Sunday, November 27, 2016

A peek inside the depot

Lil' Nick and I have visited the Amboy railroad depot several timers but each time we did always found it closed. On a recent trip up there we were lucky to see the Open sign in the window.

The Illinois Central and Amboy go back a long way together.  There were shop facilities for the repair of rolling stock. There was maintenance facilities for light repairs. And there was the headquarters for the region was built there. Authorized in 1854, the Illinois Central built a terminal/depot/hotel on site and operated it for over 20 years.  The original structure was enlarged during the Civil war in 1863 but even with the additions it was deemed as too small. Things might have turned out differently had not Fate intervened in  1873 when a fire destroyed the headquarters building and the hotel/depot. The railroad decided to build an entirely new structure combining and enlarged headquarters with a new depot and left the hotel out of the picture.

For another 20 plus years operations at Amboy hummed along nicely but by 1894 traffic patterns had changed and Amboy no longer had as important a role as it once had.  The headquarters were closed and the repair shops were mostly abandoned and relocated, though the depot remained open to handle passenger service. It remained in service up to 1939 when passenger service was finally discontinued and the trains rerouted thru Dixon.

It saw a brief resurgence during World War 2 and the Korean war as a transfer point for ammunition constructed at the nearby Green River ordnance plant. In the 1980's the railroad announced it was going to tear down the old building but an effort by the village of Amboy saved the structure and it was turned into a museum.  The day nick and I were there there was a steady line of people coming and going, wandering thru the various rooms and admiring the displays.  Many thanks to Nick for going up to the second floor and snapping the photo's I couldn't get to.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Field of Stones: An Update

I got a message from a fellow photographer who wrote about a bad experience happening around the old State hospital cemetery.  He writes in part:

"Two years age I was at my grandsons football game in the football park across the street. There happened to be a roller hockey games going on too. People were parking in the cemetery on top of the unmarked graves. I was furious. I asked the people who were directing traffic there why are they allowing people to park their cars on top of children's graves. They did not have a answer for me. They just said, you have to talk to this person & that person. They made me mad.

 I want a answer for this kind of cemetery vandalism. I went to the Dixon Park District. They just thought I was a pain in the ass. But they made some phone calls. I called the prison & complained too. The next weekend the same thing happened. people parking on the graves. I was pissed. I went to the newspaper & told them what was going on. I wrote article about what was going at the cemetery. How people were parking on the graves, leaving trash, the tire ruts across the graves. .They published my article. The next weekend when I went back they had the cemetery roped of with "No Parking" signs up."

Not just at the old State hospital cemetery but at ANY historic site, if you see people parking or driving over graves and headstones with little or no regard for the sanctity of the place Speak Up!

Thanks for listening!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Field of Stones

Recently I took a trip back up to Dixon and took advantage of the warmer weather to shoot a few more interesting sites before the cold winter moved in. One of these places was the cemetery for the old Dixon State hospital.  

In 1918 the place first opened as the Illinois Colony for Epileptics, boasting 128 separate buildings, 400 acres for the living area and 1,100 acres of tillable farm land, the idea being that the colony would be self sustaining.  Soon though it became apparent that a wider set of needs could be served here and in 1922 it was renamed the Dixon State hospital. To compliment this new title a women's school of nursing was opened there in 1927.

Fast forward to the 1970's-80's and times and attitudes had changed. No longer were the mentally challenged seen as someone to be locked away out of sight and the hospital  was repurposed yet again becoming a prison in 1984.  While that makes for interesting reading on its own it is what lies Outside the complex that caught my eye that day.

Every hospital and care facility has it's share of deaths and the Dixon state hospital was no exception.  The first internment was in 1920 and the last was in 1979. During those 59 years a total of 2,189 souls were laid to rest.  Some markers have names, some are so worn that you can only read the date of death and the patient number. If you love strolling thru old cemeteries this one will keep you busy for an hour or two.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Overlooking the Rock River

In Dixon stands a little park just off Galena road called Presidents park. There you'll find the only statue that shows Abraham Lincoln dressed as a soldier. He wears a sword and a belt and is carrying a coat over one arm and commemorates his service during the Blackhawk indian wars of 1832. The statue was dedicated on  September 24th, 1930.

 When the war broke out Lincoln, who was only 23 at the time, joined the militia at Ft. Dixon and was given the rank of captain.  He never saw actual combat but was present for the aftermath of the Battle of Kellog's Grove and the Battle of Stillman's Run. He ended the war in an independent spy company under the command of Capt. Jacob Early.

It's appropriate that the statue is in Presidents park as that is also the site of Fort Dixon, where he would have been sworn into the militia.  On the banks of the Rock river it includes the statue of Lincoln and also a recreation of John Dixon's settlers cabin. It was closed the day we visited but is open periodically for visitors to explore inside. It's a quiet, peaceful place and the day we were there there wasn't a soul around save for my helper Tom and myself.

It's situated between Peoria Ave. and Galena Road in Dixon. Go across the bridge and taken an immediate right hand turn and it's only half a block farther on. There's ample parking and benches for people to sit on and reflect. On a more humorous note I remarked to Tom Anderson     'Can you imagine living in a cabin like this back in the day?'. He replied, 'It wouldn't have been so bad. There's a McDonald's just up the street!'

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Dixon Veterans Park

Last week I posted about Dixon's veterans park, a little known and seldom visited military park in the heart of town. I had wayyy too many photo's to include in just one posting so today I'm posting the majority of the remaining pics.  On a side note, the day we were there an American bald eagle was flying lazily over the park. Tom and I thought it was very symbolic and I tried to capture a great shot but the bird just wouldn't land for a close up, sorry.