Windsor, Alcorn, Mississippi (1859).  The largest antebellum home in Mississippi, Windsor survived the Civil War but in 1890 caught fire from a guest’s forgotten cigar and burned except for its columns and ironwork.

His first stop, though, in February, will be Australia, where he will photograph the “wonderful, notorious prison ruin” at Port Arthur in Tasmania, which functioned more or less as the penal colony’s Alcatraz, housing the most dangerous and incorrigible inmates, and today is among the most visited historic sites in the country, he says.

In a brief foreword, historian Douglas Brinkley links Drooker’s work of celebration and preservation with the passage of the Antiquities Act of 1906 under President Theodore Roosevelt, and with the present devastation in New Orleans, where “new ruins spring up like mushrooms.”  To the depressing thought that, in a world of global warming and chemical and nuclear threats, “everyplace might someday become a candidate for Drooker’s ruins portfolio,” the images themselves offer a kind of antidote, he concludes.

“The spirit harbored in these photographs, to my mind, is that, in the end, nature wins. That is comforting,” Brinkley writes. “For that reason alone, I find Drooker’s vision as soothing as the cool repetition of ocean waves. His art is a gift to Old Time America.” —J.P.

Jan|Feb 08 Contents
Gazette Home

Ghost Landscapes
Images from American Ruins by Arthur Drooker C’76

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Bannerman Castle, Pollepel Island, New York (1901). Inspired by Scottish and other European castles, military-surplus store proprietor Francis Bannerman VI designed a fanciful complex of three arsenals to store his surplus from the Spanish American War, as well as a workers’ lodge and family residence.

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©2008 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 01/02/08