Dash and Flamboyance
Panache: a word of French origin that carries the connotation
of a flamboyant manner and reckless courage; dash or flamboyance
in style and action.
The old post office in my hometown of Pine Buff, Arkansas, exuded confidence. When you saw it, you knew it was something special. It was a piece of art available for public viewing 24/7, as opposed to the blandly organized stack of metal and glass which replaced it. Now used by a local school district, the old girl suffers from a lengthy lack of attention — with a hint of her former glory still shining through. Though there may be no scientific correlation, it seems to me that the demise of the postal service runs parallel with the proliferation of the sterile postal structures that replaced the older, classier post office buildings.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Pine Buff, Arkansas
With a little time on my hands back in early September of 2011, I made a photographic swing through our downtown here Pine Bluff, LA (lower Arkansas). My targets were the old buildings back when buildings had nooks, crannys, lots of decor and, yes visual panache. Through the wrinkles and bruises, one can still see the fading vestiges of charm, a defining trait of these old buildings. Take another look. See some exterior details of the old Saenger Theater and a few of its neighbors at Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.
No More 'Telephone Girls'
Sandwiched between the old post office and the former home of our local Chevy dealer, Smart Chevrolet, is the now empty Post Office Lunchery, a friendly little bistro that earned a loyal following, including the "Telephone Girls" of the 40s and 50s. The Southwestern Bell office at the time was across the street from the post office. I am told the proprietor of the Lunchery produced a ham sandwich that was second to none. With the move of the post office, the Chevy dealership, and the phone company, the bistro's constituency diminished, and as would be expected, it was curtains for the Lunchery. Now its highest and best function seems to be as a trellis for poison ivy.
Nooks, Crannies, Visual Excitement
Fisrt Published on Sunday, September 3, 2011
Pine Buff, Arkansas
It may be a stretch to describe a building that is anchored to mother earth and unmoving as exuding panache in the true sense of the word — but as a comparative term, it works just fine. I'm referring to the nooks, crannies, and visual excitement of structures raised in the Victorian to early twentieth century era versus the sterile slabs of steel, glass, and concrete that pervade the corporate and government landscape of today.
My aim isn't to launch barbs of universal condemnation on contemporary buildings. My venom is directed only at those "formula" piles that deserve it.
The old Chevy dealership next door to the post office in downtown Pine Bluff had its touches of panache, too. A surviving doorway is framed by strong molding and topped by a round window, which was (unfortunately) the exit point for the last resident's gas appliance vent. An old fire-hydrant valve in front of the door is marked 1922. Poison ivy has also taken up residence on the old dealership.
A Surprise Discovery
Now a shell of its former self, the old Chevy dealership still shows off with this ornate doorway. Regardless of the protruding vent, the classy look lingers, a subtle expression of architectural superiority that mocks the monotonous entryways we encounter today.
Just down the street stands the Saenger Theater, which opened its doors in 1924 and is now on life-support. A local group is raising awareness and money to save the structure. Their Facebook page boasts 1,650-plus member-friends as of this date. The old building still exudes some remaining fragments of the theatrical panache that characterized first-class movie theaters of the era. The preservation task at this point is daunting, but not impossible. See the link below to Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind for additional new pictures of the Saenger.
A Distinctive S
The exterior of the old Saenger Theater remains in relatively good condition. This is one of two identical capitals for faux-columns at the corners of the front of the building.
The probabilities of seeing new buildings blessed with the former panache we love so much are slim nowadays. In that light, taking notice of what's left of the crumbling inventory becomes more and more important. Go take a look — here and wherever else you may be.
Nikon D300, tripod mount, ISO 200, AF S Nikkor 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 VR, all. Exposure data for each image is the base exposure for a series shot for compositing. Post office, firstname.lastname@example.org; Post Office Lunchery, email@example.com; Chevy dealership door, firstname.lastname@example.org; Saenger capital, email@example.com. The day was overcast, which afforded lower, but even light. Post processed with 64-bit HDR Express and Photoshop CS5 Extended.
See new pictures
of the historic Saenger Theater at
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.
Also see more shots
of the neighborhood structures.
It's a honey hole of old buildings with lingering possibilities.