Fire Towers


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I have just about completed scanning and documenting the 1500+ negatives I found a few weeks back (Loose Ends Never End). Only needed to scan just over 700. The others have already been documented elsewhere. I wish someone would have taken the time to at least give a descriptive label to these things, other than the date the photos were taken. From my years of research, most I can identify, others I cannot.

Here are two that were in a group, although not labelled, I recognized as construction of the Susquehanna Conduit. Along with Deer Creek Pumping Station. There are quite a few negatives scattered throughout this collection, although in numerical and chronological order, that should be in other groups of photos.

It looks like a fire tower, just not sure. What my book says about fires in the watersheds:

From File Folder 1194: August 1931 letter concerning the building of a fire tower located near Loch Raven. The State Dept. of Forestry request fire towers at all watershed properties. Rost responds that they (the City) have no money to contribute to the building of these towers. 1932 fire reports: Most report that the fires were caused by smokers. Also a list of damage done: Twenty five acres burned, mostly ten inch hardwoods. 1939 letter from Towson Nurseries concerning property adjacent to the Northern Central RR at Kenilworth. They want to plow some furrows in the field to help stop any fires that may happen. Small gives them permission. January 5, 1943 report of a fire at the Gatekeeper’s house at Lake Roland. May 22, 1945 memo of a fire in the barracks immediately behind of the old gatehouse at Lake Montebello, formerly occupied by the Maryland State Guard. November 20, 1945 fire report, barn owned by City on Mittens’ farm about one mile west of Westminster Pike: On investigation of this fire learned from Paul George, age 46, overseer on Dr. Saffell’s farm, that he was husking corn, in a field near the barn, with five German prisoners. He stated that all of them ate their lunch at this barn around noon. At about 2:45pm, one of these prisoners went on top a hill, to relieve himself, when he came running back and told Mr. George that smoke was coming out of this barn. Mr. George stated that at no time was any of the prisoners in the barn or smoking near same. Dale George, son, said he saw two hunters near the barn earlier but didn’t know them. June 9, 1949 memo concerning all the fires occurring on the property between Pierce’s store and the dam. Mostly are caused by picnickers. 1956 memo concerning fire at Hampton in which fifty acres burnt. Three young boys were caught leaving the fire. Contains lengthy report. 1957 letter from Werner to a Philip Franklin who had started a fire at Loch Raven and then left the scene. Werner wants to know a good reason why he shouldn’t be prosecuted. March 1962 report of a fire north of the dam caused by fishermen.

These two photos are dated May 10, 1965. I know the watersheds have fire roads; I have never seen any of these towers – not that this one would still be standing. Looks pretty rickety to me.


Good Intentions, Not Always Good Results


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A couple weeks ago I was drawn into a discussion concerning the Balancing Reservoir adjacent to Cromwell Valley Park. I say adjacent because it is City property, in Baltimore County, part of the City’s watershed. This past weekend was the first chance that Kathy and I had to take a hike through CVP and this is what greeted us:

A poem about graffiti. What the hell? So I looked down at the balancing reservoir shaft and understood.

Someone drew, what I guess they thought, was a peace symbol and a heart. Going down the slope we saw even more.

Now I understand the reason for the poem. What idiots! I have never understood graffiti. Some that are murals are nice, but this makes no sense to me. And no, I don’t believe in that sort of “Freedom of Expression”

What does this have to do with my Post Title and opening statement? The discussion I had was with City Watershed personnel, the County, the Park and the volunteers at CVP. The area has been nicely cleared around this structure and throughout the reservoir. Unfortunately by clearing it out, it made it more accessible to more people and more people means more risk of vandalism. The discussion, both pros and cons, concerned restoring the site. Pros – historical water history. Cons – disruption to the wildlife and native plants.

Here is a 1921 partial drawing of the Balancing Reservoir.

We walked down the shaft slope and went over to the quarry, then to the spillway. View from the beginning of spillway looking toward Mine Bank Run.

A close up of the Spillway.

And of Molly not wanting to get too close. It is about a 20′ drop. There use to be a rope across there saying “Danger”

From the spillway we walked over to the dam. This dam actually has a concrete apron that extends partially down the slope towards the surge shaft. It has been pretty much cleared out, to the bird watchers and rangers dismay.

Here is the balancing reservoir in use 1922. This view is from the shaft to the dam.

This other view is looking over the old quarry. Both of these photos come from the Maryland Historical Society.

No trip to CVP would be complete without a hike to the Kilns.

New signage everywhere – kind of reminds me of an old 70s song! Descriptive signs.

My take on all this? Originally I thought it would be great to restore the complete balancing reservoir to its original construction, but I’m not so sure now. It would be nice to clear the concrete apron around the surge shaft and the concrete spillway. Not sure it would be worth clearing the dam face. Too many animals and birds in that area. And as the poem states, “volunteers…in their older years…” Who will maintain it 20 years from now? The City won’t and they haven’t. The place is only historical in the minds of people who appreciate their water source. Most people that turn on their faucets could care less about the history of how it gets there!

And for my history friends, here is a map from 1915 of the area. When the City built the new dam.


North Patapsco Bridges


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More from the Loose Ends Never Ends files. I have about 500 more negatives to scan in this one collection. Just finished up more of the Liberty Dam and adjacent bridges. I must confess, I have never really done a lot of research concerning these bridges. Over the years I have found hundreds of photographs/negatives, and only found a few of them interesting; like Liberty Lumber, the Indian grave marker and the dam itself. Although I really like climbing on and under bridges, I never gave these photos much thought. Looking at Google Maps, it is hard to place the original/present location of these bridges. I’m just not familiar with the area’s history. Most are from the early 1950s.

Ivy Mill Bridge is first. I like this one because it shows the old structure in the background. This photo is one of the few with a description attached.

Beginning construction, temporary bridges were built.

Foundation and columns poured.

As can be seen, these photos are missing the contractor’s descriptions of work – black rectangular areas on photos.

Moving right along with progress.

Reaching the final height and then comes the decking.

The finished bridge.

Next collection of negatives were marked as North Branch Over Patapsco, including Morgan Run. General view of the area.

Setting forms for foundations.


Ready to place decking.

Putting on final touches.

Finished bridge from old bridge. (I wonder if this old one is underwater?)

The next group I found were of the Snowden Creek Bridge. Not many photos in this collection. It must be way up there because it looks pretty shallow. Forms poured and ready for decking.

Near completion. 

The next 500+ negatives to document are of building the Susquehanna Tunnel.

Here is the photo of the grave marker, taken from an engineer’s scrapbook. 


Light City Baltimore 2018


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Nice night to go to the Inner Harbor for the City Lights. Thinking that it would be really crowded, we parked on the other side of Little Italy and walked. Just over 4 miles round trip. It was still light out when we got there but figured by the time we walked all the way around the harbor, it would be dark on our return trip, and it was.

First up, catching the sun going down…

Then Mr. Trash Wheel. The harbor looked pretty clean.

Octopus at various light. Sun…

Then at night…

Kathy’s photo…

Then our own Tall Ship, my photo of the cannons.

And then Kathy’s, which I like better, because of the black/white contrasting line thru the ship and the Ferris wheel in the background.

A side shot.

This next one looked neat at night, I just couldn’t capture a good image.

Willie D (William Donald Schaefer, ex-mayor, ex-governor)

The Ferris wheel – they really relocated this off a ways.

Electronic mountain.

And soon, it will be dark and the flowers are lit up. (Another one from Kathy)

Shine on you crazy diamond.

Kathy in a display.

Something in the water.

A bunch of ducks.


Two Birthdays One Cake


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Today, my daughter Julianne (Jules) turns 25. A quarter of a century has flown by. She shares her birthday with her grandmother, my mom, who passed away a few years back. Here are some favorite pics:

Here I am trying to teach Jules to give the finger and say “F-it”! I am such a good dad!

Jules and her best friend Lauren and their first day of kindergarten.

A self portrait that Julie drew.

A hike we took at Havre de Grace. Always a favorite photo.

Julie in Paris.


And most recently Colorado with Lauren. They were on hiatus from each other for a while, but now back to hanging out together. Kid sure has done a lot!!

And let’s not forget my mom. This would be Easter and I believe we were at Druid Park? My sister Betty, me and brother Bob.

My mom always wanted to take a cruise so I took her to Bermuda. It was a wonderful time.

A cake for Julianne and a birthday wish for my mom. Happy Birthday!!

Blue Bird vs Tree Swallow


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While down at Kathy’s parents, I saw a bunch of birds dive bombing each other over the field. Then one landed on a bird box. I thought it was an Eastern Blue Bird. Turns out it was a Tree Swallow.  Not having a tripod, I used the next best thing, which still was not stable enough.

A makeshift steady support – deer fencing around a tree.

What I thought was a Blue Bird.

The actual Blue Birds have always been hard for me to get a good shot. They are finicky and don’t sit long in the same spot. This guy was preening himself.

Heading over to the barn, this goose was on the lookout for his mate…

Who is on the nest, keeping the eggs warm.

Just a random hole.

The barn – ready to come down soon.

Random sliding door hardware.

Back at the pond.

And that quick, he is gone. Another nice weekend!

The Peale Center


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The Peale Center, also once Baltimore’s City Hall and Colored School #1 and then a temporary Water Engineer’s office. Then the Municipal Museum and then a vacant…am I missing anything? It has been a lot of things since 1814 and I am really glad it is being restored to a museum. 

View from across the street, at the Municipal Building – where the water engineers are now located. Workers had to move their scaffold out of the way so we could get in.

A walk out back. I think I would have placed this lamp elsewhere instead of in front of the relief.

Another gas lamp.

Back inside to await the history talk. Here is an artist rendition of what the Peale will look like when completed. 

A nice model of the proposed renovations.

Holy H.G. Wells! A freakin’ time machine. Damn, still under construction!

Hum Bug!!

More bugs.

And the real reason for my visit – a talk by Peter Manseau on his book “The Apparitionist”. It was a really good talk. One thing that kind of stuck in my head was when he said, “There are about 50,000 deceased persons on Facebook. Still being visited by family and friends.” It is like a modern day seance in the electronic social media age. People get to see their departed loved ones, just like the photographs taken by 19th century photographers of dead people posing. But Peter’s book goes more into ghost being seen in glass plate images. I can’t wait to read his book…

Liberty Dam Continued


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There were another 120 negatives in the Liberty Dam collection. I scanned all of those. The file drawer also contained about 250 negatives, building the Ashburton Filtration Plant. Fortunately I had previously scanned these from photo albums – all but 22 that were missing from those albums. I hope when and if they get someone to take my place doing this archiving, they will be able to put all like albums/negatives/photos together in proper groups. I am not sure I will have the time. As it has been, I just scanned and documented them as I pulled them from shelves, dusted them off, documented and then packed them back up for storage.

Here are some more from Liberty Dam 9/1/1952 – 10/6/1953 (The next drawer has a bunch of negatives from building the bridges across the reservoir).

Another accident. A truck went off the bridge and is being hoisted out by crane.

Man, I wish I was there with my kayak! This is the relief opening so the contractor can start building on the opposite side of the river.

Images 125 through about 180, the negatives all have this overexposed spot on the left hand side. Some I trimmed but others I was not able to.

And then the floods came.

This one was strong enough to wipe out the coffer dam, but the men are steadily working on the right, placing forms for this portion of the dam.

While one crew is placing the foundation to the west, the east gang continues to raise the elevation of the dam.

Still working against the floods and snow.

Meanwhile, upstream a ways, the intake structure is almost done. A couple things about this photo – how tall the structure is and how deep the water will be at this point of the reservoir. Also, I’m not sure why they didn’t grub, remove the plant growth that will eventually be underwater?

After a few months, the base areas of the dam are completed. Not seen here, underwater, is a relief opening (Kayak hole). Another flood has happened and the water has risen.

Wow – kind of looks like Conowingo Dam on a small scale. I wonder how much sediment is in this reservoir, against the face of this dam?? Since 1956??

The water just rages through. eventually the relief opening will be closed and water will either go over the top of the dam or through the intake structure and head to the Ashburton Filters.

Putting the finishing touches on the intake structure.

Almost done. I have posted on another blog (or Facebook) the finished dam and that engineers were wagering on when the reservoir would fill and the dam would crest? The Liberty Reservoir reached the crest point of four hundred and twenty feet on February 6, 1956, approximately nineteen months after the filling of the reservoir began on July 22, 1954

Loose Ends Never End


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Loose Ends Never End sounds like some spiritual/metaphysical quote (It does come from the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9). But in my case it is more about my trying to tie up some loose ends before I retire. Just when I think I’m about done documenting and scanning the archives – Poof!! More just appear out of nowhere. Well actually I found a bunch more under my work bench. Three index drawers full of 3-1/2″ x 5″ photographic negatives. At first I thought there was only 500 or so. There are over 1,500 of them! I started scanning them yesterday and got about 100 done. Below is a sampling of those. 

Just glancing through the first couple hundred, it appears these are from the building of the Liberty Dam, starting in 1952. This photo shows a happy foreman on top of the intake structure as it is being built.

The Engineer’s Office – must be before MBE/WBE requirements. Not sure why the one guy has his arm around the other one?

There were four floods on the Patapsco during 1952, all stopping work for a few days – Change Order!

The coffer dams held back some of the water.

The Arundel Corporation’s cement plant.

Ooopps! Not looking too happy now. There were a lot of accidents on the job site in 1952. Most notably a crane fell, crushing one of the workers. There are actually a few photos in this group of that, but I am not posting those. One shows the worker’s head crushed under the I-beam. I cannot believe someone took that photo.

This looks like an accident waiting to happen. I don’t think that truck is capable of holding that bucket safely.

These guys are working. Trying to make up for lost days due to flooding.

The intake structure rising from the river.

I have been using an Epson 4990 scanner for a few years now. It works pretty good, except the software that came with it is a little off. By that I mean, if I scan a photo negative, it automatically turns it into a positive in a file, but it is too dark and takes a lot of work in the Photoshop Elements software. So I scan it as a positive, which it converts to a negative. Then in PE I invert it and hit auto levels and it looks just right. Some of course will never look right, only because of what the photographer did when taking the photo.

I guess taking care of these loose ends will give me something to do for a while!

Easter Weekend in OC and on the Farm


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Friday we went to Kathy’s parents down the Eastern Shore. It is always nice to spend time with her family. They treat me like family. After a few hours of chores, time for dinner and relaxing. Saturday we headed down to Ocean City. Went early enough to beat most of the holiday traffic. 

The Easter Bunny was there, taking carriage rides with visitors.

Started our walk at the Life Saving Museum.

Not a bad crowd for Easter weekend. I know them three ladies! The inlet and other municipal lots have a new system of charging for parking. Seems like it is going to be a pain, having to remember you license plate # and it is going to be expensive – but today it was free. People were still feeding the new meter. OC must have made a ton of money on Saturday. New meters went into effect on Sunday.

While Kathy, her sister and mom headed to some shops, I headed to the water. You have got to touch the ocean while there! The fishing pier.

The inlet from the jetty. After the storms a couple weeks ago, they said this sand bar was sticking 20+ feet into the channel. 

Looking south from the pier, towards the jetty.

Looking north. This sandbar went under the pier. 

Heading back to the Boardwalk. The last time we were here, they had just started painting the water tank. Looks good.

So back to the farm and after some chores, I decided to take a hike around the property. The farm next door, the guy has cut a lot of trees down and deepened his storm water trench. Merrill says the guy plans to plant pines back there.

Nice green color. Lots of water throughout the woods. 

Woodpecker condo?

No car or truck research today.

Looking through the trucks engine compartment to another car.

Car from another view.

This one does say Cosmopolitan.

Nice dash.

Left the car cemetery and thought I could take a path not taken before – too much water. I did have my water proof boots on but this was a little deep and muddy. Private property on the right and water on the left.

Headed back and took another trail. (Lots or trails back there. Merrill does a great job keeping them clear). A new sniper stand. 

Hit another pool of water so I cut across and found this path. 

Am I laying on my back, looking up? Or is this tiny house laying on its back?

Passing the little house, I see an open field and a fairly large storm water ditch and these two guys. They didn’t see me for a couple minutes and I just stood there watching them. Always a peaceful feeling to see nature at her best.

After a couple minutes of watching, I turned the corner and these three were on the other side of the ditch. After posing for a couple pics, they took off.

This fence heads to the road, but I wanted to head back to the farm through the woods. 

But unfortunately I hit more water. I was going to follow my path back the way I came but Kathy texted me and wanted to know if I was alright? It was about 2 hours of hiking and enjoying nature! 

I followed the above fence to the road, and came across an old farm. Being a guest at some ones home, I thought it best not to trespass to get a better look. 

This is the path my Not-So-Smart phone said I took. (Just watched a show about a girl who followed her smart phones directions and ended up lost in the desert for a few days)

And this is my path, I shall follow this path, come what may. And here I will find peace.