If you are lucky enough to have travelled the great cities of the South, you may have seen Haint Blue detail work on a mansion in Charleston, a Haint Blue door in the New Orleans French Quarter or maybe a Haint Blue Porch or two in Savannah. In this region, there is no color more historic and as long-lived in the buildings of the South. This colors’ past is so intertwined into Southern culture that one might see it plastered on every other mansion in Savannah and also on the window trim of an abandoned rural homestead in Florida.
The history of the shade (or shades, actually) began with the Gullah (Geechee) people who were slaves and slave-descendants in the coastal Southeastern United States. Primarily from Western Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, etc) they worked on coastal rice and Sea Island cotton plantations. They are known for the preservation of their distinct cultural beliefs, traditions and stories. The Gullah’s believe that haints (or haunts) are malevolent and vengeful spirits trapped in between the world of the living and dead. These haints cannot cross water however, so, they created a rustic paint blend that resembled the color of water to confuse these spirits. This color has always encompassed a wide range of colors in between blue and green and was originally made of lime, milk, dirt and whatever pigments were available (usually indigo). The paint mixture was then smeared on to windows, doors and entryways to prevent bad spirits from entering.
Interesting to note is that the use of lime in these original milk paint formulas unintentionally acted as insect repellant.
As time passed, Haint Blue found its way to larger and more stately homes throughout the Southeast. Partly because it is believed that the color will confuse insects with the sky and deter them from building nests.
In contemporary times, the color has seen a revival amongst historic preservationists and has found some popularity in Northeastern architecture, ensuring that even as their culture dwindles, the Gullah footprint can be seen across the region in so many different styles of architecture.
On a whim this past Summer, my brother and I took a roadtrip to New Orleans. We were excited to explore a new city together, to eat good food and to hear live music. But these were all added bonuses to the real reason we traveled 533 miles. Standing in the middle of the Crescent City is the graveyard of a theme park. Abandoned in all its glory. Upon first seeing a set of photos from this place, I knew I had to go.
Six Flags New Orleans (once called Jazzland) stood only a few miles from Lake Ponchartrain and suffered immense damage during Hurricane Katrina. The irreparable destruction came in the following days as 53 levee breaches devastated the city. Because of its proximity to Lake Pontchartrain, the park had little hope to survive the ensuing flood. Six Flags sat under 4-7 feet of water for more than a month before it could be fully drained. Most of the parks rides and structures still stand, bearing a moldy reminder of the water that once took over the park.
In 2006, the insurance company for the park declared it a ‘total loss.’ Since then, the park has been tied up in various pending deals with developers that have never quite panned out. So the park stands there, waiting to be built up, or torn down. All the safes have been looted, vandals have tagged 50% of the park and thieves have taken most of the signs that were left. But as we wandered through the park, I was struck by the amount of employee belongings that were left behind in offices and lockers. A bicycle in the security office, pairs of shoes, a thermos and a cooler in the employee break room. In an accounting office above a ride I found a dry erase board with a hotline for employees to call to find out when to return to work after the storm. I couldn’t help but think of the theme park employee who spelled out ‘Closed for Storm’ on the marquees and had no idea that those letters would still be there 5 years later. These people all imagined that they would return within a few days to their jobs, and life as usual. The hurricane had other plans for this place.
To see more from Six Flags New Orleans, check out my flickr set: Amusements Abandoned.
I was lucky enough to visit New Orleans, LA this past August (!) for some photography. I went with few plans and even fewer expectations and only one solid site on my photography ‘to-do’ list. I knew I would figure it out when we (my brother and I) arrived. What I got to see, photograph and experience in Nawlins’ was something wonderful. Despite what my best guesses might have been, the people of New Orleans are the proudest I have encountered. My lack of attachment to any certain zip code has always made it hard for me to relate to people who feel more attached to a particular locale. But the splendid folks I met in New Orleans made me wish I didn’t have to leave this kooky southern city.
My brother and I stayed at a hostel because I love hostels and I thought it would be a great experience for him. With the lack of hostel accommodations in most of the States, I was pleasantly surprised to find more than one hostel option in New Orleans. I read a bunch of reviews, glanced through pictures and then booked with India House Hostel. This place is wonderful. There was an ecletic mix of people of all ages and origins as you would hope to find at a hostel. We stayed in a newer part of the hostel which was clean, comfortable and nicer than what we had expected. It is right off of the trolley stop and close to the French Quarter. Although I never felt unsafe, I will mention that the hostel is on the edge of a neighborhood that I wouldn’t hang around in at night (like much of New Orleans). If you like hostels and you’re going to New Orleans, I would definitely recommend this place. It was an awesome first hostel experience for my brother!
To see the complete set, check out my flickr gallery:
New Orleans, LA, a set on Flickr.