The lure of small towns

As much as I’m drawn to photographing the Kansas landscape, I’m also taken by her architecture. While the grand buildings found in the larger cities have their merits, I’m especially drawn to smaller towns where the buildings may be simpler, but often date to a specific period in time. Many small towns had a boom period when properties were developed quickly and in quantity. In earlier years, much of the construction material had to be found locally so you find towns that are somewhat consistent in style, color, and texture. Where larger towns would continue to evolve, replacing older buildings with new ones and experimenting with new materials, many small towns peaked early and have since suffered from lack of growth and even loss of population. The result of this, has an unexpected upside, however. There are a wealth of small communities that act as time capsules. The best examples retain their identity of place by being built almost entirely from the materials that are specific to that area.

A town like Wilson (shown above) has a beauty that no modern development will have. The dominant limestone gives a color and texture to the community that is lost in this day and age of modern materials and cost-effective, long distance shipping. Buildings were also constructed with an eye toward permanence. Where a fast food restaurant built today may only be expected to last 10 years, these buildings have lasted much longer and can continue to fulfill the needs of the community for decades to come. I’ve always been a big proponent of historic preservation and love to see these buildings renovated and reused. But, even as they wait for their next purpose, they hold a beauty. Old materials weather well and I find the patina of age to be just as beautiful, if not more beautiful, than a fresh coat of paint.

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