Monthly Archives: December 2007

Old Hotels, Deserted Dots

Hotel Calvert. I saw the Hotel Calvert in Lewistown, Montana on a trip across Montana earlier in the year. I really wanted to stop to stay there, but it was only 2pm. I got a chance this time, and I’m glad I stayed. The hotel was originally a dormitory for those attending the high school across the street. I’m sure that was a useful thing, given the great distances some kids had to travel just to get to a school, and given the horrendous winters in this part of the continent (both of which can be seen in the movie The Slaughter Rule). The Hotel Calvert website says that the dormitory opened in 1917, and it was sold and conversion to a hotel began in 1928. When I showed up at around midnight the hotel, there was no one at the desk, but there was a couple phone numbers given to call. I called one, and got no answer. The second one finally got me someone, who then apparently had to drive over. He apologized for having no rooms with a bathroom available, but I was actually glad to get a room that probably hadn’t been renovated in the last half-century. This turned out to be mostly true, except that the walls had been covered in wood paneling, presumably in the 1960s or 70s. Presumably the doe-eyed clownchild was added around then as well.

Moccasin, Montana is the closest to a ghost town that I’ve ever seen. It’s not completely deserted, but it’s close. There’s still a post office and grain elevator, but that’s about it.

Trainspotting? Though I’m many forms of geek, railfan isn’t one of them. Then why would I pick up SPV’s Comprehensive Railroad Atlas – Dakotas & Minnesota? I picked it up because most Everydots that I’ve photographed were built along rail lines, and some of the tiniest dots only have signage thanks to the railroad. The SPV atlas shows current and former rail lines, and current and former stations and sidings. Since the existence of many of these tiny towns was defined by the railroads, these maps end up being pretty comprehensive. It also helps explain why some maps would list some of these basically nonexistent spots and others would list different ones — the data for those must have come from railroad maps. For me, this means that if I want to be comprehensive, I now have even more dots to visit. While I expect that most of them will have nearly nothing that indicates they were a town, sometimes finding the smallest piece of evidence that they existed feels like a great discovery.

Authenticity in imitation

Stay Wet!I saw this ad today and was impressed by the degree of detail in imitating something that’s apparently meant to look like it was published in 1933. Much “retro” design is a pretty shallow imitation of the original, and in particular, the technical limitations of the time are rarely adhered to or imitated. In this case, however, they do a few things right. The most striking part is the two-color design — it looks like this was printed with just a blue and a red plate. In particular, in “stay wet” you can see the blue bleed through the red (or vice-versa?). Such an effect isn’t hard to do in Illustrator, but it’s often overlooked. This section of the image makes me think of some of the beautiful bleeds done by Aesthetic Apparatus, though the text-over-halftone-photo seems like classic Aesthetic Apparatus style more than it does 1930s printing. Mis-registration (seen here at Aesthetic Apparatus) is a characteristic of pre-computer printing. In this case registration is almost perfect, though close inspection shows just a bit at the base of the bottle.

I like the graphic design in the ad, though I’m not familiar enough with design of the time to know how 1933-ish it really is. The bottle has an engraved look that I associate with catalogs of the time period, and is similar to the Hedcut style used at the Wall Street Journal since 1979. I love the scallops, though they make me think more of the 1970s than the 1920s and 30s. The Gay Nineties seemed to be a popular theme in the 70s (think Phineas Q. Butterfat’s), and the red scallops make me think of the red-striped gay nineties vest.

Now, is this ad “authentic”? Since I don’t see this ad being passed off as something that was created at the end of prohibition, I’d have to say that it’s authentic — it’s an image created in 2007 using the techniques available at the time. I think we may have an unhealthy obsession with authenticity at times. I don’t accuse 1950′s retro design, a favorite disfavorite of mine, of being inauthentic; it is its own genre, a generally cheap pastiche of design from an era with incredibly sophisticated design. But is this ad indistinguishable from something that would have been printed in 1933? I’m sure there are details, stylistic choices, or other subtleties that could disprove that. To my eye, however, it’s well done enough that there are no distractingly out-of-place details, and regardless of is perceived authenticity, it’s just a fun ad.