that must be acknowledged and respected even though the past cannot forever be an excuse to not move forward.

Besides those elements, as I – coincidentally in part – finalize this on “International Shakeout Day” (Footnote 1A) – one could say that those who live in glass houses should not throw bricks.  While I firmly believe that anyone should be able to praise or criticize what goes on in any part of our planet, and it is ridiculous to say “you’re not a voter or (fill in the blank) in X country, so be quiet…”, I as an American am critiquing lack of concern for saving the built environment and for planning for “resilience” after a disaster, when…..the American list of utter or large-scale failures of strengthening our natural and built settings goes on and on….from Puerto Rico last year to New Orleans in 2005 to the lack of drought mitigation in growing parts of our nation to the pitiful percentage of historically protected structures in my very historic adopted city of Philadelphia, to…………..

Be that as it may, it is so important, in this case, to shine a light on existing beauty which I discovered earlier this year – 3 months ago this week – and the lack of effort to protect it and the citizens in and around it.

Like the pair of “pasajuls” below, I will also open with two directions for the heritage of Bucharest at least as of 3 months ago.

71818-11 pasajul villacrosse @ lft pas macca @ rt

With the arcades above, either choice, this past Summer, was great, while with the built inheritance of Bucharest – knowing this introduction can be both dramatic and simplistic, there are two choices at the extreme ends of a spectrum, both ruled by the literal faults of Romania which have made the city infamous for earthquakes. [Footnote 1B]

One is to move forward with a whirlwind of reinforcement, or “consolidation” for its eclectic trove of old buildings, increasing the chance that the joy of many of them will remain for a long time to come, or to continue on what is sadly a more likely path of a tiny bit of saving the past and a huge non-helping of mostly democratic but lazy and corrupt government, lack of commitment to change and quiet despair as it heads towards another nearly inevitable large earthquake at some point, probably within this decade or the next based on its seismic history.

As earthquakes are the lurking presence here, but my favorite focus is “old buildings”, I wanted to clearly acknowledge that protecting humans is definitely more important (!), but that redeveloped historic quarters could boost the fortunes of a large number of humans:) and bring happiness to many hearts and minds.

Given Bucharest’s realities – including the joy of its beauty as seen on a short and recent visit and the truth of its government – this blog was both typical of my previous writings and very different. Typical in that it basically continues my leading formula of reveling in older structures along with dashes of social and other issues and of working with words.  Different in that here, I felt there should be less simple celebration of the past and more of an alarm for the present.

Suspending that orientation for a few minutes, I hope to keep much of an earlier and relatively carefree tone for this article, largely from writing part of this 2-3 weeks after a July discovery of the city, but frame it with my growing sense thereafter of how ill-prepared it seems to be as of this point in time – mid-October 2018 – for the dark card which geology has dealt it.

And so, back to expressions of early August, with hopes that Bucharest will save a great deal of its past….


While the wordplay was roamin’ through my non-Romanian cranium for my intitial title above, with the briefly-assumed heading being “Multo Mesc, Bucharest” (“Thank you, Bucharest”…in Romanian:)), the dichotomy reflected in the title here became evident when I was part of a group visit of just under two days to Bucharest, followed by other Eastern European locales in mid-July. The city is clearly part of a market economy, but still bears the wounds of 45 years of oppressive rule under both Communists – broadly speaking – and especially of the massively and miserably memorable Nicolae Ceausescu until his deposition – to put it politely – in 1989. [Footnote 2]

As far as the heritage of buildings – the major focus of this blog – a large majority of buildings in this city were demolished by Ceausescu to physically manifest a (coldly) imperial city which would equal his delusions of greatness, “exhibit A” being the National Parliament Building – where it looks like Prince Nicolai could party like it was 1899 – but which was completed in a highly retrograde fashion over just a few years, largely in the late 1980’s….

71818-1 Casa Poporului front

and, on a separate note, many once-stately residences, such as a former home at 12 Dumbrava Rosie….

71918-3 Dumbrava Rosie 12
…recently have languished due to delays in working out titles of ownership, despite the passage of 29 years since his fall and slow movement to private/free market owners, whether new ones or families who owned various properties before 1944. [Footnote 3]

At the same time, it just takes a little imagination and vision to see what the remaining core of old Bucharest could be but also the attendant downside of “getting spoiled by success”. This is not so likely in the near term to the extent that a “luke-cool” economy in today’s Romania and national corruption and inefficiency would hold back what would be a typical spurt of gentrification for many American and Western European cities, but it is still worth considering.

Also “at the same time”, a lurking shadow of Bucharest’s infamy as a site of earthquakes, discussed briefly below, could make other points here moot.

With hopes though that the world and the people of Romania will care enough to harden much of its past before that geology might rear its ugly head….

At one point in our 45 hours or so in Bucharest, we were listening to one of the Romanian guides for our travel group, Cristian Pirv…

72218-1 Cristian Pirv @ prgrm desk Concerto boat

…and with his observations, it seemed as if Bucharest may be in the position Barcelona was in perhaps 30 years ago – with more grandeur than Bucharest, but a great deal of obscure grandeur at that point. [Footnote 4]

In one of the side tours for our group, Cristian said he would introduce us to the delights of a district he called “Little Paris”, and underscored its little-known ambiance by saying that this year, the company for which he works – Grand Circle Cruise Line – was starting to extend time in Bucharest for our package tour by one day.  I thought of how more and more visitors, as suggested at one point in our walk through “Little Paris”, in this modest occupation of one of the roadways….

71918-4 Buch lkg s on Str Aurel Vlaicu
….could ultimately lead to too much commercialism and the like, but also that it is hard if not impossible to deny the pride of a native Romanian in wanting the world to know of his country’s assets, or the freedom for visitors like me to see the world, whether…. spoiled (parts of New York, Amsterdam, etc.) or unspoiled (parts of Bucharest and so on).

Lovers of history and visual delight want the beauty of economically-challenged places like Bucharest to be saved, but are likely to know that the “picturesque decay” that was one attraction for them in various pre-development paradises will often be lost, assuming a massive influx of visitors.

One can also guess that people like me, who have become jaded with the excesses of capitalism at times, will tend to focus on “what’s been lost” when developers swarm in like locusts. Alternately, other observers like Bucharest native Egmont Pușcașu – may still say that the pros of freedom outweigh the cons of oppression, based on his passionate recounting to our group of travelers of his being a 15-year old revolutionary against Ceausescu on the night of Dec. 21, 1989, as he cut out the Communist emblem of the nation from the very flag he is “wearing” here almost 29 years later….

71818-7 Egmont Puscasu wth flag ard his face

…overjoyed but also amidst the steep price of what he noted was 1200 people dying that night and 14,000 being wounded – in the city alone as opposed to Romania overall.
Perhaps Cristian would generally feel the same way, given comments from him such as one near the end of our stroll in “Little Paris”, where he made a point about choosing between “Communism versus the normality of Democratic values”. [Footnote 5]

For now, though, the collective organism of old Bucharest hangs in the balance between two economies, as well as almost literally hanging, with many buildings jolted by huge earthquakes in 1940 and 1977 – and big quakes happening about every 35-40 years in this part of the world.

One day, as our group rode north on Bulevardul Gheorghe Magheru, a part of which is seen here….

71718-3 alex spkg wth us on bul gheorghe magheru

one of our lead Bucharest guides – Alexandru (Alex) Sam (seen above from the back with many of us during a walk) – explained that the city and the nation are slowly achieving seismic retrofitting for buildings, including a mix of those with Parisian grandeur and a more subtly interesting modernism, but…for preservationists at heart (like this author) you’d have to conclude that this is going way too slowly, and actually, I’d say that Alex and Cristian would very much agree.

While I did not know if the buildings I was photographing were to be retrofitted, which means they’ll be marked with a red dot until such upgrading, examples of late 19th- or early 20th-century elegance include the  “Academia de Studii Economice” (Academy of Economic Studies), seen to the left here, and gracing the north side of “Piata Romana” (Roman Square)….

71718-2 academia de studii economice

….and the healthy number of 20th-century landmarks which are intriguingly gray and gritty as well as being examples of genres whose simplicity revolutionized architecture; these forms included that of the “Bauhaus” and the International Style and are seen partly on and near an east-west main street – “Bulevardul Dacia” (Dacia Boulevard) – like 59 Bulevardul Dacia….

71918-10 Buch 59 Bul Dacia

or 4 Intrarea Dacilor in an attractive cul de sac on the south side of Dacia Boulevard…

71918-11 Buch 4 intrarea dacilor

seen here in a close-up….

71918-12 Buch 4 intra daclr clsrup

In the meantime, the “red-dot” buildings and others which still sustain the wounds of 1977’s disaster are attractive to those in need of low rents and, on the other hand, an example of where it might be easy – whether right or wrong – to put aside moral scruples about capitalistic investment, assuming Bucharest would attract such action and it could bore its way through the many government regulations on bolstering buildings. [Footnote 6]

At the same time, as I suggested above, the road map toward some ideal balance has to be conscious of what could happen and the dark side to the renewal we may want to happen.

A positive vision, at the risk of being a Pollyanna, is necessary, and one strength which may help ensure diverse types of success in Bucharest is its architectural and spatial mix, from the French, as in the city’s own Arc de Triomphe for Romanians who died in World War I, seen in this “edgy” view where the arch supports an entire tour bus window (oops:))….

71718-1 arc de trmphe for romnians who died WW1

to the Italian, not pictured here but within the national language and sometimes locations and sounds, such as at “Piata Gheorghe Cantacuzino” (George Cantacuzino Square) [Footnote 7] in the “Little Paris” area, fronted on its north side by one of the occasionally Moorish structures of the city, here coincidentally that of the Jordanian Embassy…..

71918-1 Jordn embssy on piata gheorghe cantacuzino

…to the designs of Orthodox Christianity, exemplified at this chapel….

71818-3 Manastirea Stavro on Strada Stavropoleos

Manisterea Stravropoleos on Strada Stavropoleos

and, just a few hundred feet west via the same street, more of the preening and beloved elegance of the “Beaux-Arts” style, as a local example of the genre reveals itself….

71918-14 lkg w on stavropo twd casa de dep

71918-15 w on stavro clsr to casa de Depuneri

71918-16 casa de dep fr acr fr Victory (Av)

As in the full name of this grand financial palace – “Casa de Depuneri Conseminatiuni si Economie” (“House of Deposit, Bonds and Savings”) I pray that this city and its national government  will do much more to “bond deposits” for many “savings” on its streets:).


Footnote 1A. “International ShakeOut Day” occurs in most areas of the world on “the third Thursday of October each year” ( and it is meant to improve preparations in the event of an earthquake through drills, a focus on improving emergency plans, and other aspects. (

Footnote 1B.  In the photo of “Passages”, Pasajul Villacrosse is at the left and Pasajul Macca is at the right.  At the moment, my recollection is that they were built in 1891, but I need to confirm or correct that. [See if interested in maps and the wonderful fabric this past Summer of much of “Old Bucharest”:,+București,+Romania/@44.4330472,26.0962026,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x40b1ff40f3109839:0x63bd9e6cb10db206!8m2!3d44.4330434!4d26.0983913]

Footnote 2. Sources here include: and the following source speaks of the speedy execution of Nicolai Ceausescu and his wife Elena on Christmas Day, 1989:

Footnote 3.  From a brief check, it appears that it took at least five years to build the Houses of Parliament.

A writing from Bucharest guide Cristina Iosif suggests it was constructed from 1984-1990 but in its third paragraph, definitely notes the loss of heritage on its site in terms of two older neighborhoods which were destroyed for it:

This next article, under the auspices of the Romanian government, suggests it was 60% complete by the time of Ceausescu’s overthrow but that its construction continued on a slower scale in the 1990’s, as noted about….60% of the way through this writing, at:

In many instances, the forelorn structures of the city are often close to beautifully “resolved” abodes, such as ELEVEN Dumbrava Rosie, right across from “12” above….

71918-2 buch dumbrava rosie 11

Footnote 4. I should also acknowledge the insights shared by Alex (Alexandru) Sam, who is seen at work in the photo of Cristian Pirv, behind and to the right of Cristian, with both being Romanian natives.

Footnote 5. Hoping the hook-like accents under the “s’s” of Egmont Pușcașu come through, but more importantly, his presentation may have been the number 1 moment of the Eastern European visit above.  I have thought about freedom a number of times in my life, more so now as freedom of the press is under attack in the United States, but such thoughts are often in the abstract, and here, in the heart of Bucharest, we were meeting a true freedom fighter.

“1200 dead/14k wounded in Bucharest…” was what I wrote in listening to Egmont on July 18, but sources differ in a brief internet review of the huge day of bloodshed and liberation on Dec. 21, 1989.

A short article upon the 20th anniversary of the Revolution says the number of people “killed in the revolution was between 12 and 15 hundred, with hundreds more injured”. []

A legal brief before the European Court of Humans Rights in 2011 notes early on that  related proceedings “concern the death or injury by gunshot and the ill-treatment and deprivation of liberty experienced by several thousand persons in a number of cities and towns across the country” (p. 2) while on page 3, there is a much smaller number of dead and wounded than the numbers conveyed by Egmont – while I’d note that it is from the national government and perhaps he and others would therefore be skeptical of it, even if its framework contains freedom:

“According to a report of 24 July 1990 by the Directorate of Military Prosecutor’s Offices (Direcţia procuraturilor militare), in the night of 21 to 22 December 1989 “48 persons died and 150 persons were injured in Bucharest as a result of the violent crackdown by the armed forces, including through the use of firearms”. [“CASE OF ASSOCIATION “21 DECEMBER 1989” AND OTHERS v. ROMANIA”, heard before the European Court of Human Rights in 2011;]

A Dec. 2017 article explaining aspects of the uprising says that Romania’s protests “[lead] to over 1,000 deaths and [left] 2,500 people injured”. []

What is clear is that the night of Dec. 21-22, 1989 was very bloody, and one of Egmont Puscasu’s statistics was that “one of two million bullets in Bucharest’s protests [that night] were shot in [what is called] Revolutionary Square”, right across Calea Victoriei (“Victory Path” in one translation)  from where he spoke with us.

71818-9 Biserica Kretzulescu whr Egmont spoke

The “Biserica Kretzulescu” (Kretzulescu Church) – dating largely to the 1720’s and the direct backdrop for our time with Egmont.

Footnote 6. Loooooong footnote, so…basically, what follows argues that the city and the nation are NOT ready – at least in recent years – for a major earthquake…

One basic source on the lack of response and vision in Bucharest when it comes to structurally strengthening its awesome cluster of past glories is the 2014 article from Britain’s Guardian newspaper right here, not surprisingly depressing as it is:

The discouraging news continues in a December 2015 article, while with a small hope that government would have more focus and less corruption in improving Bucharest buildings following an outcry after a fire at its “Colectiv Club” nightclub in October of that year; this writing also notes the significance of Central Bucharest’s built heritage, in the observation of “Valentin Mandache, an expert and consultant on Romania’s historic houses, as well as a former seismologist” who said that in his mind the #2 loss of any earthquake, beyond peoples’ lives, would be “that of the architectural heritage”. [].

At the time of initially posting my writing here, my most recent reading has been a powerful June 2017 article written by Romanian Georgiana Ilie and presented in an edited form in Appendix I following these footnotes.

While it was tempting to keep looking for any reflections from the last 16 months to confirm whether or not a herculean lack of motivation remains in Romania in this regard, that seems fairly likely as of mid-July of this year; at that time, as noted above, Alex Sam, one of our guides as well as a Bucharest native – spoke of the extremely slow efforts towards consolidating buildings in the center of the city.

Although I heard on my visit that the last relatively major earthquake in Bucharest was in 1977 and that the previous major quake there was in the 1920’s, it appears from a short search that that second last “really big one” occurred on Nov. 10, 1940, and like a number of them over the centuries, its epicenter was in a Romanian region northeast of the city known as Vrancea.

“Major” here appears to be defined as being at 7.0 on the Richter Scale, or higher on a newer scale noted in the introduction to my appendix below, where you’ll see a partial explanation of “Moment Magnitude”, denoted by “Mw” after numbers in question such as 7.1, etc.

While I cannot find a url for a scholarly analysis I noticed on both the 1940 and 1977 quakes, googling the following – which reverses date and month notations as in much of Europe – “The Strong Romanian Earthquakes of 10.11.1940 and 4.03.1977. Lessons Learned and Forgotten?” should immediately lead to at least two sites where you can download its conclusions on both quakes.

Here is an overall source on earthquakes throughout recorded history in what became Romania, fascinating in part in terms of relatively distant times when they were documented – starting here with “July 10, 455 [CE]”:

The initial search above includes emphasis on a likely dubious distinction for Bucharest that it is THE most quake-prone capital city in Europe, with examples of that un-super superlative being….

— “The most seismically endangered capital city in Europe” [PDF for “The Strong Romanian Earthquakes of 10.11.1940 and 4.03.1977. Lessons Learned and Forgotten?]

— “Bucharest is the most dangerous major city in Europe when it comes to earthquakes” []

In connection with the local timeline noted above, from a Bucharest native who communicated the sense of “major quakes” in the 1920’s and then in 1977 – hence every FIFTY years or so –  that resident underscored the 1977 quake and added with wry humor that we do not have to worry right now, because we have about nine years to go before there is another such disaster.

I am sorry that the truth is more unnerving, but that in a sense just helps to ring the alarm bell more loudly to hopefully save the beauty one could see this past summer in “Old Bucharest”.

Once again, while it is easily larger than several of my typical blogs combined, you are encouraged to see the Appendix below for the edited version of the strong June 2017 article noted above.

Footnote 7. Gheorghe Cantacuzino (1833-1913) was a Romanian politician and lawyer and a leader in shaping the policies of his Conservative Party. He lead Romania on two occasions as the 20th Prime Minister – from April 23 1899 to July 19 1900, and January 4, 1906 to March 24 1907. []


Appendix – “Earthquake in the Vulnerable City”

“Earthquake…” is a powerful article from 16 months ago – June 2017 – and is presented in an excerpted form below, but is still the size of at least a 747 in comparison with the little 2-person flyer [aka blog:)] above, so the introduction here plus the impactful last three paragraphs, beginning with “Italian earthquakes over the past 20 years….” may be sufficient, or skimming bolded portions below.

The article was written by Romanian Georgiana Ilie, as mentioned earlier above, and originally appeared in issue #28 of DoR, a journal of Romanian nonfiction whose acronymic name stands for “Decât o Revistă” or…”Than a magazine” – counting on Google Translate there at least:)!

While I took the time to soak in the article in order to make choices on what to cut out right here, I myself do not understand all of the specifics, especially the acronyms for what are likely to be departments of the national government, and do not expect any but the most fervent readers to read all of the text in this segment, or the full article; given those parameters, I have taken time to bold some of its most striking passages, while there are just a few “boldings” which represent my own words as well.

The writing’s main points, in any event, are of both monumental inaction by government and of a new effort by citizen activists to create a pro-active stance for building up Bucharest’s resilience to disaster.

This excellent article is ever so slightly lost in translation, with perhaps 20 or more small (or smaller) grammatical mistakes, some noted by the term “[sic]”.

Here, one of the new elements I learned was of “Moment Magnitude” – abbreviated as “Mw” below and regarding measurement of the strength of an quake; this indice was announced in the late 1970’s to measure a larger span of earthquake damage then one finds on the more famous Richter Scale; see if interested: for further information.


There will be no warning. Dogs will not bark. Sparrows will not leave their trees. Nor will the calculations of those who claim to be able to predict earthquakes give us any clue as to what is about to happen.

The first to know will be Bucharest’s emergency services, via text. The nuclear reactors at Pitești and Kozlodui (Bulgaria) will shut down automatically. At about the same time 3400 or so followers of two social media accounts connected to the servers of the National Institute of Earth Physics (INFP) will receive a short message: “***EWS*** A 7.5 #earthquake has been detected”. EWS stands for Early Warning System. An even more cryptic message will be sent out on Telegram: “Earthquake Magnitude 7.5”.

Just 25 seconds after the alarm has been raised, during which time the P (Prima) shockwave would have risen from the depths of the earth, buildings, streets, parks, lakes, water and gas pipes, electricity pylons and the potato stuck on top of a stick in Piata Revolutiei will be violently thrust upwards. Bucharest crashing back down to earth will be the first sound….

Bucharest is the largest urban agglomeration in Romania and is situated in the Vrâncea fault’s area of impact. …. The city has more than two million inhabitants, thousands of old or tall buildings, an underground railway, a reservoir complete with an old dam that could break and flood a quarter of the city, Romania’s largest gas distribution network and is home — let us not forget — to just about every institution key to the functioning of the Romanian state.

Also here are the authorities who prevaricate over the issue of consolidating at-risk buildings, the poorly resourced emergency services who refuse to share responsibility with Bucharest’s citizens, and the public at large which has no idea about what to do in case of a calamity. And, over the past year, it has become home to a number of activists who are trying to begin a public debate about earthquakes, looking for alternative ways to protect as many people as possible, studying how other countries deal with emergencies.

They do this because there is no doubt: following the next massive earthquake, over 7.5 magnitude, the city and its inhabitants will suffer like never before. This is the story of our future and the things we don’t do to limit the risks.

This article is based on simulations made by specialists at the National Institute of Research and Development in Construction, Urbanism and Sustainable Territorial Development (URBAN INCERC) and the University of Construction Technology, on intervention plans drawn up by the Department for Emergencies and on the conclusions of the SEISM 2016 exercise, corroborated with data from similar, real situations, both local and international (Turkey, Italy and Japan). The scenario deals with a mid-range earthquake, and its purpose is not to scare or to provoke fear, but to raise both public and personal awareness of the need to make preparations for disaster.

The subject of earthquakes is omnipresent. Events of the past year — an earthquake in Italy last August killed almost 300 people (including 11 Romanians), a tremor was felt in Bucharest in September and a technical error caused a popular Romanian news app (Biziday) to issue an earthquake warning — have only made the subject more relevant. History suggests that an earthquake is inevitable, even it we cannot predict when it will strike.
We do know, however, what awaits us.
Ioana Nenciu never walks next to buildings at risk of collapsing during an earthquake. In order to walk the one and a half kilometres from Piața Romană to Universitate in central Bucharest, she walks only on the right hand side of the road, where the pavement is at its widest and she can be a safe distance from the buildings which overlook it. There are at [sic] high-risk buildings on this side of the street, some with balconies that barely cling on, others with facades that have begun to give way and others which feature huge columns that are not in any way resistant. And yet at least she is far enough away from them [no period – sic]
Nenciu, 27, is an urbanist specialising in urban and regional development who, before moving from Brasov to study in Bucharest, first consulted a microseismic map of the capital. The map, periodically updated by the INFP, shows how shockwaves circulate in different areas. A shockwave’s acceleration speed and the amount of time the earth vibrates affect the intensity of an earthquake which is higher in some areas (Otopeni, Băneasa, Casa Presei, Pantelimon) than others (Tineretului, Metalurgiei, IMGB). Nenciu chose an apartment in Tineretului, in a 10-storey block built after the 1977 earthquake, after new construction rules had been introduced and because the area is one of the capital’s safest. “My mum used to say: Wouldn’t it be better to study in Cluj? Bucharest’s not a good idea, they have earthquakes.” Nenciu chose Bucharest [to study in] because the university is better but nevertheless took as many precautions as possible to put herself out of harm’s way [including that] [s]he has fixed her furniture to the walls and watches where she walks, choosing routes from place to place with care.
Following the fire at Colectiv (a Bucharest nightclub that burned in October 2015 and killed 64 people) in which she lost two colleagues (the architect Catalina Ionita and urbanist Mihai Alexandru, a guitarist in the band Goodbye to Gravity, which was performing at Colectiv that night), Nenciu and a group of friends decided that they wanted to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future. Taking as their starting point a new law (282/2015) which forbids all commercial activity in buildings designated as an earthquake risk — a law which led to the closure, at the end of 2015, of almost 200 restaurants, bars, theatres and cinemas — they set about taking stock of Bucharest’s problematic buildings, and the people occupying them.
“We wanted to go beyond the buildings themselves, to learn about the social risk,” says Nenciu. “The City Council had no data about who was living in these buildings, their registers had not been updated. We wanted to find out who owned the buildings, and the apartments in them. We gathered together as much information as we could, even finding out who was more than six months behind with their utility bills.” [Their] efforts convinced Nenciu and her friends that the scale of the risk to which Bucharest is exposed is far more serious than generally thought. One of the biggest shocks was discovering that the largest owner of at risk buildings is the Romanian state. And that it has tenants.

The project is called Seismic Alert and is the first civil initiative of its kind. The team reached out and talked to tenants and owners associations that represent almost half of the 12,000 people living in the 345 buildings classed as being seismic risk level one (those which will collapse during an earthquake). They then put all of the vulnerable buildings on an interactive map of the city — online at — and thoroughly examined the city’s readiness for an earthquake, all of which was finalised in a report called Bucharest. The Vulnerable City. They organised meetings with the authorities and began a social media awareness campaign, telling people about consolidation and problems with the system. Much of the team’s work however has continued to be done in high risk apartment blocks, talking with property owners who want to consolidate their buildings but who come up against all sorts of obstacles.

According to current risk assessments (which classifies buildings from one to four, with one being the most at risk of collapse in an earthquake similar to that of 1977) almost 800 buildings are officially considered to be at risk. Of the 345 which are classified as risk level one and which are obliged to display a red warning disk, 175 make up a special category known as ‘public hazard.’ This means that they comprise of four or more levels and have commercial spaces on the ground floor, making them a risk to customers and passers-by, not only the people who live in them.
The reality however is that Bucharest probably has over 2350 buildings at risk. At the beginning of the 1990s, almost 1600 buildings were surveyed using different criteria, and ranked U1, U2 and U3 according to how quickly they should be consolidated (two, five and 10 years respectively). When the evaluation criteria changed, surveyors did not return to these buildings in order to reassess them. [Around 1600 buildings] have managed to swerve the law, and remain vulnerable, crumbling by the day.
Public funds for consolidation are only available for the 175 risk level one buildings considered a public hazard. It is debatable, depending on where you stand on the political spectrum, as to whether or not it is even morally acceptable to use public money to consolidate privately owned buildings, whose owners might then be able to cash in. In reality very few buildings have been consolidated, and at such high cost, that the value of investment — the initial sum paid for the property plus the cost of consolidation — cannot be covered by the sale price. In practice the cost of each consolidated block increased by at least €800/m2, making them uncompetitive on the market. In several countries, the state does not finance consolidation at all, only demolitions (Japan) going as far as to fine building owners who do not demolish their at risk buildings (New Zealand).

It is sometimes all too easy to spot the most at risk buildings: houses in the Old Town with damaged, peeling facades, abandoned houses packed with illegal squatters, tall blocks, crumbling on major thoroughfares. Most, however, are not visible. Many exteriors have been covered with polystyrene insulation, covering the cracks. In others, pillars have been cut away by tenants unhappy at a lack of storage space. Others still house shops, offices, expensive Airbnb rentals or newsrooms (such as ours, which is in a building classed U3 in 1993 and should have been consolidated in 10 years. We have no idea how risky it is today).
Although a national consolidation programme exists, just 20 buildings in Bucharest have been consolidated since 1990 with public funds (a further 70 have been consolidated privately). This is because the process is labourious. Firstly, all the owners in a block need to agree. In many cases owners live abroad, or else do not have their property deeds and titles in order. Most often they simply cannot afford the process of consolidation. Then, if all of the owners have managed to come together and file a formal request at the city council [for consolidation on a block it can take up to two years for approval [of consolidation applications] because the Development and Investment Department has too few employees for the amount of work it is expected to deal with. Once approved, owners need to leave the building for anything between two and four years, during which time they hand over all control of their properties to the company carrying out the consolidation work. The council selects that company via public tender and owners have no control over how it goes about the consolidation. Then, work is always done on building interiors: [When the work begins…] new pillars and supplementary resistance walls are added, meaning that people always return to smaller spaces than those they left.

“Ideally there would be somebody at the council who would act as a liaison between property owners and construction firms”, says Nenciu. That way, people would feel as though they are taking part in the process. They are, after all, paying [for consolidation]… although the state pays the constructor, owners are obliged to pay back the money in installments, over 25 years. Only those with very small incomes (or no income at all) are excepted from paying the money back. Even then, they still need to have enough money to pay rent for the period during which the consolidation takes place, and then to decorate and fit out their property once they get it back from the constructor.

Given that all apartment owners within a block must agree to begin the process of consolidation, the overwhelming majority of at-risk buildings do not even get the chance to be included in the national programme. Even if just one apartment owner refuses, the process becomes blocked. An amendment to the current law, proposed in March by the Ministry of Regional Development, Public Administration and European Funds, would prevent that from happening [and basically proceed with consolidation if] a majority of apartment owners want to consolidate their block [and] those who oppose would have to accept being forced — by the city council — to leave their apartments so that work can take place. (Bucharest’s mayor, Gabriela Firea, told us — via a press officer — that until the legislation is changed, nothing can be done to speed up the rhythm of consolidation.)

Besides those buildings formally identified as being at-risk, there are many others. Tall, extremely unstable blocks with commercial spaces on the ground floor, which engineers describe as “giants with legs of jelly.” Blocks in which apartment owners have knocked down supporting walls without approval in order to make their kitchens bigger or extend their living rooms [etc.]. Blocks made far heavier than ever intended by tons of wall and floor tiles added after 1990. Blocks and houses damaged in 1977, “repaired” in just a few days so that Nicolae Ceausescu could wipe away as soon as possible all traces of the earthquake to show just how much the state had done to ensure people did not suffer. At the time people were told an “earthquake proof” cement was being used for repairs, a huge fat lie which many still believe to this day.

Professor Radu Văcăreanu, rector at the University of Construction Technology says that as well as the problems raised by Nenciu’s activists, the process is blocked [by] a series of myths. Speaking at a public debate organised by the Group for Social Dialogue in 2016 Văcăreanu summarised them.

First: “if a building survived the 1940 and 1977 earthquakes then it is safe”. No, buildings do not get stronger with each earthquake, they become weaker. Before 1963 (when Romania published its first building code to take earthquakes into account) buildings were not designed with earthquakes in mind. Any resistance these buildings may have is pure luck.

Second: “it was consolidated after 1977”. No. It was repaired, not consolidated. Third: “we have heard that consolidation can make the situation worse”. No. Many buildings constructed before 1963 have no earthquake resistance at all, no reinforced concrete flooring, no vertical support and no foundations. You cannot make a situation worse than that. Fourth: “consolidation can be done quickly, with apartment owners still living in their properties”. No, they can’t. Fifth: “the list is wrong, the assessment is wrong”. No. The list of 120 at risk buildings is the tip of the iceberg, it refers to tall buildings.

The list of 120 buildings was drawn up by the authorities at the end of the 1990s following initial assessments and includes tall buildings with a large number of inhabitants: blocks with 25–50 apartments, such as those found on boulevards Magheru, Nicolae Bălcescu and Dacia. Buildings in which Văcăreanu would not set foot “even to visit somebody” [Scenes on or near Magheru and Dacia Boulevards are pictured by me above. – js] The list partly overlaps with the current list of risk level one buildings, to which were added shorter buildings (with four storeys). Adding these small buildings, of just one or two levels, is an exaggeration according to Văcăreanu…thinks…resources should be concentrated on [reinforcing taller buildings].

What is important, says Văcăreanu, is to invest in infrastructure, in transport, water and gas networks, in schools and hospitals, because it is their resilience on which we will depend when we set about recovering from an earthquake. In any country, schools, sports halls and universities become shelters for those left homeless following an earthquake. The fact that we are not investing in these things is proof that we do not know where our priorities lie.

…Together, the lack of consolidation and failure to invest in infrastructure will have serious repercussions when an earthquake next hits Bucharest. Văcăreanu estimates, in a study which analyses six scenarios, that a medium strength earthquake of a magnitude of 7.5 at a depth of 90 kilometres would cause severe damage to over 42 per cent of Bucharest’s 130,000 buildings. Some will completely collapse, particularly those built before 1963, while others will become unsafe for occupation. Less than 20 per cent will have just minor damage and only eight per cent  [of buildings]— less than one building in ten — will suffer no damage at all.

[At this point, there is a reminiscence of Romanian Dragoș Tătaru experiencing an earthquake in the Vrancea region (see below) as a child in 1990, followed by a passage on his work in 2017 at the age of 36 as a geophysicist and researcher, and his  presentations to many people, but especially “teachers and children, trying to find a way to “drum in” information [on earthquakes and how to protect oneself during a quake] throughout a child’s education.

Vrancea is the most active seismic area in Romania and the only subcrustal one, meaning that it impacts upon a vast area.

The largest Vrancea earthquakes of the 20th century took place on October 6th, 1908, November 10th, 1940, and March 4th, 1977.

The 1977 earthquake was classed as XI (extreme), and measured 7.4Mw. It killed almost 1600 people, 1500 in Bucharest. It left in its wake more than 11,000 injured, 33,000 homes were destroyed and 35,000 families left homeless.

That the earthquake occurred during the communist period made things more difficult for the Romanians who survived it. ….[N]ew research carried out by Mădălin Hodor in the archives of the Securitate, the former secret police, has revealed a…grotesque and cynical truth….

…Foreign specialists, who came complete with search and rescue dogs, were for a while forbidden from entering wreckage to look for survivors amidst fears that they might be spies. ….False consolidation took place: cracks in buildings were covered with cement. Engineers were not allowed to properly evaluate affected buildings on threat of prison. …Few received compensation to meet the cost of repairs and hundreds of millions of dollars in donations sent from abroad never reached the people who actually needed it.

Hodor’s conclusion is that Ceaușescu used the earthquake as an excuse to destroy a part of Bucharest in order to build the Casa Poporului (The People’s House, the second largest administrative building in the world) [pictured early in my article – js] and a new city centre along the lines of what he had seen on a visit to North Korea, and that the foreign donations were used to finance this megalomaniac vision. All the while people were lied to, told their buildings were safe and that they had nothing to fear.

The next earthquake will fall on these lies.

On March 3rd, 2017, at 19:52, just a couple hours before the 40th anniversary of the 1997 earthquake, when television stations were full of images of collapsed blocks and emotional eyewitness accounts, 200,000 people received an alert from a news application called Biziday: “Vrancea has detected an earthquake measuring 10 on the Richter Scale at a depth of 10km. Keep calm and go with your families….”. ….
It is not known how many people simply ignored the message, but the next 13 notifications, received just a few seconds later, made many people panic. …. almost everyone who posted on Facebook did exactly what they shouldn’t: they used the stairs, the most fragile part of a block, and the first to collapse.

If the warning had been real, many would have died for not knowing how to proceed in such circumstances. …Moise Guran, the journalist behind the Biziday application, at first suggested that his servers had been broken into, and then refused to give further details. ….He had made a short film which informs people what to do in case of an earthquake and how the alert works: a message much like that received on March 3rd and an audio message which tells you to stand under a supporting beam, to not use the stairs and to not use the lift. ….

Guran’s intentions were sound, especially as there is no other service of a similar nature available to the wider public.  A combination of technical errors and the lack of confidence the incident provoked have buried the idea.

On various seismic forums, such as the “Earthquake in Romania!” Facebook group, there was much chatter about whether or not the whole thing had been a conspiracy designed to discredit the warning system. Several members of the group ….claim that if people were warned of every earthquake of 4Mw or above they would be less fearful, and in the case of real danger would act rationally, not emotionally. ….

An alert is possible owing to the fact that the speed of data transmission from the INFP’s Vrancea servers is faster than the speed of the shockwaves by around 20–25 seconds. ….

What can you do with 25 seconds? You can take shelter under a supporting girder or under a solid table with your family, you can turn off the cooker, the gas or water supply, you can get dressed. ….

For some time, the Department of Emergencies (DSU), which coordinates the emergency services in Romania, has positioned itself in opposition to a warning system because it would “provoke panic”. Following a conference at the beginning of this year attended by Japanese experts, Ionescu says the DSU’s position changed. It is now preparing to add earthquake alerts to its own application…installed by more than 100,000 users. [But, among other problems….] Connecting to the automatic shutdown systems implies a cost for anyone using it, as their own systems need to be adapted.

A 7.5Mw earthquake will last about a minute. Around 3000 firefighters and emergency (SMURD) personnel will be on hand in Bucharest to offer first response assistance. [Here, there is a passage on personnel arriving from other countries, local volunteers, etc.]

However many arrive, there will not be enough, especially as there will be emergencies throughout the rest of the country…. towns and villages close to the epicentre will suffer massive damage. In 1940, in Panciu, Vrancea county, just five houses were left standing. ….

Aftershocks — often almost as strong as the earthquake itself — will make the rescue effort more difficult, as they can destabilise damaged buildings in which searches are being made.

If the earthquake hits in 10 years time, 61 per cent of the IGSU’s staff will be more than 45 years old, and just 15 per cent aged under 39, owing to mass-recruitment when it became a professional organisation following the withdrawal of compulsory military service. It now only recruits 100 people per year. Regardless of how well prepared these people are, those aged over 45 will not be able to sustain a long-term rescue effort for very long — a vulnerability already identified by independent experts. ….

An earthquake scenario drawn up by 2003 by Emil-Sever Georgescu, a scientific researcher at URBAN INCERC [the National Institute of Research and Development in Construction, Urbanism and Sustainable Territorial Development], shows that 1000 tall buildings will collapse, either totally or partially. (The scenario is not up-to-date. We asked Georgescu for a meeting to see how it could be updated, but he replied only to say that such things would require a consultancy contract which would cost “hundreds, perhaps thousands of euros”. This despite being paid by the public purse to carry out such research).

From here on in we know what will happen by taking the experience of other, similar earthquakes in Europe and Japan. Some buildings will catch fire. Thick dust will make it difficult to see more than a metre ahead, even with the bright lights brought in by rescue teams. Roads will be blocked by rubble — [in part from the complete collapse of tall buildings…]

An earthquake which hit at night would, says INCERC’s scenario, find 450,000 people sleeping in buildings with a high or medium risk of sustaining serious damage. At least 6,500 will die; 16,000 will suffer serious injuries. If the earthquake takes place during the day, the number of people killed and injured is estimated to be half those figures. For the thousands of people who will need to be taken to hospital — for multiple injuries, burns shock — vacant beds will be difficult to find. If the system struggled to cope with the 200 people seriously injured after the fire at Colectiv, after an earthquake it will totally collapse. ….Medical supplies will run out in just a few hours, in some hospitals they will not exist to begin with.

Before the earthquake has even ended hundreds of fires will break out all over Bucharest. Wherever there are exposed gas pipes, caught between the earth which is moving in one direction and buildings moving in another, they will crack and catch fire….

Fires [of exposed gas pipes] could be prevented if each building was fitted with an independent system to automatically shut off the gas supply. A number of solutions are available [including…] if anyone ever produces it, a seismic ventilator, a device which functions without any energy supply and which, placed on gas pipes, blocks them whenever seismic activity is felt. (There is a prototype, created by Professor Dan Rau, the former director of the Seismological Observatory in Timișoara. The cost of production is around €300).

If, on top of damaged buildings, blocked streets and fires, the Ciurel dam breaks, then 15 million metric cubes of water currently stored in Morii Lake will flood the Dambovita river over a length of around four and a half kilometres.….

If it is winter — and all the great earthquakes since 1800 have occurred during the colder months — the first night for hundreds of thousands of homeless people will be grim as they freeze in parks and public squares. …

….If it is summer, the first night will be easier. Worse will be the following days, under the burning sun, especially if dead bodies are left in the open or trapped under rubble. The smell and the risk of infection will cause people seek shelter in the less affected areas on the outskirts of the city.

….No supplies for evacuees have been prepared, say the IGSU, although doing so has been a priority since the first SEISM exercises when the [sic] realised that they had brought hundreds of firefighters to Bucharest but had nowhere for them to sleep nor any food to give them. They say that for the time being there are no funds.

….The dead will be brought to the Mina Minovici morgue. After the 300 places are full they will be deposited elsewhere in the building….

Besides the 6,500 people who may die on impact, the INCERC scenario makes no effort to estimate the number of those who will die for lake [sic] of medical attention. Nor of pets abandoned after the death or departure of their owners, be they cats, dogs, tarantulas or cobras.

When Matei Sumbasacu, an engineer, asked a DSU representative how much construction equipment the emergency services had at their disposal to clean the streets after a major earthquake he got no answer. The DSU representative was under the bright lights of TV cameras, during a live debate called “Vulnerable Bucharest” organised by Seismic Alert, and had already given a number of far from satisfactory answers. When a reporter asked him if there are safe places in the city he did not know how to respond, and when another reporter asked him what people should do in case of an earthquake he said “to get out of their houses”. Exactly the opposite of what they should do. ….A construction engineer with a masters degree in earthquake structural analysis, Sumbasacu, 28, recently founded an NGO, Re:Rise, because he wants to reduce the risk posed by earthquakes.

It all began in his own home, a block of 40 apartments built between the two world wars. In 2015, when he returned from a consultancy posting in Dubai, he wanted to find out what category of risk his building was in. He discovered that it was ridiculously classed as ‘risk level two to one’. As he puts it, buildings are not classed as being between two risk levels. The surveyor needed to decide if it was risk level two, or one. [Sumbasacu learned of a number of problems here, such as lack of knowledge on the true risk level of many buildings and suspicion from his neighbors when “they accused him of wanting to sell their apartments”.]

Together with other specialists in construction, he set up Re:Rise in December 2016, which has already made a number of public statements. [One of its conclusions is that “1600 buildings…would completely collapse during an earthquake of 7Mw” – a much higher number of buildings than previously noted in this regard.]

They then proposed a system which would ensure that surveys were carried out objectively: an online platform to which surveyors could upload their work independently of property owners, who would no longer be able to pay for surveys. Experience has shown that property owners can influence surveyors and, if they do not like the results (which may not allow them to open businesses in their properties) they do not lodge [the report on their building] with the city council.

As well as participating in public debates [Re:Rise wants] to create a database with all privately-held construction machinery which could be made available to help with the removal of rubble following an earthquake. …“The project closest to my heart is consolidation”, says Sumbasacu, “as I am an engineer. But before we get to that stage there are many other ways we can work to limit the number of deaths.”

[In regards to the existing “requisitioning process” for supplies for earthquake response, the opinion of article author Georgiana Ilie at this point is that it is highly impractical for it to be overseen by national institutions such as the military, legal divisions, etc., since many of their  “operations…will be gravely affected or even suspended because of human losses or destroyed offices”.]

At the SEISM 2016 exercise, the IGSU had just 47 lorries and pick-up trucks at its disposal, …but “[t]o clear the eight million tons of rubble (the amount Professor Văcăreanu estimates) will take trucks than can support a maximum of 20 tons each time [or] almost 400,000 loads”.

In a city full of rubble, with no utilities, in the cold or in a heatwave, in a state of emergency, economic activity will come to a halt for some time. …Even in those places where work is possible, people, distressed by what they have been through, wracked with worry and lacking basic necessities will not be at their most efficient.

In 1977 Ceaușescu forced people back to work in factories whose walls, it was reported, were about to collapse at any moment. This time, safety will be paramount. The World Bank estimates that total losses in Bucharest — which includes everything, from the loss of life to destroyed buildings, from lost production to the cost of caring for survivors — will rise to above €10 billion, or seven per cent of Romania’s economy….

In order to switch the gas back on, all 2000 kilometres of pipes will need to be checked metre by metre, something which can be done only after the streets have been cleared of rubble and collapsed or condemned buildings have been cut off from the mains….

…The city council can house just 300 people in the 84 socially-owned apartments it has set aside for emergencies. The chief architect of Bucharest’s Sector 3, Ștefan Dumitrașcu, says that there are over 10,000 vacant apartments in new private developments, but that no agreement has yet been reached that would allow the city council to house homeless people in them in case of earthquake.

No country on earth can respond flawlessly to a natural disaster. Even Japan has difficulties. But no intelligent country can rely solely on the emergency services to deal with such events. In the January 1995 Kobe earthquake (6.9Mw, at a depth of 18km, at 5:45 in the morning) losses were huge: 6,500 dead, 40,000 injured and around 300,000 left homeless. [The main point here is that (in my words) while there were other gigantic losses, thousands of lives were saved partly because Japan relied not only on governmental disaster response but on allowing neighbors to develop relationships and where, as in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami….] …the authorities had invested in solidarity [through means such as] community centres, events where people got to know each other and did things together [thus giving] people the opportunity find out who would need saving.

In Romania, the authorities would like people to be responsible — to consolidate their own homes and not to move into properties already declared high risk [and prepare in other ways for disaster, but….]  At the same time however, the state acts with a paternalism that does not leave much room for personal initiative, nor does it encourage communal solidarity.

[Practices which disempower people include, but are not limited to….a lack of information on how much consolidation of buildings will cost residents and no repeated/unexpected drills so that people KNOW what to do in a crisis, but an attitude exemplified by the government thinking that….] “people…do not need to know where the earthquake-safe places are as all will be explained via loudspeakers after the earthquake has hit”.

[Partly through receiving “(a)pocalyptic scenarios” citizens come to see earthquakes as abstract and, on a related note, they do not trust the government’s limited preparations for such a disaster, including, but again not limited to….] “those who live in blocks with a red disk” [choosing] “to stay in them [because] they have no faith in the surveyors who declared them unsafe”….[based on the findings of  anthropologist Gruia Bădescu].

Nor do we, ordinary people, take things as seriously as we should. We only need to look at how many pubs, restaurants and shops in buildings declared a public danger have reopened less than a year after the Colectiv fire to see that we live in a country in which laws are not made to be respected.

[I have not edited the ending section of the main body of the text just below, largely because of its insistent drumbeat in the last two paragraphs….]

Italian earthquakes over the past 20 years have shown that in order to keep the death toll as low as possible one rescuer is needed for every three or four victims. Even in the best case scenario — help from around the country arrives in Bucharest without any problems (difficult to believe), there are no emergency situations in other parts of the country (unlikely), all firefighters have survived the earthquake and are not affected by the scale of the human disaster in front of them (impossible) — there are still fewer than 20,000 trained staff to take care of hundreds of thousands of victims and homeless people. If you are injured but are not in a serious condition, you will not receive any help, because there will be others whose needs are greater.

The main problem is that those responsible for reducing the risk believe that they have time. The city council believes that it has time to consolidate buildings when in fact, at the speed it is currently being done, it will take 175 years. Distrigaz believes it has time to manually turn off the gas. DSU believes it has time to stock up on emergency supplies. The IGSU believes that it has time to train enough volunteers to take the place of retiring firefighters. The Ministry of Development believes it has the timp [sic] to introduce new legislation that will speed up consolidation — a proposal was published in March but has yet to make it to parliament. Employers believe that they have time to practice fire and earthquake drills, but another day, when staff don’t have deadlines to meet. The owners of concert venues believe that they have time to evacuate people. Ordinary people believe that they have time to prepare a rucksack and make a plan for emergencies. An earthquake seems unlikely, something we just see on a black and white newsreel we watch on television every March 4th. But it is not unlikely. It could happen this summer, or in winter, ten years from now. But happen it will.

Meantime, some people have realised that everything cannot be left until tomorrow. Maybe it’s because they lost somebody in the unlikely fire of October 2015 and do not want to have to go through such things again, such as Seismic Alert. Maybe it’s because they can’t do anything about where they live but want to help those who can, such as Re:Rise. Maybe they have just realised that they have to drop the academic terminology and speak to people in language they can understand, such as the seismologists from INFP. They are all doing what the authorities who should be reducing risk are unable to do: bringing people to the same table, looking for solutions and trying to push things in the right direction. That is what we should all be doing. While there is still time.

[This is followed by a note that “Carla Lunguți contributed research to this article” and “[i]f you would like to find out more about Bucharest’s next earthquake, write to Georgiana at and she will point you towards some supplementary reading”.]

[“Earthquake in the Vulnerable City”, as reprinted at]



Hoping for “Common Ground” on the Bridge

[ONCE again, for past readers of my blog, various url’s/website addresses in the body of the text and footnotes here will not be hyperlinked, so you are advised to take the seconds-longer path of bolding and pasting them in your search box if seeing their articles and/or other content may enhance your experience here.]

Previous readers of my blogs are likely to know the landmark of my heading – Cleveland’s Sidaway Avenue Suspension Bridge, whose history and context I have occasionally written about since 2011 as part of an effort to insure the preservation and reuse of this faded but majestic structure. Its decay and power can be seen in many venues, including a blog  I wrote near the beginning of this year:

Currently, my main goal in the realm of “Bridge Area” blogs is to write about the history of Elizabeth Baptist Church, an institution which has often been situated in neighborhoods not far from the bridge throughout its history.  While time there is in a strict sense time away from the bridge, my activities for the past six years have largely been ones of telling stories from near that landmark so that people who care about THOSE stories are more likely to consider the cause of saving the Bridge as well.

On Sunday, June 24, I attended a service at “EBC” assuming any notes from there would be blended into a forthcoming “post” – and after an easy morning’s work, I’d be sleeping like a blog (so to speak, and with thanks to the Beatles).  An hour or so after the service, Jacquie Gillon, noted in an earlier article I posted on EBC, at: told me that there would be a “conversation” involving interviews with residents of the Garden Valley neighborhood (on the north side of the Bridge); I thought that was at least relevant to my general pursuits in this part of Cleveland, perhaps involving some great oral histories, and was glad I was able to come. Thankfully I would be gladder as to the literal low point of this meeting:)….

Upon reaching the meeting space of Burten, Bell, Carr, the “CDC” (Community Development Corporation) for Garden Valley and adjacent neighborhoods north and northwest of the Bridge, I quickly learned that the “conversation” at hand would consider how to keep and enhance open space in Cleveland and the region, and that there would be “hikes” during the meeting.

While this event was new to me, as well as the series of gatherings which included it, under the umbrella term of “Common Ground”, the area-wide sponsor of these meetings – the Cleveland Foundation – is 104 years old and I’d be…really embarrassed if that august organization was also new to me:). [Footnote 1]

After communications focusing on better green space and the like, it turned out that there would be one short hike including a few short speeches and some interaction as well – ending up right under a certain Bridge, where we learned about the basics of a vision to create a beautiful park in ten acres under and adjacent to the Sidaway Bridge.  Currently those acres are overgrown and/or given to storage and other activities in support of “RTA” (the Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority).

While I heard no absolute commitment to preserve and reuse the Bridge, in short presentations such as ones by our main “conversation” spokesperson – Roy Larick, a locally-based ecologist seen near the center here….

SB62418-2 lisg to Roy Larick

…it was given a positive role at the event in both comments to the entire group and side observations among participants.

This was exemplified partly by Tim Tramble, the executive director of Burten Bell Carr, who emphasized this section of the Kingsbury Run Valley as a “huge untapped resource” with a trove of wildlife which has reemerged there partly because of a less urbanized space in recent decades.  In observing the natural life of the valley and pairing that with residents’ desire for more community recreation, he noted that “we’ve seen deer, we’ve seen rabbits and there’s even been a report of a coyote” and also stated that there is “a hawk’s nest…on” the bridge.

The bridge’s human history in part was celebrated, and here the star of the moment was Hal Wyant, a 92-year old Cleveland native who told us about the many times he walked over the Bridge, now 70 years ago and more for the most part.

Hal is seen here with Kim Smith-Woodford, the director of “Outdoor Afro Cleveland” [Footnote 2] –  as the bridge rises at the upper right.

SB62418-3 Hal Wyant n Kim Smith Woodford

Hal explained to all of us that in 1943, when he 17, he lived on 119thand Kinsman, and would take the streetcar from there to Kinsman and Sidaway Avenues – from which the north pier of the Bridge is partly seen here in these photos, if, I assume, tinier, more hidden and forlorn as compared with 75 years ago….

SB 62618-1 fr Sway Kinsmn

SB 62618-2 fr Sway n Kins clsrupBoth of these photos were taken on Tues., June 26, 2018

From there he walked across the bridge to work at Empire Plow, a factory for farm plows and related machinery, still in operation today at its location since 1890 on 65th near Roland, about ten blocks south of the bridge in the “Slavic Village” area of Cleveland. [Footnote 3.]

Following service in World War II, he returned to work at Empire, and while he may not have been able to remember the exact span of his second time there, it was from shortly after he returned from military activity in November 1945 to sometime before he married in 1948.

It felt great to be in touch with the past, and have Hal’s long-standing and still fresh perspective, but a question from Jacquie Gillon might also remind us that bridges have often connected a divided city more in a literal sense than as part of a broader “community”.

After Hal noted his trade as a polisher at Empire, she asked how many Black people worked there, and he said he was one of 3 or 4; while I did not find out the company’s total number of employees 70-75 years ago, that seems to have been a striking minority. [Footnote 4]

Similarly, while the meeting released the “endorphins” of sharing knowledge and recollections, the latter joined with Hal Wyant’s continuing enthusiasm for Cleveland, my sense is that much work remains to be done.  To me, this was reflected in the demographics of the meeting, seen below, as, in my impression, it did not attract more than two residents from the surrounding and very low-income Garden Valley community.

SB62418-4 lisg to Tim Tramble talk after walk

In noting that, I realize that assemblies like this will at times clearly have a more white-collar audience with both greater time and awareness of various causes, etc.  Additionally, this gathering was still, in my mind, a genuine bridge with committed Clevelanders and area residents; it is also one of many bridges that must be built for a strong and lasting green space, graced by the span above it, as leaders, volunteers and many more reach area residents and cultivate the elbow grease of several key players, including BBC, RTA, the City and others.


Footnote 1.     For further information, see the following site, which reminded me that, for history and historic preservation lovers, the theme of all of the “Common Ground” get-togethers on June 24 –  “Why does place matter?” – WOULD have mattered….

The Cleveland Foundation fleetingly appears in an earlier writing of mine at an older blog site, noted below, where I write that along with a few other key Cleveland organizations, it has celebrated its centennial in these “teen” years of the century, 2014 in its case. [See if interested, the last paragraph before footnotes begin at:]

Footnote 2. Ms. Smith-Woodford spoke briefly at the meeting regarding “Outdoor…”, a group which works to bring more African-Americans to green and recreational spaces. It is promoted in part on its “Meetup” and Facebook websites, respectively at: —and–

Footnote 3. A basic history of Empire Plow can be seen at a website of the Northern Ohio Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archaeology, at: and I noticed a current site on a larger company now including Empire, at:, where a major emphasis of Empire’s manufacturing continues to be blades and the like to till the soil.

For a map of Empire’s location, see the url just below, “pinned” at its address of 3140 South 65th Street; if your first map reveals 65th/Wren and Hyacinth Park just below their intersection, please cursor down two blocks south or so to 65th & Roland and an image of Empire’s footprint…..,+Cleveland,+OH+44127/@41.4782914,-81.6462513,17z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x8830fb20add019a9:0x592345638618d9ce!8m2!3d41.4723831!4d-81.6467448

Footnote 4.  My quick googling of “Empire…” did not yield any number of employees in the 1940’s, but reinforced that it was a large venture at that time, as suggested by the “WWII” timepoint in a chronology at the afore-noted Northern OH. Society for Industrial Archaeology site, when Empire – in what seems like a conversion to wartime products – is said to have “perfect[ed the] process for making steel airstrip landing mats using only five strokes on stamping presses compared to 44 strokes conventionally” and that it “[produced] 180 tons of landing mats every 10 hours”.[]

Houston: re-slicing the cultural pie

[Please note….

— further information at the end of this article on various art pieces, etc., which are briefly discussed below;

— the need, as in a number of previous blogs, to bold and then paste url’s which are not hyperlinked:).]

One of the backgrounds for this blog is one of my main cultural influences – E U R O P E. That cultural font – or gusher, more accurately, since this writing deals partly with “oil country” – emerged in my childhood, as I reveled in my hometown Cleveland Museum of Art, primarily in its European and European-American art, with too little thought given to what at the time was….

— its tiny African collection,

— its larger pre-Columbian if basement-dwelling displays,

…and not enough study of its relatively vast “Oriental” galleries, whose size and quality may have been unusual for a museum of the Western world 40-50 years ago.

Since then….

— the world has happily in a way gotten less European,

— my extended family has gotten less Caucasian,

— my love of the European has continued and….

…it has still been an anomaly for me to stop and smell other cultural roses, at least in the world of art museums; one of the rare times in which I have done this was in 2013, at the Denver Museum of Art, when I saw its decades-long emphasis on the arts of North American indigenous peoples.

Just under two weeks ago, on a visit to Houston, I got a bigger dose of the non-European, both in an art museum and a restaurant.  While my experiences are not exactly novel in terms of travel or food, they were very “new” for me and I would guess for many tourists in the United States, as it changes hugely in a number of cities and regions and that transformation evokes its own spectrum of responses; among them are anger and anxiety at how past complexions and politics are being overturned and of a milder “getting used to” these evolutions from people like myself who have lived deeply and at times unconsciously in old and often very Caucasian paradigms, as much as we pride ourselves at being “worldly”.

It may be no coincidence that the tiny portions of diversity reflected in this writing were part of a city that has been called “the most diverse place in America”, in articles including one from the Los Angeles Times of May 9, 2017. [Footnote 1]

This multi-culturalism is reflected in the chart below, one of many illustrations of the “new Houston”, at least since the 70’s, where no one race is in the majority, while “Hispanics” come close, at 44.8%, as of 2016:

Houston races chart

[source:; about 5-10% of the way down to the left of specific statistical numbers for the chart]


That diversity is further exemplified in the starring site of this blog – the “Museum of Fine Arts Houston” (MFAH) – whether the balance of artistic cultures that exists in “MFAH” is by accident, design or both.

While I knew coming in that the museum definitely had Western art, and one of the main temporary exhibits right now features works by Michelangelo, my sense early on was that the highlights might be more Asian, especially Indian.

Feel free to see, for example, just below, how 3 out of 4 current exhibitions at MFAH are non-Western per se:

After I had lunch in the cafeteria with a friend (of a friend of mine here in Philadelphia:)), the two of us walked through the partly hypnotic tunnel designed by artist James Turrell which connects the museum’s Beck and Law Buildings on its “Sarofim campus”; while the images on this url are helpful, ain’t nothin’ like the real thing and the 3-D-imbued feeling that you will fall off the tunnel’s walkway:

Very shortly thereafter, we emerged in a much-lighter area with awesome photos of India from the 1850’s and nearby decades (with all too quick a glimpse of them) and an imposing temporary exhibits space, with the Victorian photos partly visible at the bottom of this picture and the high-ceilinged “space” above:hstn3248 changing exhb gall law bldg mfah

with a closer view of the exhibits gallery here….
hstn3249 changing exhib gall law bldg mfah clsup

To the right of the longer screen above, we started to see a few Indian galleries, heralded partly by a shiny creation that could easily appear in any large white room of a Western gallery but, though untitled, is an Indian welding of many “lunch boxes” and the like that make up artist Subodh Gupta’s 2008 homage to the working class of his country and the new India they have begun to build since World War II:

hstn32410 untitled by subodh gupta 2008 mfah

We continued to flow through rooms of Asian art, some of it also very shiny, and it seemed ironic that it was largely within the original and the most traditional building of MFAH – the Law Building of 1924 [named after an arts patron, Caroline Weiss Law], seen below in a partial view of its facade, which was built in two segments opened respectively in 1924 and 1926 [Footnote 2]:


Certainly for a long-time museum aficionado like myself, this is the type of building which meant “art museum” in my mind from pre-adolescence on whether in Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo or a number of other Northern cities – a Roman-style building of Beaux-Arts symmetry.

Getting back to what was inside that 1920’s box the main highlight may be that of striking gold objects of both Africa and pre-Columbian native peoples. [Footnote 3]

Here is a view of just part of one L-shaped stretch of works….

hstn32412 a gall of glassell collec of precol gold

and, just outside the right edge of the cases above, two of the many objects of delight – pendants depicting a frog and a stingray; I do not know if I have ever seen any artistic depiction of a stingray….

hstn32413 frog and stingray pendants

Shortly after leaving these golden galleries, we bought tickets for the current featured exhibit, on one of the main royal families of India and their Rathore dynasty, which continues to exist in the Northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan. [See “Sources” below, for further information on this display, “Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India”.]

A brief view of this exhibit yielded object after object of both elegance and dazzling materials on the one hand and joy and sheer fun on the other.

In the former realm, one treasure is an early 20th-century shield from the city of Udaipur, a long-time royal center of Rajasthan:

hstn32416 mfah shield fr udaipur early 20c

and in the latter, two images of polo-playing in the 19th century which were remindful of the playfulness and sometimes sensuality of Indian art and where the sticks and jumping horses of the game contributed to a dynamic rhythm in these watercolors….

hstn32418 two images of polo playg ca 1827-50

As we neared the end of “Peacock…”, it was almost 5pm, a typical closing time for art museums, and, with one exception, we had seen no European or European-American art, a strange outcome for a museum-goer such as myself.  Additionally, that one exception was of European imagery in the service of the rajas (princes) of Udaipur, when English architects such as Henry Vaughan Lanchester (1863-1953) and interior designers of the 1920’s and 30’s worked to create splendor for their residential abode, the Umaid Bhawan Palace, now largely a hotel with a small section reserved for the “Royals”.

Just before we were about to leave the exhibition’s gift shop, I confirmed the museum would be open until 7pm, even though I would have to get a quicker Euro-dose there with a play waiting in the wings for Saturday evening, so I asked a young woman in the shop where the (MFAH) European art was located – feeling politically incorrect as I did so.

Once evolving and devolving:) to that Western level, we continued to revel in the beauty of the collections, while one of the trends there was of seeing French and Italian “Old Master” names of the 17th-19th centuries which I had never heard previously. This reinforced my friend’s main point that when Houston elites started buying “great art”, the older collections (largely in today’s post-industrial Rust Belt and the Mid-Atlantic cities), had claimed a lot of the high-rolling acquisitions of “name” artists, largely European, so THAT is the major reason for a more multi-cultural and less Eurocentric amalgamation at a place like MFAH.

I put a lot of credence in that museum development model, but understand that consciously or by the accident of the art market, various cities have worked towards collections that are more relevant for a more diverse population, with what we saw certainly not being hurt, if helped as well, by the huge South Asian community around it in and near America’s 4th-largest city.  And while I do not know enough to make more concrete conclusions, my first time at MFAH reminded me of how – as I recall – the Detroit Institute of Arts, surrounded by one of the nation’s major African-American communities, deliberately built up its African collections starting in the late 70’s if not earlier, if partly with the luxury of already having amazing European and American holdings. [Footnote 4]

In the smaller “Western” world of MFAH, we still had fun at the end of our museum stay, including the drama of seeing the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius as presented by the French painter Horace Vernet (1789-1863)….

hstn32418-21 vernet vesuvius erupting

and forceful nature as well with “The Gust of Wind” by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877)….

hstn32418-23 courbet gust of wind

After we too blew out of the museum, I was grateful that MFAH widened my window to the rest of the world, with the background architecture just below being the green tile roof of the 1920’s Law Building seen earlier….

hstn32420 mfah view twds law bldg

and wished my visit could have been extended.

Two days later, I got my wish for a culinary visit to another diverse “exhibit site”, except that its art work can be removed pretty quickly.

While my creation there, or “my pie”, was the Bombay Pizza Company’s “Gateway to India” 12-inch pizza, seen here prior to its passing….

hstn326-10 gateway to india 12 pizza

my gateway drug in this case had been a single slice including the awesome combination of the tandoori chicken seen above and naan bread last Friday, so I would salute all single slices of the world, if preferably with adjacent brothers and sisters to appreciate….

hstn326-11 a slice of gtway to Ind pzza

My limited scholarship (!) on the Bombay Pizza Company itself suggests that it has been one of the many products of its diverse city, in this case, the vision of its Indian-American founder Viral Patel, who opened it in 2009 after a number of years in a local Italian restaurant and initial experimentation on “Indianizing” pizza, with ingredients such as saag paneer cheese, chutney, etc.

Two articles from the first year of Bombay Pizza’s existence, posted near its main ordering counter, present it as emblematic of contemporary Houston, with one of them saying, for example, that it “represents the modern urban melting pot mythos that Houston has claimed as its own in recent decades”. [Footnote 5]

While I did not set foot in the Houston neighborhood  sometimes known as the “Mahatma Gandhi District” for its South Asian concentration [Footnote 6] and barely rode a borrowed bike through a near-downtown Vietnamese cluster, not to mention other ethnic centers of the area, I am glad I had time to linger at this Houston hybrid as the life of its downtown Main Street went by….

hstn326-12 last slices train coming in bkgrd

and hope that I can more meaningfully experience the city’s human riches on a future trip.


Footnote 1.  Another introduction to Houston in recent years, “What Makes Houston the Next Great American City?”, from 2013, celebrates the city’s ethnic variety but also raises the alarm regarding its economic segregation, partly a product of the flood of immigrants there since the 70’s, where many integrate quickly with solid white-collar work, but large numbers are still caught in menial jobs. []

Footnote 2. Two sites regarding the 1924 and 1926 portions of the museum are and

Footnote 3. The MFAH African and Latin American objects may or may not extend outside of the combined 1924 and 1926 “envelope”, but despite the excellent resolution on the PDF visible in the layouts for the “Sarofim Campus” of the museum, it is hard to tell. [See “Sources/General notes”, below, for those floor plans, etc.]

Footnote 4. A quick digital check partly echoes my recollection but also introduces a somewhat different story, at least in terms of chronology.  In A Museum on the Verge: A Socioeconomic History of the Detroit Institute of Arts 1882-2000, author Jeffrey Abt notes that the DIA consciously initiated an effort to build up its African collection in 1963 partly to bridge the city’s racial divide and for related reasons, as per the 2nd through 4th paragraphs here, on p. 165 of “…Verge…”:

and, on a related note, a 2016 article talks about a new program to strengthen the museum’s African-American collection in order “to broaden the appeal of the DIA, making it more relevant to metro Detroit’s culturally diverse audiences and starting with the city’s overwhelmingly black majority.” [“DIA launches multimillion-dollar effort to acquire African-American art”, Detroit Free Press, July 20, 2016, at]

Footnote 5. The Houston Chronicle, Feb. 24, 2011; seen here….

hstn326-16 bmby pza hstn chron artic 2 24 11

Here is another Houston Chronicle review of April 8, 2010, though not so clear as the writing above, while it is likely your computer’s software can enlarge this picture….

hstn326-17 bmby pza hstn chron 4 8 10

More recently, and coincidentally, a Dec. 2013 youtube video at features a rave review of the “Gateway…” pizza I had, from comedian Mo Rocca.

Views of the entrance to Bombay Pizza’s downtown location at Main & Walker, in a close-up….

hstn326-7 bombay pzza co entrnc

…and a little farther out, from the east side of Main….

hstn326-6 lkg w acr main to bombay pizza co

Footnote 6. See “South Asia in South Texas”, from April 18, 2016, at



General notes

For a map of and layouts within MFAH buildings, see:

For further information on the exhibit “Peacock in the Desert….”, see:

On the Umaid Bhawan Palace of the most recent Rajs of the Rathore Dynasty, see the following, which refers to the Palace as an “Art Deco aid project”:–taj—jodhpur.

On the Palace’s English architect, Henry Vaughan Lanchester, see:

On Houston collector Alfred Glassell, see: and, perhaps 70% of the way down at this MFAH site, under “Special Collections” a brief section on the Glassell gold collections in the Museum, and a picture of him:


Labels for works depicted here

“Untitled” by Subodh Gupta…

.hstn32411 label for untitled by subodh gupta

Frog and Stingray pendants:

hstn32414 label for frog pendant mfah

hstn32415 label for stingray pendant

Shield from Udaipur, with enough of its label’s text to give an idea….

hstn32417 label for shiled fr udaipur early 20c

The “Polo picture pair”:

hstn32419 labels for polo playg images

Vernet’s Vesuvius view….

hstn32418-22 lbl for vernet vesuvius erupting

and Courbet’s “Gust of Wind”:

hstn32418-24 lbl courbet gust of wind

A Prayer for the Eagles (in tonight’s Super Bowl)


Die-hard Eagles fans – of which I am not, but just hoping to be happier for my Philadelphia friends tonight – may get all of this, if you add a sprinkling of historical and geographical knowledge and current events, so it may help to say that in writing it I have  largely named or suggested a few names, past and present; some are pun-fully obvious and some are blended in.

I have added a footnoted version following this text-only offering….

As to the recent blessing of that which Lincs us,

Do not ask from wentz it comes

But only hope that the foles shall not return too soon to the lambs, but merely n— in the n— of time or on the fifth day of the second month….

After defeating and deflating all nefarious gates.

And while small wood our knowledge be of our heroes today,

Whether subtle or blount,

Graced by a coop with ham that is brad rather than bad….

Let us recognize their efforts and hope that they may add to the agholore of championships past, now 58 winters beyond,

Worthy of a mai-tai for a vaitai,

As the cox crow in the Minnepo,

And we laugh near the waters of Minnehaha.

And if victory comes and winvitation is made, we will each decide if chris endom calls for a list of attendees either short…or long.

But for those who cannot take comfort in fully recognizing the Gods of the present,

Let a sheppard lead us toward our dreams

and take comfort from the winds – north, south east and west….

brook not discord among brothers and affectionate sisters,

reaching to the past for one’s strength as we mcnabb any culprits and take heed from the minister of defense, reid the gospel well, be inspired by a cunning one and gratefully receive ever meal while we are led through the dusk by the reverend lusk and the archangel carmichael….

as awe opens all jaws, miraculously polishing our rifles

and letting us ultimately rest on a deep Bednarik,

never taking the first vehicle but always Van B…

Even though the space we neale may be greasy….

Let us, at last, go placidly amid the noise and haste, confident that our yellow jackets, mana hunks and borough of rocks surpass their trial runs of Bulldogs, Redskins or Yanks, their Ded Ham and boro of fox….

And in considering perhaps our greatest son, ironically a native of that opposing place, let us hope for a moment of vaunted ben ediction, where heed is not so much given to the city of his birth, but that of his greater girth and worth.

As we 86 this paean, peace be on to Mother Ertz this 31st night of January, 2018 (with revisions 2/2-3/18)

Book of Philathletians verses 38:7 and 31:15:10


A Prayer for the Eagles – Footnoted edition

A note on footnotes:)!

When a number is listed after a player’s name, that player is on the current (2017 season) Eagles roster, which can be seen at

In case it is helpful, a list of abbrevations for player positions can be seen at

References to an individual who “played from…”, or the like, refer to his years of playing just on the Eagles, with that being likely to be a significant part of his career, but (usually?) outside of time with other teams.

All individuals noted or alluded to are or were on the Eagles, unless otherwise stated.

This is perhaps needless to say, a small version of whatever epic poem has already been written about the 85 years or so of the Philadelphia Eagles. SO much has been left out, and a passionate Eagles expert would do more with, say “the cunning one” – which I see as just a workable solution –  given Randall Cunningham’s sizeable contribution to the Eagles – e.g., 22877 passing yards over 11 seasons – and/or his second career of being a minister in Las Vegas, given in part the Christian inspirations and echoes in this writing.

There is – sigh:)! – a problem with hyperlinking, so as with some previous writings of mine, any ardent “looker-uppers” would just need to cut and paste urls to read further.


As to the recent blessing of that which Lincs us,[1]

Do not ask from wentz[2] it comes

But only hope that the foles shall not return too soon to the lambs, but merely n— in the n— of time or on the fifth day of the second month….[3]

After defeating and deflating all nefarious gates.[4]

And while small wood our knowledge be of our heroes today,[5]

Whether subtle or blount,[6]

Graced by a coop with ham that is brad rather than bad….[7]

Let us recognize their efforts and hope that they may add to the agholore[8] of championships past, now 58 winters beyond,[9]

Worthy of a mai-tai for a vaitai,[10]

As the cox[11] crow in the Minnepo,[12]

And we laugh near the waters of Minnehaha.[13]

And if victory comes and winvitation is made, we will each decide if chris endom calls for a list of attendees either short…or long.[14]

But for those who cannot take comfort in fully recognizing the Gods of the present,[15]

Let a sheppard lead us toward our dreams[16]

and take comfort from the winds – north, south east and west….

brook[17] not discord among brothers and affectionate sisters,[18]

Reaching to the past for one’s strength as we mcnabb[19] any culprits and take heed from the minister of defense,[20] reid[21] the gospel well, be inspired by a cunning one[22] and gratefully receive ever meal[23] while we are led through the dusk by the reverend lusk[24] and the archangel carmichael[25]….

As awe opens all jaws, miraculously polishing our rifles[26]

and letting us ultimately rest on a deep Bednarik,[27]

never taking the first vehicle but always Van B…[28]

Even though the space we neale may be greasy….[29]

Let us, at last, go placidly amid the noise and haste,[30] confident that our yellow jackets,[31] mana hunks[32] and borough of rocks[33] surpass their trial runs of Bulldogs, Redskins or Yanks,[34] their Ded Ham[35] and boro of fox….[36]

And in considering perhaps our greatest son, ironically a native of that opposing place, let us hope for a moment of vaunted ben ediction, where heed is not so much given to the city of his birth, but that of his greater girth and worth.[37]

As we 86 this paean, peace be on to Mother Ertz[38] this 31st night of January, 2018 (with revisions 2/2-3/18)

Book of Philathletians verses 38:7[39] and 31:15:10[40]


[1] Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles’ stadium in South Philadelphia

[2] Carson Wentz, the star quarterback of the Eagles, who I believe was injured in the 13th week of the 2017 regular season

[3] Nick Foles, the back-up quarterback who has definitely risen to the occasion since the sidelining of Carson Wentz

[4] in reference to “DeflateGate”, in which New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady and others were accused of complicity in the partial deflating of footballs to gain advantage in at least their 2015 AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. [Knock yourself out at this source, whose timeline I only read through its Jan. 26, 2015 segments:]

[5] Wendell Smallwood, running back, #28

[6] LeGarrette Blount, running back, #29

[7] Nigel Bradham, linebacker, #53, though I may have subconsciously used “coop” prior to “brad” to refer to the actor, prominent Philadelphia native and Eagles fan Bradley Cooper

[8] Nelson Agholor, wide receiver, #13, with this being one of a few instances where I thought I should take liberties with spellings of names

[9] in reference to the 1960 championship, in which the Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers 17-13 []

[10] Halapoulivaati Vaitai, tackle, #72

[11] Fletcher Cox, defensive tackle, #91

[12] just a way (hereJ at least) of saying the name of the host city for Super Bowl LII

[13] primarily Minnehaha Falls, in Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis, but also the related Minnehaha Creek [ and, for a map (though readers here may only care about one location in Minneapolis aka US Bank Stadium!) – see:,+Minneapolis,+MN+55417/@44.9161006,-93.2131752,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x87f62914afbacbcf:0x3f087a8c8dc2e005!8m2!3d44.9161006!4d-93.2109865]

[14] Recently, Chris Long, defensive end, #56, said he would reject an invitation to the White House if the Eagles win the Super Bowl, in protest of activities of President Donald Trump. []

[15] Admitting (kind of) that while I know a very tiny bit about the current Eagles roster, I know….maybe three times as much about the “historical” Eagles; not exactly “what’s 100% of zero?”, but somewhat close to that

[16] Lito Sheppard [a cornerback who played from 2002-2008;;]

[17] Brian Westbrook, running back from 2002-2009 [] [Once again, notations here such as “playing from…” refer just to an individual’s playing for the Eagles, not to any time – which is often the case – with other teams.]

[18] partly a take on a nickname of more recent decades for Philadelphia – “the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection”

[19] Donovan McNabb, Eagles quarterback from 1999-2009 []

[20] “Minister of Defense” refers to Reggie White, who played from 1985-1992 and also served as an ordained minister, beginning in 1992 according to the “jrank” source just below [ and]

[21] Andy Reid, head coach from 1999-2012 []

[22] Randall Cunningham, quarterback from 1985-1995 []

[23] Dick Vermeil, head coach from 1976-1982 []

[24] Herb Lusk, who played from 1976-1978 [] and has since become an ordained minister []

[25] Harold Carmichael, who played from 1971-1983 []

[26] In reference to Ron Jaworski, quarterback from 1977-1986 and often known as the “Polish Rifle” or “Jaws” [ and

[27] Chuck Bednarik, who played from 1949-1962 [], and is famous largely for being a “60-minute man”, since he played in games for at least close to 60 minutes, on both offensive and defensive units, not just on one unit as (nearly all?) players do today; an imposing athlete known as “Concrete Charlie”, and remembered as well for one of the iconic images in Eagles football, in which he towers over famous New York Giants quarterback Frank Gifford during a Nov. 20, 1960 game against the New York Giants after he has overpoweringly knocked him over. [Seen here, about 50% of the way down, with overlapping information and visuals on “the hit” at:]

[28] Since I am proceeding in reverse chronology in team history, this would in a sense only refer to quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, who played from 1958-60 but I wanted to see this as a reference to the earlier star Steve Van Buren (who was with the Eagles from 1944-1951) as well. [On Norm Van Brocklin, see and; on Steve Van Buren, see: and]

[29] “Greasy” (Alfred Earle) Neale, coach of the Eagles from 1941-1950, including the period of the “Steagles”, when the Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers merged as a manifestation of wartime shortages []

[30] a nod to the opening words of the “Desiderata” a classic 20th-century life teaching – while presented deceptively at one time as a document dated 1692 and found in “Old St. Paul’s Church” in Baltimore, as stated in a reprint which I grew up with [see its text at:]

[31] the Frankford Yellowjackets – the Philadelphia NFL team which existed from 1924-1931 and some of whose components were taken in by the Eagles when they began in 1933; the most famous of these “assets” in a sense may have been the yellow and blue colors of Yellowjacket uniforms being at least briefly used by the Eagles, an homage to the royal Swedish colors which are those of the Philadelphia city flag and which were brought back for a “throwback” Eagles uniform to celebrate their 75th season in 2007 [ and]

[32] just my way of a more “manly” reference to the Philadelphia neighborhood of Manayunk

[33] a reference to another Philadelphia neighborhood – Roxborough – whose name, according to the source just below, is based in part on an account of “foxes burrowing in rocks”[second-last paragraph at:]

[34] three – but not all – of the pre-Patriots professional football teams in Boston, news for me in that I had never heard about any of them or others of the 1920’s-40’s era, while I had initially thought I would just note the “pre-Atlantan Braves”, in reference to the Boston baseball team which became the Milwaukee and later Atlanta Braves []; on Boston football before the Patriots, three sources I saw were: and]

[35] The Boston suburb of Dedham

[36] Foxboro, Massachusetts – the community which has long hosted the Patriots

[37] Ben Franklin:)!

[38] Zach Ertz, tight end, #86

[39] the final score of the NFC Championship Eagles-Vikings game on Sun., Jan. 21, 2018 []

[40] the final score of the NFC Divisional Eagles-Falcons game on Sat., Jan. 13, 2018, in which cornerback Jalen Mills, #31, was crucial in breaking up what would have very likely been a winning Atlanta play [ and]





Back at the Sidaway Bridge – for a Dose of Decay, Debris and Dreams:), as well as Fun, Fonts and Futures:)!!

[Before launching into the “bridge area”, another dose to note, while “wincing” to deliver up front, is a reminder for some that any urls’s here may need to be cut and pasted to access them:(:).]

Greetings, as you enter a venue whose alliteration above will be matched only by its redundancy below. The repetition, however, is reasonable, as conditions under an abandoned but beautiful bridge which I’ve covered before remain much the same as at the time of a 2012 blog. [Footnote 1.]  While that is the case, and the primary color of this blog may be winter gray, the icing on its cake ends with a little color – part of a recent reminder of the fun of exploring Cleveland’s Sidaway Avenue Suspension Bridge and of others who are drawn to it.

As I approached the bridge on Tuesday, January 9, I knew that I would probably (still) encounter evidence of the “D” word in the sign seen to the left in this view looking east on Sidaway Avenue near 65th Street, where the south pier of the bridge is dimly visible to the left of the center.

sb1918-2 lkg e on sway fr east of 65

Besides the “groves of rubber”, aka tire-dumping below the bridge, there are, as for a number of years now, more natural and unnatural groves entwining and surrounding this 1930 landmark, as can be seen here looking to the south pier and a still fainter view of the north pier [visually framed by this first pier] in the distance…..

sb1918-3 lkg n twds s pier fr nr 65sway

Just below the bridge, you can have the fun of climbing down a hill, accompanied only by the disgust of plenty of tires to choose from….

sb1918-5 lkg n wth base of s pier to lft

and alternate angles to choose your views [gotta not love those curves – as with my 2012 impressions here…]

sb1918-8 lkg e wth tires in frgrd

sb1918-9 lkg s twds base of s pier

In what would be only a 12-minute or so descent and climb to the other side of a valley, with no obstructions – in a walk that is now close to annual for me – one of your next encounters may be the sometimes sad vision of the bridge’s “missing teeth”, or planks, as here…..

sb1918-10 lkg e twds lft sd of mdl of sb

but also the industrial dynamism that it offers, as in this view towards the south pier…

sb1918-11 lkg s wth s pier @ lower rt

a similar one to the north pier…

sb1918-13 lkg up wth n pier twds lft ctr

and this more totemic image of the “God” of the north “tower”….

sb1918-14 lkg n & up twds n pier

A few minutes later, my prayers that I make it through tree trunks, vines and bamboo successfully answered, I said goodbye to this landmark for now, looking south from Sidaway Avenue below Anita Kennedy Drive, at the southwest corner of the “Heritage View” homes where I have appreciated the hospitality of residents since I began to visit the bridge in 2011…

sb1918-15 lkg s wth n pier in lft ctr

While I could have made a big bet as to seeing the same sights above as I did in previous walks under the bridge, I was happy to be surprised a day before, if not completely, with an echo of the interest that exists for the bridge among other CLEficionados.

During a few hours at the wonderful photo collection of the Cleveland Public Library’s main branch, researching old pictures of Holton Avenue, a street just a few blocks northeast of the bridge, Adam Jaenke, a library assistant for the photo and history collections of CPL, shared his interest in the Sidaway Bridge, and that of his brother Ryan as well.

He reinforced my previous sense that city lovers in Cleveland have definitely taken note of the bridge, saying that it is part of “kind of a circuit of urban exploration sites” and also told me about something I had not known – a 2007 homage to the bridge, if subtle, by his artist brother Ryan, who memorialized the name of the bridge’s street, while Adam said that this was also a nod to the bridge….

sb1818-5 sway sign by RJnke with small imgs to rt

image on the work screen of Adam Jaenke at the Cleveland Public Library, Jan. 8, 2018

The cheery font and adjacent imagery here are writ larger below, and Ryan has since e-mailed me that, given the history of the bridge’s shutdown due to neighborhood decline and racial division, “the word [Sidaway] came to symbolize for me the division and neglect suffered by large portions of the city”.  He added that his work here was part of a gallery show – “Blue Dots & Brown Fields” – where Ryan and fellow artist Paul Rogers responded “to the decline we were seeing in Cleveland circa 2006-2007, which we would later learn was caused by predatory lending”. [Appendix 1 for additional thoughts from Ryan.]

sb1818-6 sway sign by RJnke clser-up

While the colors here, including those of the car fire near the center of the image just above, are not ALL “cheery”, I am thankful to Ryan and Adam Jaenke for respectively helping to shine a light on Sidaway Avenue and its bridge as we all express a need to sweep away the city’s detritus and take joy in discovery and rediscovery.


Footnote 1. With thanks again for the ‘ol cut and paste of this url if interested….

Appendix 1. Comments from artist Ryan Jaenke, Jan. 13, 2018

The following observations are from an e-mail received on Saturday, Jan 13, 2018 from Ryan Jaenke and include excerpts already presented above.

Within them, I believe that he is seeing Kingsbury Run as part of an infamous 1930’s story of Cleveland’s “Torso Murders”, which I have briefly noted in what I refer to as my “big blog” on the bridge, under “Kingsbury Run”, about 10% of the way down, and within an introductory glossary at:

The “Blue Dots…” exhibit was held at the William Rupnik Gallery in Cleveland in 2007.

“I found the Sidaway bridge serendipitously during an excursion into Slavic Village in 2006. There’s a spot where you can view the bridge from the Slavic Village side of Kingsbury Run around East 69th street if I remember correctly. I was drawn to that part of town because of Kingsbury Run and the Torso Murders, but became fascinated with the neighborhood and visited many times over the years. When I researched Sidaway, I was sad to learn about the history of what happened there so the word came to symbolize for me the division and neglect suffered by large portions of the city. Blue Dots & Brown Fields was a response to the decline we were seeing in Cleveland circa 2006-2007, which we would later learn was caused by predatory lending. I thought the word Sidaway encapsulated so much about what is wrong with Cleveland, but was vague enough for people to have to look it up if they didn’t know the story….”

Among his local influences, Ryan cited, in part, a long-time local sign-maker – Earl Phillips – who appears to still be active in a section of the city somewhat oriented to the “bridge area”; just as the bridge is on the southeast side of Cleveland, he is as well, if farther out, in or at least close to the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, which I have passed through several times on the way to the bridge.  Here is a site for his business:

Ryan also noted inspiration from “the forgotten ad designers for Cleveland’s nightclubs and burlesque establishments of the 1920s through the 1970s”.


Kings, Queens and offsprings

[As with many of my past blogs, urls may not be clickable, but readers may easily cut and paste them for further information, and my footnotes are often dry if your reading is more brief, but sometimes contain “good stuff” as well; I hope the latter would reward your need to cursor up and down this blog for your footnote round-trips:(:)!]

[Additionally, within the first 24 hours of this blog posting, I have received a request to recommend your consideration of not only the epochal site presented here and the people I spoke to nearby, but tourism in general in the area of France in question:)! SO feel free to see: — js 9/4/17]

On Thursday, July 27, as part of a visit to Paris, a French friend and I took a train from the “Gare St. Lazare” (St. Lazare Railroad station) in Paris to visit the Basilica of St. Denis, which is basically the Westminster Abbey of France, as its honored place for the burial of many Kings and Queens over a period of approximately 900 years.  The Basilica, even if the facts here will be general to ward off “procrastinitis” (aka: post this blog:)!) has been imprinted in my mind since 1974, when I read one of the most formative books in my life – Kenneth Clark’s “Civilisation” [in its British spelling:)] which early on deals with the Basilica’s architectural significance. Clark attests that in fueling its growth as an abbey, its major medieval leader – Abbot Suger – “introduced [and] perhaps really invented, the Gothic style of architecture, not only the pointed arch, but the lightness of high windows” among other features.

“Civilisation” also gives a brief nod to the context of the Basilica as of the late 1960’s – saying that “the whole exterior, in its squalid Parisian suburb, stained by the fumes of factories, makes no impression of sanctity”. [footnote 1]  Reinforcing that – as the surrounding community of St. Denis has become emblematic of French “suburbs”  (as tougher, poorer, etc., then central cities in France, to a large extent), AND because my interest in history has long been both “elite” and in wondering what “non-eggheads” think of history, my friend and I also interviewed people hanging out near the Basilica and the heart of the town.  Although my title is meant to move beyond the mundane – as I had simply considered “A visit to the St. Denis Basilica in France” – the few people who generously gave their time to us, are – indirectly – the offspring of France’s long history.

While the numbers of exchanges we racked up are much smaller than the number of kings and queens honored at the Basilica, and the results of our conversations are, on the surface, very disappointing at times, they still provide a basis for broad conclusions, questions and the need to continue to spread the message of history, which should be shaped in varied ways for our diverse, and hopefully – over time, more connected world.

But beginning with the Basilica itself, I was excited to see this 43-year acquaintance for the first time around 10am on the day of our trip. Our first impressions included its relatively unstained facade, one which is awaiting a much higher profile through plans to recreate its one-time north spire, as can be seen in a small promotional image near the lower right corner of this picture….

p72717-4 SD de plc jean jaures

Over more than three hours to come, it was wonderful to see the beauty of what is considered a major early example of true Gothic architecture, as opposed to the much more famous Notre Dame, which is deservedly worshipped but whose most famous fakery may be that of sculpted gargoyles – NOT a part of the original edifice. Again, so that the perfect may not be the enemy of the good, I will not delve much further into specifics here, and additionally assume that art historians have hugely covered what is known in shorthand as “St. Denis”. With that in mind, I want to simply give a few impressions unique to my visit.

While my friend and history “accompanist” Djamila, a resident of another suburb of Paris, spoke of escaping into another time when she visits the Basilica, I am not as marvelously detached from what I perceive as reality, but despite a sometimes noisy nave filled with sounds of renovation work….

p72717-7 un ouvrier soulevant les chaffeaux SD

we greatly enjoyed the sites that are typical to a number of Gothic churches, as suggested by this image of the rose window in the north transept, where one of the crosses I must bear is that of washed-out color, not the vibrant actual colors you can see with better cameras or better yet, a visit….

p72717-5 rosace au cote nord de bslq SD

Beyond what is typical in beautiful ecclesiastical architecture, this particular church either holds or has held the remains of 43 kings and 32 queens of France over many centuries, beginning in the 7th century and only missing the burials of 3 kings from the 10th century through the 18th century. [footnote 2]

I quickly realized that visits to this immensely significant site are partly analogous to those of Americans as they worship homes and burial sites of our Founding Fathers more than non-Americans would, and that it meant less to me than it would to the mostly French visitors during our time inside.  Additionally, my efforts “en francais” – deliberately reading a LOT of French text at the Basilica and elsewhere during this relatively immersive exploration vis-a-vis the French language – became almost oppressive, before I chilled out and read more selectively:)!  Despite all of that, I was blessed to see the overall site, and, occasionally, amidst a sense of distance and hauteur from the resting marble Royals – a key example being this magnificent funerary structure for Francis 1 and his wife Claude….

p72717-9 tombeau de F1 Claude etc SD

…their humanity would come closer, one illustration being the carefully depicted feet of [Francis and Claude:)] seen below along with a scene from one of Francis’s great successes – the Battle of Marignano in 1515 – at the base of this image….

p72717-10 bataille de marig et les pieds etc SD

…and the realism given to this 1830 depiction of the famous and infamous King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette….[footnotes 3a and 3b]

p72717-21 - L16 et Mar Antntt

During our time at the Basilica, it was also easy to find poignant notes that made the kings and queens more human, one being how the “”gisants” (“zhee-ZAUNTS”, or recumbent sculptures) for at least two queens included dogs at their feet, including in this tomb cover for Jeanne de Bourbon (died 1377)….

p72717-20 cheins au pieds de jeanne de bourb SD

…with my guess being that she and the other “queen” who was similarly graced had dogs as pets.[footnote 4]

THE most emotional sculpture might be that of “Jean I”…

p72717-24 sc de jean 1 le posthume SD

…once you read the label and see that he reigned, officially, for four days, taking in – as I later learned – most if not all of the days of his life, and a major reason why he is called “le Posthume” (the Posthumous)”. [footnote 5]…

p72717-25 sgn pour jean 1 le posthume SD

In the basement crypt area, one plaque, for Louis XV (1710-1774) [footnote 6], may be human in both a “reachable” and a grandiose way, as it opens….

“Le Louvre de Paris vit eclater ma gloire / le nom de mon epouse d’immortelle memoire est place dans une ciel comme un astre nouveau” [roughly saying, I think (!): “The Louvre of Paris will expand my glory; the name of my immortal wife is placed in a sky as a new star”], and those lines and more might perhaps be read here….

p72717-15 plaque pour L15 dans chapl des brbs SD

Close by, and also in the “Chapel of the Bourbons” – recognizing one of France’s royal family lines – matters may be all too human as well as morbid, with displays, close by or behind barriers, of several objects noted as actual body parts, including what is identified as the heart of Louis XVII, who lived from 1785-1795. [footnote 7]….

p72717-14 coeur Louis 17

During our time at this monument – and also in the crypt – there happened to be an exhibit which itself is meant to humanize the Royals, but even more so, to personalize the population which Djamila and I knew is huge in St. Denis and similar communities – of immigrants to France or their children and grandchildren, often from lands which the French had long colonized.

The exhibit, titled “Mater: Reines de France” (“Mother: Kings of France”) was made up of full-length images of women who live in St. Denis, wrapped in white robes remindful of the robes sculpted over the centuries for the queens depicted there. While that is one connection, another one noted in literature we received is that, like a number of queens who came to France from other countries, so many of the women in places like St. Denis have come from outside of France, and often from what is called “France Outre-Mer” (overseas lands which are officially part of the nation).

Theresa is one of the strikingly-presented women we “saw” in the crypt area of St. Denis….

p72717-16 teresa de meres dexil expo SD

and this small but thought-provoking collection is also graced by Aicha….

p72717-17 aicha de meres dexil expo SD

While the exhibit definitely had the purpose of connecting cultures within French history and France today, my sense from what I have read is that these works are also impelled by a passion to give these working-class, often non-European descended French women the dignity which has been given to French queens in the Basilica. This goal, I am guessing, is in the spiritual fibre of the artist – who calls himself “Ariles de Tizi” – probably for Tizi Ozou, a major city in Algeria, his native country, where he was born in 1984.  He has lived in France since his family fled a civil war in Algeria in his pre-adolescent years and his work in part comments on shaping cultural identity in his increasingly diverse adopted nation. [footnote 8]

Briefly, I believe that both this exhibit and the simple conversations Djamila and I were about to have near the Basilica are both cultural bridges, even if what you could call the “Pont d’Ariles” (bridge of the artist Ariles:)) is more deeply woven between the real world of St. Denis and the high-style ambiance of the Basilica.

After leaving that atmosphere, we walked on Rue de la Republique, a lively and at times slightly run-down main street/pedestrian mall of St. Denis, seen here looking east to the Basilica…

p72717-33 vue est a rue rpblq de rue corbillon

…and reached a park at its west end, seen here….

p72717-32 egls st den du parc a cot est de rue guesde

…with many passing pedestrians, passing blue-and-white trams on Boulevard Jules Guesde just beyond it and a number of people just relaxing. In the end, we initiated a handful of approaches and brief discussions there, and while, as noted, they did not match the statistics of St. Denis (the monument), I think that I can make a few basic but valid conclusions once I present them.  One more mundane one may again make a nod to a greater ease of approaching men on my part (as in my first Paris blog) but also note that most individuals not engrossed in conversation in and near this park WERE men, with the distinct possibility the main cultural stripe here was Algerian-French.  On a final housekeeping note… j’ai beaucoup d’appreciation pour la patience avec mes fautes numereuses de Francais, quand je quote les interviewees (that I have a lot of appreciation for patience with my numerous mistakes in French when I quote interviewees).

We first had success with a 75-year old Algerian-born man who has lived in France since 1955, and who like most of our interviewees, did not live in St. Denis to the best of my recollection, but was at least representative of millions of French citizens who have shared the experience of coming to continental France and being acculturated. He was very acculturated to traditional French heritage compared to so many we might have spoken to and definitely knew about the Basilica, saying “il est tres renommee [pour] les tombeaux des rois de la France” (“it is very renowned for the tombs of the Kings of France”).

While he observed that “il y a beaucoup d’information des evennements culturelles et personelles de savoir” (“there is a lot of information to know on cultural and personal events”) and, moreover, joked that “j’ai oublie des que j’ai mange hier” (“I forget what I ate yesterday”), he has visited a number of Paris museums on the lists of art lovers such as the Musees (Museums) Rodin, Quai-Branly [footnote 9], etc.  While that part of his life was matter-of-fact in a way for worshippers of the “fine arts”, he just barely dipped into societal commentary after we raised the question of history once again late in our time together and he offered that “les fortes envahissent les faibles” (“the strong invade the weak”), but we did not pursue that.

I wince that I did not learn his community of residence, because place and specificity is so important in case we want some small sense of surrounding sociology, but as a retired construction worker, it is likely that he lived in a working-class suburb or outer neighborhood of Paris itself.

Next, in front of the church of St. Denys de l’Estree, seen here….

p72717-30 egls st den estre de rue guesde cot est SD

…and rising handsomely thanks to its design by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879) – who was also key to preserving “le Basilique” [footnote 10] – we met Jean-Marie….

p72717-26 jean marie a eglise st den de lestree SD

who, generally as with others, I greeted with my best French and  an open-ended question, saying “Je suis un American et j’ecris un blog sur les sujets varieuses, et mon amie Francaise et moi – nous faisons des interviews brieves; si vous avez le temps, nous sommes interesses de votre attitudes et reactions de l’histoire, especiellement l’histoire Francais”. [“I am an American and I write a blog on various subjects and my French friend and I are making brief interviews; if you have the time, we are interested in your attitudes and reactions to history, especially French history”.] [A quick nod here to the INVALUABLE assistance from Djamila for her fluent French.]

Jean-Marie said “non, pas beaucoup” (“no, not much”) as to his knowledge of French history, and – perhaps with my foreign status in mind – “parce que nous sommes etrangers aussi” (“because we are strangers also”), with his noting that he came from Haiti. While he reiterated his first point, adding “nous ne savent pas beaucoup” (“we do not know much”), saying “we” partly in reference to a friend listening in to our talk, he definitely knew about the epochal struggle of Toussaint L’Ouverture and others to successfully free Haiti from French rule over 200 years ago. He  reinforced this in noting Jean-Jacques Dessalines (1758-1806), another key figure in the Haitian Revolution, while I have barely heard of him. [footnote 11]

Jean-Marie further responded that he has been in France for 20 years, works in construction, and lives in the town of Chesnay-le-Gagnay, but was visiting St. Denis, adding “j’ai des amis ici” (“I have friends here”). [footnote 12]

Moving across Boulevard Jules Guesde, we met a man enjoying leisure and a drink at “Le Balto” Bar,  who said of the Basilica “j’aime bien visiter” (“I definitely like to visit”) and that it had more of a sense of what was truly Gothic than Notre Dame. One of the aspects he liked is that St. Denis had “plus en sens des espaces souterranes” (“more of a sense of underground spaces”), referring perhaps to a crypt which Djamila and I saw briefly and seemed like a somewhat well-organized set of coffins, and is dimly seen here [footnote 13]….

p72717-18 le caveau de bourbons au bassmt SD

Our “Balto” patron was 55 and worked as a hotel receptionist, living in the “Department” of Hauts de Seine, a western suburban area of Paris. [footnote 14]

We went on to the pleasure of meeting Abdel….

p72717-27 Abdel - parc de cot ouest de Rue Rpblq SD

who echoed the afternoon theme of drawing blanks as to history, but had a warm friendliness and some eagerness to learn about the U.S. and English, asking the American equivalent of “code de poste” (if I have the correct French phrase, but knowing that “zip code” was the right answer), and who wanted to know the English word for “naissance” (birth) following a recent debate on that with a friend.  He said “je ne connais pas” (“I don’t know”) in regard to knowledge of history and “je n’ai pas de reaction” (“I don’t have a reaction”) to the subject.

Abdel was visiting a friend in town, from his community of Dugny, and recently worked as a “livreur” (delivery man) but was between jobs.  He had been in France for just five months, from his native Algerian region of the Mahgreb. [footnote 15]

From meeting Abdel, we introduced ourselves to Moussa Fofana….

p72717-28 Moussa Fofana au parc etc SD

who immigrated to France from Mali 27 years ago, was 48, and spoke of his work as “lavee carreaux” (washing tiles). He too, with whatever education he may have had in the former French colony of his birth, and in his adopted land, said “Je ne connais pas beaucoup d’histoire” (“I don’t know much history”) and, seeming to be the quietest of our interviewees, added that he is “debrouillant en francais”, which may be incorrect, but is appropriate, as the hardest word there means “disentangling”, and I empathize with him in being unable to disentangle a lot of the words I heard in two weeks in Paris.

Moussa lived in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, immediately west of St. Denis. [footnote 16]

Shortly after seeing him, we wandered back across “Boul. Jules Guesde” and after a tiny bit of trial and non-interviewing, met…Denis, coincidentally, who was 46 and lived in St. Denis, was glad to be a “Dionysien”, and a professional lover of history, with no picture of him but of a sign very close by for the street where we met and talked and a tiny piece of its history….

p72717-29 sgn pour rue aug delaune SD

It is most likely that Auguste Delaune resisted a Nazi occupation of St. Denis, and, as readers of this street sign may have concluded, died under torture.

Denis needed no prompting on the Basilica, partly as a librarian for the “Bibliotheque Nationale” (National Library), with jobs including buying and digitally photographing old books and authenticating antique books.  He knew of the church as the “basilique des rois…ou ils sont enhumes” (“basilica of the kings…where they were buried”), and that it was “detruit par la revolution” [“destroyed by the (French) Revolution”], when citizens not only overthrew Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette but also lashed out against the Catholic Church (to put it mildly).  He added that “aujourd’hui [il a] toutes les couleurs [et] senteurs” (“today it has all the colors and smells”) – of historic eras.

In his reasonable facility with English, not surprising given his white-collar work, Denis was atypical of the stereotype for St. Denis residents so it was interesting that he was the only inhabitant we met.

Next, we approached three young women sitting on a bench and here – Stephanie – our one interviewee among them had, on the face of it, no knowledge to share.

She said of history that “je ne connais pas” and, a little later, added that “je ne connais pas les monuments”. [“I don’t know (it)” and “I don’t know the monuments”.]  She commented that history “est dur de comprendre” (“hard to understand”) and “ce n’est pas interessant” (“it is not interesting”). That was about it, during her time with a Guyanan-French girl of perhaps 16 years in age, sitting in the middle of their bench, and another Guyanan-French woman (perhaps 18 like Stephanie), on the left – who was visiting from Guyana.

Stephanie had lived in France for four years, and resided in the town of Sarcelles, just 4-5 miles northeast of St. Denis.  On a broader geographical stage, the young woman on the left made a point of saying that she was not from the “hexagon” (as mainland France is referred to) but was definitely French. [footnote 17]

Djamila and I decided to end our interviews with Mokhtar Meziane….

p72717-31 moukhtar meziane SD

who seemed to sum up a good deal of French history and was definitely aware of the Basilica, if partly in a constructively critical way.

With confidence, he began his remarks “voila, l’histoire Francais a deux cotes – positif et negatif [avec] le cote positif vraiment a la revolution concernant la democratie [dans le] 18eme et 19eme (siecles)”.  [“Here it is: French history has two sides – positive and negative (with) the positive side truly in a revolution concerning democracy in the 18th and 19th (centuries)”]….”Le cote negatif – considere par les historiens – qu’il y a le genocide de beaucoup de populations, surtout en Afrique du Nord”. [“The negative side, considered by historians – is that there (has been) genocide of many populations, mostly in North Africa”.]

And, back to what he saw as positive, examples included “les ecoles, des hopitaux….a ramene la culture Francais” (“the schools, the hospitals….have brought back French culture”)…”et la preuve [de ses avantages sont] beaucoup de pays qui parle le Francais” (“and the proof of its advantages are the many countries where French is spoken”).

When I asked if Mokhtar had any thoughts regarding the Basilica, he said that in his opinion, “[sa] role est terminee…peut-etre [son but] etait efficace avant la Renaissance Francaise [mais] aujourd’hui, il n’y a pas de role, puisque la religion est personnel, et il n’est pas de besoin [pour la religion]” [“its role is over…perhaps its purpose was effective before the French Renaissance, but today, there is no role, since religion is a personal matter, and there is no need (for it)].”

Not surprisingly, Mokhtar noted that he had been a professor – in his native Algeria, at the University of Constantine. He spoke with some pride of his emphasis on the existential philosophy of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and others, studies on the philosopher Keirkegaard and a 3-year effort to achieve his doctorate in philosophy, which he said was focused on the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

Mokhtar lived in the town of Aubervilliers , immediately southeast of St. Denis, and was visiting friends in St. Denis. [footnote 18]

While he worked as a vendor of fruits, he was also an “etudiant-salarie” (meaning that he was working and studying at the same time, according to Djamila), so he was still pursuing academics.


Brief Conclusions

While the conversations here were modest, it is hoped that every knock on the door – and perhaps that will be the large door of an imposing cathedral – moves us forward in removing some huge boulders evident here.  From one perspective, what is mainly suggested in our tiny findings, along with a generous helping of the disconnection that has been noted between non-Whites and Caucasians in Europe, is that more efforts should be made to bring everyone – of all cultural backgrounds – into a fold.  That could imply a Euro-dominated fold, but I would say that it means being educated to a sensitively negotiated view of history – changing at least once a generation – with a mutual respect for history within the “hexagon” of France (as defined above and below), and history in the countries with the brunt and the benefits – as per our last interviewee – of French colonialism.  In saying this, I realize that there are those who will say – what benefits?! – and those who will be uncomfortable in acknowledging tragedies abroad.  I believe that part of education, at least where we were in St. Denis, means that both residents and passers-by should learn about the profound weight of history close by.

What is important includes open-mindedness and true listening, as just one part of respect.  That directly moves us to more recent history in the wake of colonialism, of Africans and others moving to mainland France, where the American counterpart comes in the aftermath of slavery in terms of what happens to American Blacks and how they respond to new burdens and challenges. [footnote 19]

Respect includes studying the all-too fresh history and still-present feeling of disrespect from police, etc., among often Black and Brown residents of the French “banlieues”, in part since notable riots/uprisings in 2005 near St. Denis and other French communities [footnote 20] and at the same time – I am not the only one to say that we need to recognize and validate the feeling of White working-class people of disrespect from the elites, so well-known in the rise of Marine Le Pen in France and of course Donald Trump.  I would stress that “validation” does not mean approval/agreement with negative outcomes in this area.

The listening must be to concerns and perceptions of “now”, but also the different prisms for our versions of history.  In St. Denis, among all of the silent marbles, the least silent at times may be that of Charles Martel, resting peacefully for 750 years (in marble) in the top position here….

p72717-11 chas martel au milieu de photo

…thanks in part to his victory at the Battle of Tours in 732.  Because this battle stopped the spread of Moslem power in Europe (beyond its golden age in Spain), it has become an “auraic” event (if that’s a word for aura:)) for the European right-wing and its anxieties over what it sees as Europe’s “Islamicization” today, but for Moslems and others, the view will definitely be different, whether nonchalant, alarmed at the exaggeration of their presence at times or otherwise. [footnote 21].

We often hear of increasing divisions and re-balkanization of parts of our world, and while there IS a great deal of division, and any success for “divide and conquer” demagogues is too much, bridge-building is occurring, as with the “Mother: Kings of France” exhibit above.

Had I built a stronger bridge in late July, it would have been in several ways.  Specific possibilities begin with one of the more historically/culturally conscious interviewees – so thus not in any “need”…of being reached by a bridge!  As I have re-read the cliche of the 75-year old Algerian-French man when he said that “the strong invade the weak” I have also thought that he arrived in France in the first full year of his homeland’s war of independence against 120-plus years of French domination, and seven years before the formerly weaker Algerians won that struggle.  It might have been great to probe that exception to the truism he offered of power in history.

I also agree with Mokhtar Meziane that that power, in the form of colonial expansion, has led to great suffering for the colonized, but would have probed what is – on the surface – a contradiction in his remarks – that “the proof of [French culture’s] advantages are the many countries where French is spoken”, without acknowledging that such outcomes are a good fruit from the poison of Colonial rule. In 2012, an Algerian woman visiting Philadelphia better resolved that when she told me that the many years of her country under French rule was a bitter phenomenon, but there was a deliberate aim on the part of herself and others to extricate whatever good they could from those bad times.

Without articulating a sense of benefit, the friend of Stephanie may have felt it implicitly when she made sure to say she was definitely French, though not within the boundaries of “mainland” France.  She may have known that she said – “do not forget that I am equal”. The next question from a more focused journalist may have been “I hear Stephanie’s sense of not knowing history, but knowing you are equally a part of France, do any of (the three of you) know how and why France went so far away to take over Guyana?”

The greater relevance of Guyana then a France much closer to where these young ladies were – sitting in St. Denis, Stephanie in Sarcelles and so on – can be connected to a movie I saw in 2015 which celebrated reaching French teenagers of color “where they were”, to open their minds to history.  It is called “Once in a Lifetime”, and depicts a successful effort to engage disaffected, poor high schoolers in a study of the “Shoah”, or what Americans call the Holocaust, which, for those who do not know, was the murder of millions in Europe, especially Jews.  This achievement was remarkable partly because of the truths of their backgrounds – frequent antipathy from other French people to the Moslem faith that so many of them had, anti-Semitism that THEY often had, their widespread lack of desire as the movie begins to plow through history – partly, in my experience – due to young people being deadened by facts and not excited by story-telling.  Beyond whatever success I have had as a teacher telling stories, I am more likely to be able to spotlight those who do it best, as in this moving film. [footnote 22]

As I complete this piece, and my country struggles over whether or not Confederate monuments will stand, I hope the precious heritage of St. Denis will continue to stand – and “sleep” – in reference to the many “gisants” (“recumbent” sculptures as noted earlier) assembled there – for centuries to come.  I believe we must also hear and record the newer heritage of others and allow all of the outlooks around our mutual human past a great breadth of reaction, interpretation and honor.



Footnote 1. Kenneth Clark, Civilisation [Harper & Row], p. 50. [My copy has no publication date, but, according to an introductory note, it is “made up of the scripts of a series of television programmes (sic) given in the spring of 1969”.]

Footnote 2. “43…32” is derived from and  “…only missing” is based on a statement about 50-60% of the way down at

Footnote 3a. For a brief summary of the Battle of Marignano, see

Footnote 3b. On the sculptural pair of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, see:

Footnote 4. For “gisants”, see

As to dogs as sculptural bases at St. Denis….

A quick search under the heading of “Jeanne de Bourbon dogs” did not answer the question of whether she had pet dogs, but led to a very interesting summary of FOUR tomb sculptures with dogs at St. Denis; assuming that is correct, I’ll attribute my mistake here partly to increasing pressure in my mind:) to not spend too much time at the basilica so that we might interview area residents.

The summary in question is at the following url, in an excerpt from a book Our Dogs, Our Selves/ Dogs in Medieval and Early Modern Art, Literature and Society, edited by Laura Gelfand of Utah State University:

Footnote 5. One source, at least, confirms he lived for…five days, in 1316. [See: “Let us not forget John I, the Posthumous”, but also, let us not forget that Google’s valuable translation service results in some awkward English:]

Footnote 6.

Footnote 7.


Footnote 8. On the show “Mater”, the artist Ariles, and the city of Tizi-Ouzou, see respectively….;



Other sources consulted here include but were not limited to:



At least rudimentary readers of French may benefit from a short but good French article on the “Mater” exhibit just below, and a photo I took of the main “label” for the exhibit in the crypt of St. Denis….


p72717-19 texte pour Mater - Reines de France


Footnote 9.  I might say that Musee Quai-Branly is on the minds of art lovers, so this gentleman’s noting it may reveal greater art sophistication on his part but also pride in his background, because “Quai-Branly” is not so much Eurocentric but focuses more on the arts of Africa and other regions of the world, as can be noted with the statistics of its collection as seen in the world map at

Footnote 10. St. Denys de l’Estree takes its name from being on a one-time road known as the Via Strata as per a website translated from the French at:

I did not find an exact meaning for “Strata” in this case, but I would guess that its connotation of “layers” connects with the fact that the original church which was an ancestor of this one was in a second layer, so to speak, of the town, being outside of the city walls initially in post-Roman times.

On Viollet-le-Duc, see the source just below, while it criticizes him broadly for both inaccurate restorations of Gothic churches – including Notre-Dame in Paris – and the design of St. Denys de l’Estree (which, once again, I found to be appealing). []

Footnote 11.

Footnote 12. I did not find a listing for Chesnay-Le-Gagny, but for Le Chesnay, a town of about 28,000 southwest of Paris, described at

Footnote 13., while in French, suggests a sense that this area is the oldest section for burials in the church, dating partly from the “Gallo-Roman” period.

[The source below, while just skimmed, and with translation mistakes as in similar sites, notes that “Gallo-Roman” can at times refer to what is now France after the fall of the Roman Empire, and at least through the 500’s after Christ:]

Footnote 14. French “Departements” are somewhat like American counties, and a map of Hauts de Seine is at:,2.1009987,11z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x47e67add24547f21:0x30b82c3688b2b40!8m2!3d48.828508!4d2.2188068.

Footnote 15. See Dugny at:,2.4079779,14z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x47e66b0ab653b70b:0x889c107662010b2f!8m2!3d48.952179!4d2.416983.

Footnote 16. See Villeneuve-la-Garenne at:,2.3053679,14z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x47e6692ce0d2148b:0x1ba303435cbcb67c!8m2!3d48.936616!4d2.324789 .

Footnote 17.  For Sarcelles’ location, see this map, which is the basis of my estimate of its distance from St. Denis:,+France/@48.9924697,2.3507482,13z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x47e66a20fd0c2723:0xc981f58659cbda7b!8m2!3d48.997347!4d2.378493 .

For an interesting explanation of mainland France as a hexagon, one of the stated reasons here being a French desire for order and rationality, see: .

Footnote 18. On Aubervilliers, see:,+France/@48.9128086,2.3710324,14z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x47e66c3d7604e9af:0x306b113348748528!8m2!3d48.912259!4d2.384049 .

Footnote 19. Recently, I listened to a good reminder about the need for listening in terms of American experiences on a wonderful and sometimes calming edition of a Philadelphia public radio program – “Radio Times”, which on August 17 focused on “Confronting hate after Charlottesville”, in reference – for any non-American readers – to protests on August 12 related to White supremacy and monuments for the Civil War-era Confederacy, during which an anti-racist protester was killed by a White nationalist.  The program can be heard at, while I encourage your reading of program excerpts – or listening to them (!), where that can be done between the time points of 34 minutes and 18 seconds (34:18) and 40:13.

The program featured three interviewees, who were, as modified from the above website – “REVEREND MARK KELLY TYLER, pastor for Mother Bethel AME Church [the mother church of “African Methodist Episcopalianism”, based here in Philadelphia], RABBI MORDECHAI LIEBLING, director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College [which is located in the Philadelphia suburb of  Wyncote and is (the) seminary for the Jewish movement known as “Reconstructionism”],  and HOWARD STEVENSON, professor of urban education and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Starting at the time point of 34:18, Dr. Stephenson, in relation to solving the problem of hate, says “you’ve got to listen to the other side” and adds his view that listening is “a form of love…which redefines the narrative of me right, you wrong”, and is also a way to “[surprise the other] – [who is] expecting attack”.

Shortly thereafter (at 36:01), Rabbi Liebling says we need to have a  “conversation of curiosity” and, in relation to the current controversy over Confederate monuments and related symbols…. that you need to respectfully ask questions such as “why is it that you have that [Confederate] flag? what does that flag mean to you?”

A few minutes later, he speaks of “the economic injustices that effect everybody” and states that part of that is to “listen and hear the pain of that young white person” as a prelude to improving school systems, etc., for all low-income people (starting at 40:04).

Footnote 20. The most noticeable such disturbances/riots/uprisings occurred in 2005 and two writings on them are respectively on the suburb of Grigny, south of Paris, as an example of how related social problems have been ignored and have persisted, and, below that, an introduction to scholarly studies of the 2005 riots from the site of the Brooklyn-based Social Science Research Council….

From a brief search, it appears that St. Denis was not in the top headlines of areas marked by fires, looting and other violent occurrences in 2005, but several communities in its “departement” of Seine Sainte-Denis were focal points of rage, and the New York Times, on further disturbances in 2007, speaks, perhaps mistakenly, of “the town of Seine-Saint-Denis [emphasis mine]” but also of one of the towns noted in my interviews above – Sarcelles – as scenes of fiery protest. []

The following summary of the riots and their background emphasizes at one point that the region of Seine-Sainte-Denis was their main core, while it does not name the city of St. Denis as an example of civil strife in 2005; see “Riot Epicenter…” about 20% of the way down….

An underscoring of the huge gap that continues in France came in riots within the “departement” as recently as February, in response to the alleged sodomization by police of a young Black man – known publicly at the time as “Theo” – in the suburb of Aulnay-Sous-Bois….

Footnote 21.  On Charles Martel’s tomb and the Battle of Tours respectively, see:


Footnote 22.  For a brief summary of the film, see


Additional Sources

For further information on St. Denis, another site, if not vetted by me but appearing to be correct overall, is:

This source seems to provide a good summary as well:

While in French, this looks like a very thorough listing of tombs, etc., at St. Denis, and a sub-section has been used above in regards to the “archaeological crypt” in the basement of the Basilica:

Regarding a related basilica – Paris’s Sacre Coeur (seen below as well), I utilized this source in passing….

On Saint Denis himself, I was assisted by:

and, with respect, a more light-hearted source at:



In a way, we can all thank St. Denis – a pioneering Gallic Christian of the 3rd century A.D./C.E., who has been venerated not only at his basilica, but the more famous and sometimes glamorous Paris area of Montmartre (“Mount of Martyrs”) and its  beloved Sacre Coeur Church, seen here….

p73017-41 sac cr de rue de steinkerque

…near whose site he was reportedly beheaded by the Roman rulers of the day, and then – in one of the very dramatic tales of Christianity – walked with his head in his hands nine kilometers to the north, before he died in what is now the city of St. Denis.

I want to again highlight my friend Djamila Aberkane, a Paris native who I appreciate but cannot canonize, and who was essential in producing this blog through her French fluency and love of French culture….

p72017-5 Djamila





A first visit to a “beautiful city”….

[I will do my best without translation aides to write this in French, and then translate my attempt en francais to English, so I thank you for bearing with me – with perhaps twice as much to read and mistakes for sure! OFTEN, I make an attempt at a French word and afterwards, in parentheses, I have a question mark and the word I meant in English.]

[Je vais faire ma mieux sans aides de traduction d’ecrire ceci en Francais, et ensuite traduire mon effort en francais dans Anglais, ainsi si je vous remercier pour votre patience – avec peut-etre 200% plus de lire pour les lireurs (? – readers) les plus serieuses et les fauts definitement! SOUVENT, je fait une attempt dans une mot Francais, et apres j’ai une marque de question et le mot j’ai signifie en Anglais entre parentheses.]

Avec felicitations d’une visite a Paris – essentiellement le premier de ma vie, parce que je me souviens une quantitie infinitesemelle – peut-être! – de 1966? – j’offrirai des impressions d’une vacance ici, depuis Lundi le 17eme Juillet, avec la majorité de ces vues en relation d’une quartier qui s’appelle Belleville (ou “beautiful city”) et qui est, dans une sens, une combinaison d’un banlieue Francais, avec ses connotations d’une magnitude des citoyens non-Blanche et pauvres, et aussi l’elegance qui beaucoup de gens durant les siècles associe avec Paris. Honnêtement, et avec le plus grande respecte de mes contactes modestes qui sont Parisiennes et rarement Bellevillienes, une titre considérée par cet blogue est “grime, graffiti and a beautiful city”, un jeux-de-mot dans le tone de “God, Guts and Glory” de l’esprit Américaine.

With good feelings for a visit to Paris – essentially the first one in my life, because I remember just an infinitesimal amount – perhaps! – from 1966 – I will offer my impressions of my time here since July 17th, with the majority of these views in relation to a neighborhood called Belleville (or “beautiful city”) and which is, in one sense, a combination of a French suburb, with its frequent connotations of a majority of citizens who are non-White and poor, and also the elegance which many people have associated with Paris throughout the centuries. Honestly, and with the greatest respect for my modest contacts who are Parisians and in rare cases “Bellevillians”, one title I considered for this blog is “grime, graffiti and a beautiful city”, a word-play with the tone of “God, Guts and Glory” in the American spirit.

Quoique Belleville, comme beaucoup de quartiers de Paris – et du monde – has experienced le gentrification, observée dans le message ici, a 8 Rue de Belleville, qui dite, approximativement…. “Belleville gentrifying / Belleville denaturing / Return to your place / BOBO gentrifiers” [footnote 1]

Although Belleville, like many neighborhoods of Paris – and the world – has experienced gentrification, observed in the message here, at 8 Rue de Belleville, which approximately says….

“Belleville gentrifying / Belleville denaturing / Return to your place / BOBO gentrifiers”[footnote 1]

P71717-12 bllvl gentrifier sign

et ils sont plusieurs de restaurants (ou “restos” dans l’argot locale) a Boulevard de Belleville qui definitement attirent (? – attract) une “crowd” professionel, et duquel “Cafe Cheri(e)” – plus proche et dans la Boulevard de la Villette peux être un “stand-in” dans cette vue, ou, malgre lui le scene du soir ici – et près du droit au sommet du photo –  on peut voir le graffiti qui est definitement une grand partie du “grit” du Belleville….

and there are several restaurants (or “restos” in local slang) on Boulevard de Belleville which definitely attract a professional crowd, and for which Cafe Cheri(e), very close by and on the Boulevard de la Villette can be a stand-in in this view, and where, despite the evening scene here – and close the right at the top of this photo – you can see the graffiti which is definitely a big part of the “grit” of Belleville….

p72117-14 cafe cheri(e) boul blvl et rue rebeval

….Et, malgré lui étant si proche des quartiers qui sont parmis les plus élégantes du monde urbaine, il est definitement une place, encore,  avec les residences modestes, peut-être suggère par l’étroitesse (? – narrowness) d’une partie du meme “8 Rue de Belleville” qui a notee (? – which is noted) above, dans le centre de cette image….

….It is definitely still a place – despite being so close to areas which are among the most elegant in the world – with modest residences, perhaps suggested by the narrowness of one part of the aforementioned “8 Rue de Belleville” in the center of this image….

p72117-5 vue est vers 8 rue de blvl au centre du pho

et les peuples des classes ouvriers, et peut-être “majorité pas blanche”, comme ses photos au-dessous commence de suggère, encore pour mes lireurs fidèles avec le pixellation….”suffisante” de ma telephone!….

and working-class people, with perhaps the majority being non-white, like the photos below begin to suggest, still – for my faithful readers – with “sufficient” pixellation from my telephone!….

Une exemple est le scene vers la ouest a Rue du Faubourg du Temple a l’ouest de Boulevard de Belleville….

One example is the scene towards the west on Rue du Faubourg du Temple to the west of Boulevard de Belleville….

p71817-4 lkg sw rue fbrg du temp au sud BVilltt

Et une autre instance est notee en regardant une marche au milieu de Boulevard de la Villette [regardant le scene vers la nord-ouest dans une marche au milieu de Boulevard de la Villette]

And another instance is seen in a market in the middle of the Boulevard de la Villette….

p71817-3b vue nw au marche du boul vllt

Dans la Boulevard de Belleville, immédiatement au sud de Boul. de la Villette, la vie du premier et deuxième generation des immigrants de l’Afrique du Nord est obvieusement en motion, avec BEAUCOUP de connections de leur terres de naissance – avec une grande nombre des restaurantes et patisseries Tunisiens, pour les Berbers d’Algérie, agences de travel qui offre les plans pour recreation en Afrique, faire le Hajj, etc.

On the Boulevard de Belleville, immediately to the south of  Boul. de la Villette, the life of first and second-generation immigrants of North Africa is obviously in motion, with MANY connections to their native lands – with a great number of restaurants and pastry shops catering to Tunisian-French residents, ones for people descended from the Berber community of Algeria, travel agencies which offer plans for recreation in Africa, making the Hajj (to Saudi Arabia), etc.

J’ai apprecie ma diner avec une amie Parisienne et ma temps a “Le Rhumel”, seen near de la centre ici….

I appreciated my dinner with a Parisian friend and my time at “Le Rhumel”, seen near the center here….

p72117-13 le rhumel rest boul villtt

qui incluant la chaudresse (warmth) d’une famille qui habite une banlieue au nord-est de Paris, avec deux garçons charmants, leur parents, et une grand-mere (du femme je pense); leur amitié, et le proximité du cote Nord de l’Afrique, qui semble si distante pour moi dans ma vie a Philadelphie, a emphasise quand le pere/mari du famille m’offre logement a ses deux maisons de vacance en Algérie, duquel (? – in relation to which) je n’ai pas fait du promesses:)!

which included the warmth of a family living in a suburb to the northeast of Paris, with two  charming boys, their parents and a grand-mother (of the boys’ mother I think); their friendliness, and the proximity of the North African coast, which seems so distant for me in my life in Philadelphia, was emphasized when the father/husband of the family offered me a place to stay in his two vacation homes in Algeria, in relation to which I did not make any promises:)!

Une des rues nommées juste maintenant – Rue du Faubourg du Temple, presente – comme des rues numereuses (? – numerous) – le melange d’elegance et “le vitalitie urbaine” – qui je dites, partiellement avec une (ouvresse?) sincere pour le graffiti….Deux exemples sont ici, a 110-112….

One of the streets named just now – Rue du Faubourg du Temple, presents – like numerous streets – the mix of elegance and “urban vitality” – which I say partly with a sincere openness for graffiti….Two examples are here, at 110-112….

p71817-5 110-12 rue fbrg temp

et, pres du centre-bas de l’image au-dessous, au coin sud-est du Faubourg etc:) et Rue Jules Verne….

and near the lower center of this image, at the southeast corner of du Faubourg etc:) and Rue Jules Verne….

p71817-7 lkg e to se cor R Fbrg Tmpl et J Verne

Croyez-moi que “Rue Jules Verne” est a droite above – et pas 20 milles leagues sous le mer! – mais l’état étroite de cette rue et (milles?) de rues a Paris reemphasizer une sens de Paris (comme New York et les “villes du monde” classiques) comme une planète soi-même, avec millions des histoires, ou je have been chanceux de regarder une quantité infinitésimale….

Believe me that “Rue Jules Verne” is to the right above – and not 20 thousand leagues under the sea – but the narrowness of this street and (thousands?) of streets in Paris reemphasize a sense of Paris (as with New York and the classic “world cities”) as its own planet, with millions of stories, where I have been lucky to observe a tiny quantity….

Une exemple, encore de Rue Faubourg, est venu quand je wondered de l’histoire de “Monsieur Dorleans Strebet”, qui je me suis pense était (? – had) une magasin ici – partiellement pour fabriquer les horloges – comme l’inscription la-bas suggère, quoique le mot “horloger”, pour un Américain, a une sonne mystère….

One example, again on Rue du Faubourg, came when I wondered about the history of “Monsieur Dorleans Strebet”, who I thought had a store here – partly for making clocks –  like the inscription below suggests, while the word  “horloger” (clock-maker) – pronounced “or-lo-ZHAY’ ” – has a mysterious sound for an American….

p71817-8 mnsr orleans strebet 106 R Fbrg Tmpl

p71817-9 mnsr dorlns strebet clsup 106 RFTmpl



Et je suis appréciatif d’avoir les contactes avec les histoires vraiment humaine juste maintenant, meme si je voudrait plus des rencontres avec les femmes (!).

And I am appreciative to have contact with true, current human histories, even if I would like more meetings with women (!).

Une personne que je me suis rencontre est Abou, une homme de 21 ans, qui était très gentille pendant notre rencontre au bureau de postes a Boulevard de Belleville, avant une parole de ses espoirs pour le futur, notre sens criticales du President Trump, son intérêt passionnant de hip-hop et autres sujets, et brièvement, son ancêtre de l’Algérie…

One person who I met is Abou, who is 21 years old, and very cordial as we met at the Post Office on Boulevard de Belleville, followed by a discussion of his hopes for the future, our critical sense of President Trump, his passionate interest in hip-hop and other subjects, and, briefly, his Algerian ancestry….

p71917-8 abou au bureau de postes a boul blvl

Et a une de ces petites rues – Rue Civiale, regardant ici a l’ouest de Boulevard de la Villette….

And on one of the small streets – Rue Civiale, seen here to the west of Boulevard de la Villette….

p71917-4 vue nw a rue civiale

et avec “magnification” pour son cote ouest….

and with magnification for its west side….

p71917-5 rue civiale meme plus proche

ou, a Cafe Bar Baccara [regardant dans le dernier picture dans une sens petit, au “bend” de la rue]….

where, at Cafe Baccarra Bar [seen in the last picture in a tiny way, at the bend of the street]….

p71917-7 cafe bar baccara a l'exterieur

je me suis rencontre Elavamh….

I met Elavamh….

p71917-6 elavamh at cafe bar baccara

une homme ne a Cambodge qui a parle avec moi pour peut-être 20 minutes, parfois avec passion des aspets (? – aspects) du la bombée du Cambodge par les Etats-Unis durant 1970. While je comprenais seulement 60% de ses parole, sa point majeur, qu’il a répété, est que les Etats-Unis n’a pas perdu le guerre au Cambodge, et – en opposition de la vue tragique de moi et beaucoup de gens au gauche dans les Etats-Unis, la bombée n’était pas le faut entier des Américains, parce que le gouvernement du Cambodge a demande l’entree de l’Amérique dans leur pays.  Le visite de Elavamh a Cafe Bar Baccara a ete vite, probablement en connection avec son boulot au “Paris Store” (pour les alimentations Asiennes), juste 5-7 portes away, une branch d’une chaine des super-marches, et visible avec un peu de duresse:) au bas du photo ici, et avec – 1%?! – de “Rue Civiale” a droit…

a man born in Cambodia who spoke with me for perhaps 20 minutes, sometimes with passion about aspects of the bombing of Cambodia by the United States around 1970.  While I understood only 60% of his speaking, his major point, which he repeated, is that the U.S. did not lose the war in Cambodia – and  in opposition to the tragic view of myself and many people on the left in the United States, the bombing was not the entire fault of the Americans, because the government of Cambodia asked for the involvement of America in their country. His visit to Cafe Bar Baccara was quick, probably in connection with his job at the “Paris Store” (for Asian foods), just 5-7 doors away, a branch of a chain of super-markets, and visible with just a little difficulty:) at the bottom of the photo here and with – 1%?! of Rue Civiale to the right….

p72617-14 paris store a bas du photo dans le soir

Juste avant il m’a dit bon journée, il a ajoutait que John Kerry sait de ses perspectives, parce qu’il a ete une des pilots des avions qui  bombardait (?) le pays, une évènement Elavamh souvenait comme une garçon de seulement huit ans.

Just before he said goodbye to me, he added that John Kerry understands these perspectives on Cambodia because he was one of the pilots of the planes which bombed the country, an event which Elavamh remembers as a boy of only 8 years in age.

Comme je note tres brièvement ces deux individuels – Abou d’ancêtre Nord-Africain et Elavamh d’origine d’Asie Sud-Est – je veux honore une autre groupe d’individuels, et quoiqu’ils sont de “haut profile” relativement, en comparison du “classe ouvrier” de Belleville, il semble que la France les célèbrent mieux que les Etats-Unis.

As I very briefly note these two individuals – Abou of North African ancestry and Elavamh of Southeast Asian origin – I want to honor another group of individuals, and while they have a relatively high profile, in comparison to the working class of Belleville, it seems that France celebrates them more than the United States does.

Je parle des artistes, et vitement dans ma visite, je have noticed une nombre d’honneurs pour eux, avec le sous-catégorie le plus grand étant pour architects. Souvent, l’architecte d’une bâtiment est nommée dans ces murs – fréquemment CARVED dans les murs –  et cette tradition est visible ici, plus proche de mon hostel, juste en haut (?) de l’entrance, ou une F. Springer et E. Giraudon parle a nous de 1906….

I am referring to artists, and, fleetingly during my visit, I have noticed a number of honors for them, with the biggest sub-category being for architects. Often, the architect of a building is named on its walls – frequently CARVED on walls – and this tradition is visible here, very close to my hostel, just above the entrance, where an F. Springer and E. Giraudon speak to us from 1906….

p71917-2 - clsup of archt inscrips at 7 & 9 rue datlas

et avec une vue peripherale du bâtiment en question – 7 & 9 Rue D’Atlas, ici…

and with a peripheral view of the building in question – 7 and 9 Rue D’Atlas, here….

p71917-1 - 7 & 9 rue datlas

Approximativement cent pieds du station Belleville du Metro (avec respecte pour le monde métrique!), ceci une exemple plus modeste de respecte pour l’architecte, du type que j’ai vu a plusieurs du bâtiments plus recentes; en ce cas, il est pour un Denis Sloan qui a dessinée (? – designed) le structure ici il y a 33 ans….

Approximately 100 feet from the Belleville station of the Metro (with respect for the metric world!), here is a more modest example of respect for the architect, of the kind which I viewed on several more recent buildings; in this case, for a Denis Sloan who designed the structure here 33 years ago….

p71817-3 denis sloan arch @ 2 boul vllt

Durant le coin et peut-être cinq blocs up le colline, une femme artistique est célèbre a la place de sa naissance a Rue de Belleville, quoique sa niveau Olympienne peut signifie elle n’est pas exactement un revelation en regarde de la status de “l’artiste” dans la France….

Around the corner and perhaps five blocks up the hill, a female artist is celebrated at the place of her birth on Rue de Belleville, while her Olympian level can suggest she is not exactly a revelation as to the status of “the artist” in France….

p72117-3 edith piaf brthplc sign 72 rue de bllvl

Plus broadly, les signes dans beaucoup de murs de Paris – quoique il est facile de romanticise – sont une partie de l’agrandissement de la vie culturelle et/ou intellectuelle ici – plus que dans les Etats-Unis. Deux autres exemples a Belleville, sont pour Jean Rostand, de qui je ne jamais pas entendu – mais je me demande encore s’il était une rapport de Edmond Rostand du (fame) “Cyrano de Bergerac”….[footnote 2]

More broadly, the signs on many walls in Paris – while it is easy to romanticize – are a part of the enlargement of cultural and/or intellectual life here – more than in the United States. Two other examples in Belleville are for Jean Rostand, of whom I had never heard – while I wondered if he was a relative of Edmond Rostand of “Cyrano de Bergerac” fame….[footnote 2]

p71917-9 plc jean rostand

et, plus widely still, pour “Rue de la Presentation” [footnote 3]….

and, more widely still, for “Rue de la Presentation” [footnote 3]….

p71817-6 rue de presentat juste au sud R Fbrg Tmpl

Une grande nombre des histoires sont introduits dans les rues de Paris, et beaucoup des gens du monde savent en générale les histoires légendaires des artistes, etc., de cette ville.  Il est souvent une place magicale.

A great number of stories are introduced in the streets of Paris, and many people world-wide know, at a general level, the legendary histories of  artists, etc., in this city. It is often a magical place.

Au meme temps, pendant ma temps ici, je have also had le sens aussi de la vie quotidienne, et vraiment la vie de toute le monde – “working 9 to 5”, dans les mots de Dolly Parton.  Une raison pour cette sensibilité est ma choix de Belleville – un “quartier des ouvriers” – encore, au moins maintenant sans “hypo-gentrification” – ET le location je DOIS choisir pour les prix des logements, honnêtement. Une autre raison pour mes pensées de “la vie régulière” est ma restant (? – staying) plus proche du “Metro Belleville” et une nombre de temps dans ses plateformes quand j’ai utilise une système excellente de transportation….

At the same time, during my time here, I have also had the sense of daily life – really the life of the whole world – “working 9 to 5” in the words of Dolly Parton. One reason for this awareness is my choice of Belleville – still a “workers’ neighborhood” – at least now without “hyper-gentrification”, and the location I HAVE to choose for the price of lodging, honestly. Another reason for thinking about “regular life” is staying close to the Belleville Metro station and a number of times on its platforms when I have used an excellent system of transportation….

p71817-12 train arrivee a Metro Blvl

…et j’ai vu (? – I have seen) la vie des commuters, pas toujours dans les pastels jolies de Paris en beaucoup des instances, pour exemple comme ici, avec une vue vers le graffiti dans une fenêtre d’un train dans l’espace grande pour les trains du Gare St. Lazare….

and I have seen the life of commuters, not always with pretty Paris pastels in many instances, as in this picture, with a view through the graffiti of a train window in the grand space of the trains of the Gare St. Lazare….

p72617-3 vue sud vers fenet d'une train a GSLaz

et ici, en direction du Gare du Nord de ligne 2 du Metro….

and here, in the direction of the Gare du Nord of Metro line 2….

p72717-2 vue au sud vers gare du nord

Paris a sa share de bruillance (? – noisiness), dirt, et, vraiment, tension, mais avec une portion de ces choses comme les aspets du liveliness urbaine, et le quantitie petite que je vue a Paris est SOUVENT comme des grande parties du Manhattan d’il y a 30-40 ans, fréquemment le type de la ville encouragee (? – encouraged) par les urbanistes comme Jane Jacobs – qui ont dit vous avez besoin d’une ville vrai, avec de “réalité”, pas le stérilité (sterility) qui souvent apparu dans une ville gentrifiee et “white-collar”. Honnêtement, le “wrap-up” ici n’est pas le mot le plus spécifique ou finale, mais j’espère pour une balance ici et d’ailleurs, basée partiellement dans les choses plus biens (? – finer things) de la vie – comme l’art, l’intellecte, etc.,  et un sens de communauté nationale (PARFOIS plus grand de la France, avec le sante nationale, etc.). Mes prières au dieu des agnostiques sont que (? – that) ces choses continueront dans l’epoch de “Manny Macron”. Vive la vitalité!

Paris has its share of noisiness, dirt, and honestly, tension, but with a part of these elements as aspects of urban vitality and the small portion of Paris which I have seen is OFTEN like big parts of Manhattan 30-40 years ago, frequently the type of city encouraged by urbanists like Jane Jacobs – who have said you need a true city, with “reality” and not the sterility which often appears in a gentrified and white-collar city.  Honestly, the “wrap-up” here is not the most specific or final word, but  I hope for a balance here and elsewhere, based partly on the finer things in life – like art, intellect, etc., and a sense of a national community (SOMETIMES bigger in France, with national health care, etc.). My prayers to the God of agnostics are that an emphasis on community and the life of the mind will continue under the era of France’s recently-elected President Emmanuel Macron. Long live vitality! 




f1…”BOBO” est definitement péjoratif, et je suis presque certaine il est dérivée de “Bohemian” et “Bourgeois” [“BOBO” is definitely perjorative, and I am almost certain it is derived from “Bohemian” and “Bourgeois”].

f2. Oui – au moins dans Wikipedia – Jean Rostand  a été le fils de Edmond Rostand….[Yes, at least in Wikipedia – Jean Rostand was the son of Edmond Rostand.] [ ou — en Anglais — (English)…. ou]

f3. Il a ete intéressant pour moi que le contexte de ces deux places n’est pas si intellectuelle ou “high-minded” aujourd’hui, avec les prostituees – meme, je pense durant la jour – a Place Jean Rostand, et le senteur (? – smell) de urine et une place pour Jesus mais pas une espace virginale – mais une espace de rester temporairement pour les personnes sans abri, au moins pendant les jours – a Rue de la Presentation.

[It was definitely interesting for me that the context of these two places is not so intellectual or high-minded today, with prostitutes – even, I think, during the day – on Place Jean Rostand – and, on Rue de la Presentation – the smell of urine in a place for Jesus but not a virginal site and one where homeless persons stay, at least during the day.]



Pour l’écriture de cette blog, grace aux espaces quietes de ma hostel, et aussi, a vendredi le 28 juillet, “Le Mistral”, une cafe tres relâchée (? – relaxed), a 401 Boulevard des Pyrenees au sud de Rue de Belleville….

For the writing of this blog, thanks to the quiet spaces in my hostel, and, also, on Friday, July 28, “Le Mistral” a very relaxed cafe at 401 Boulevard des Pyrenees just south of Rue de Belleville….

p72817-1 le mistral a 401 boul de pyr

Et une parting shot d’il y a plus d’une semaine ago, prenant 20 secondes (? – seconds) on foot from “Mistral” du “vue premiere” (pour moi) d’un tour légendaire, meme (encore) sans le clarite légendaire….

And, a parting shot from over a week ago, taken 20 seconds on foot from “Mistral”, with the first view (for me) of a legendary tower, even (again) without legendary clarity….

p71717-15 first vw eiffl twr - fr se cor rue bllv-rue pyren

Cleveland’s Elizabeth Baptist Church – looking back to the winter and forward to the summer

At the beginning of this year, on Sunday, January 8, I was fortunate to attend my first service at Elizabeth Baptist Church in the Slavic Village neighborhood of Cleveland, in connection with what I call my “bridge project”, covered in several writings in my main blog site –

For new readers of mine, I have long been fascinated by an abandoned and historic pedestrian bridge – the “Sidaway Avenue Suspension Bridge”, which once connected Slavic Village and a neighborhood known as Garden Valley, and is seen here in early 2012, while it survives to this day in hope if decay….


Since starting my main blog, I have shared my vision for preserving the bridge but also felt it is important to also do what I can to get to know residents and organizations on both sides of the bridge, hence coming over to Elizabeth Baptist Church, which I may refer to as “EBC” or “Elizabeth”.

I was there thanks initially to Jan Ridgeway of the Garden Valley Neighborhood House, who introduced me to Elizabeth member Jacquie Gillon….


and am very grateful that Jacquie and Reverend Richard Gibson, just below in a youth portion of the service….

have encouraged my writing about the Church.

While it is likely my first major “E” focus – hopefully by September – will be mostly on history, from a personal emphasis on urban history and preserving landmarks, I wanted to generally introduce the church in this post, being glad to see it from a very cold and grayer morning….


to the crisp January light of the afternoon….


and in-between, in a stimulating service with what seemed to be a very happy group of members in a fairly new home, seen more fully right here in terms of its exterior…


and right below, as with most of the photos I’ll share here, during the Jan. 8 worship….


I enjoyed the service in general, including the strains of gospel music, usually emotional for me in a positive sense and aided by a fine instrumental ensemble….


a strong choir plus, at times, the cutest little accompanist [with hopes to note his name at some point:)!]….


and the great presence of Reverend Richard Gibson, seen here elsewhere in the youth exchange….


Perhaps as the only person to stand when Reverend Gibson asked if guests were attending, but also as part of a genuine hospitality, I was approached by several Church members, and, prior to that, before the service began, by Theresa Gibson, the Reverend’s wife, seen here after the service….


who invited me to join one of two bible studies, with the one I chose being, coincidentally, on the Book of Joshua, 24:14-28.   [footnote 1]

In a coming blog, I hope to deal with at least two key structures in the history of EBC, beginning with its home of 67 years at 8005 Holton Avenue, just a short walk northeast of the heart of Garden Valley, and seen here this past August….


and its home since the Spring of 2011 where I visited on January 8.



Here, I am reminded of how, in writing a short article just a few months ago, I was thankful to congregations, often Afro-American, for keeping old Philadelphia synagogues alive, and  in this case, EBC has also preserved at least two previous homes for different ethnicities.

The first Elizabeth edifice I hope to focus on was initially that of a Hungarian Baptist Church, and while EBC moved into it in 1944, the Hungarian congregation’s cornerstone was still visible as of last August….


The Church has continued with a building which once housed a largely Polish Catholic congregation – St. Hyacinth – whose 1950 edifice has not only provided a home for EBC for six years, but also had helped to reinforce a Polish name – “Jackowo” (“Ya’-ko-vo”, if I am not mistaken, but meaning “Hyacinth”) over a number of decades; its cornerstone is very much alive to the right of the EBC entrance….


[footnote 2]

I look forward to coming back to the Church once my life in Philadelphia and my native Northeast Ohio heart will allow:)!


Footnote 1. This passage begins, in line 14, with the words “14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.” [source:]

Footnote 2. If interested, please see a blog I wrote for a Philadelphia Jewish history bicycle tour, at


Stopping to greet a beautiful giant

This past Friday night, thanks to a friend of mine, Janice McCabe, and a repairman (of sorts) named Jon Buchanan, I saw the nerve center of a Philadelphia musical giant up close for the first time. Ironically, given the powerful sound it can often produce, it happened partly because I wanted to leave an extremely loud event.  Janice had invited me to a social/holiday kick-off gathering at the department store generations of Philadelphians know as Wanamaker’s, and we loved the food and ambiance available in its Greek Hall, but I did not look forward to ear surgery some years down the line, after about 45 minutes of good company, and a passionate and high-calibre but high-decibel soul music band. As we began to wander away from the event, in the former Wanamaker’s,  Janice reminded me that there was a way to at least get close to the usually-closed console of its famous organ, and, luckily, we not only approached that small space, visible near the center of this view…

Wanorg1118-14 - apprch to s sd of console.jpgbut had the excitement of walking in seconds later….Wanorg1118-13 - s sd dr to console.jpgand initially, listening in on a conversation between a lady, an organist from Atlanta and Jon Buchanan….wanorg1118-2 jhn Buchanan at console.jpgwho generously answered our questions, thanks in part, from what I gathered, to his approximately 20 years of loving and repairing organs and the strong support of the organ’s heritage by the company which owns what is now a Macy’s department store.

While I had known about the magisterial beauty of the organ’s console, having occasionally gotten a distant view of it from the floor, and with its left side seen here….Wanorg1118-9 - left sd of console.jpgand also its right side, both as of Friday night…Wanorg1118-10 - rt sd of console.jpgand I knew approximately how impressive its stats were – often repeating as a local guide that it is the world’s largest playing pipe organ and has approximately 28,000 pipes, Jon further informed Janice and I,  allowing us to zero in on a few eye-stopping figures, such as a stop which controls 7 ranks of 61 pipes each for a total of 427 pipes….Wanorg1118-6 - mxtr vii ranks stop.jpgand another which rules 12 ranks with a total of 32 pipes each for a total of 384 pipes….Wanorg1118-7 - grd strg div mxtr xii ranks.jpg

We also began to get an understanding of how this huge creation is organized, color-coding being one of its keys, with, for instance, two stops which respectively control two groups of stops under the banner of “stentor” and “ethereal”, seen here right near the center of this image….Wanorg1118-3 - cntrl keys for stent n ethrl.jpgwith their respective red and orange children here….


and here….


With this being such a brief introduction, I am somewhat less guilt-ridden in having heard Jon say that some visiting organists are overwhelmed for hours – or days – by how the Wanamaker organ is organized – and some, like Monte Maxwell, an organist at the U.S. Naval Academy, “get it” within minutes. [Footnote 1]

All of the players and aficionados of this musical heritage, according to Jon’s comments, benefit from the work that has been put into it. He noted that when the organization known as The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ began, “this organ was mostly silent”, but now it is “at least 95% playable” and he began to point out improvements to the playing experience such as a screen which can easily be pulled down or pushed out of view, to allow any organist to easily see a conductor in the old Wanamaker grand court, a silent film or other presentations….


Additionally, while my long-time perspective, as a 28-year resident of this city, was of how renowned the organ is in its “department store palace” across from another huge treasure – the Philadelphia City Hall – for Jon, at least, and presumably his musical sympaticos, it is not so well-known. During our visit at the console, Jon spoke of many people who do not even know that the organ is there, giving the impression of how many pedestrians just use the elegant if not stunning interiors of “Wanamaker’s” as a short-cut to their destinations, often walking through with “their earbuds in”.  It seemed that one of Jon’s missions was to spend a little more of his Friday evening, albeit as a paid maintenance-man for the instrument, to spread the word on this monument through us.

In addition, Jon began to preach the gospel of the world’s largest ORGAN, just down the freeway in Atlantic City, noting partly in a humorous vein that while the Wanamaker “king” (my term) is “pretty”, the “A.C.” organ, in the city’s Boardwalk Hall, is loud. There too, a friends’ group is bringing the organ back from a long decline, and, according to Jon, it is gargantuan in sound – louder than this organ though it is just 30% playable now, with pipes which “are nowhere else in the world” – unique in size, shape, etc. – and Jon’s observation that the AC instrument’s “equivalent stops look like they’re on steroids compared to ours”. Jon should know as he said he largely splits his time between work on each of these organs.

As a next step, Jon encouraged the two of us to visit the “Friends” website at, one of the main reasons being not only to know about post-event opportunities to see the console up close, like this past Friday night, but a once-a-year tour of every component of the organ, including chambers for its pipes. He also referred us to the website for the Atlantic City organ at



Footnote 1. One of the sites for Monte Maxwell is at



….My friend Janice McCabe for leading me to this kind of inner sanctum, viewed here as she sat at the console and remembered a favorite pop culture moment from Terry Jones playing the organ during a few moments on the legendary “Monty Python” show (over my head, but…)….


and Jon, a pleasure to be with, partly with a wry sensibility which may have led him to say that his exact age is a “trade secret” but that he is in his “mid-30’s”. For me, he was a reminder of the many people we never meet who keep our world moving, with John’s primary work including installing and maintaining the electric switches which he said are on the back of every organ key. His company website is at

[I am still on the learning curve here, and it is steeper than the angle between the stop terraces of the Wanamaker console, but basically, the electric switches noted just above  are components in a relay system, which organs have long needed between stops and pipes so that the pipes will move accordingly once the stops are pressed, or on many older organs – pulled out:). See paragraphs 3-5 at for further explanation, while that is still a little dense.]

In closing, I hope that all of my readers are able to expand their knowledge of this immense instrument, even if the depths and the heights thereof do not attain those of two 32-foot “gravissima” pipes (as per Jon) and one 32′ contra diaphone pipe, as indicated below….