Barbara Milot and NIna Rossi look at theold Railroad Salvage building, with historical timeline of the building by Anne Harding.
In 1987 I moved into a big old house in Turners Falls with a mattress, my clothes and a few odds and ends donated by parents and friends. A trip to Railroad Salvage was necessary to outfit the kitchen with utensils, plates, cups, bowls: cheap items I could afford --and hoped to replace later. A few months later I bought satin slippers there to wear with my wedding gown. Four years later, I found rubberized flannel sheets to slip under my baby’s leaky backside--leftovers from the ‘50s, I think.
Over the years my growing family enjoyed the convenience of shopping there (12-6pm on Sundays!) and the surprise factor involved--you never knew what would be in stock: a load of hooked rugs from China or grandfather clocks or yellow denim pants or whatever. Merchandise that was slightly vintage, shop-worn, faded, irregular, was quite welcome in my melting pot decor of prizes found at the dump and tag sales.
I have fond memories of these bargains that helped outfit my home on the cheap, but most of them have passed into the great jumble of elsewhere, with the exception of my stair runner, which has survived many crazy roommates, a marriage, several dogs and cats, and two sons who surfed and shrieked over it on a crib mattress and later pounded up and down it with their size 13 Chippewa boots.
Time has been kinder to me than to the old store, which went through a very long period of abuse and neglect after Railroad Salvage closed down, crumbling away behind chain link fences. It’s too far gone now for even the most foolish dreamer to exercise brick fantasies or another deceptive con artist to work another flim-flam deal, but it’s not beyond consideration by visual artists such as Barbara and I.
Periodically I walk down and photograph the stages of decay. I made my first construction, “FUBAR”*, in 2007, at a particularly interesting point in time where fresh graffiti was visible and the walls rose to their full height. The round circle of unpainted brick always delighted me, and in newer pieces I have given in to letting the building have as many circles as it wants. Manipulating some of the photos resulted in making canvas totes printed with these colorful images (available at NIna’s Nook ).
I found out last year that fellow artist and resident Barbara Milot was also studying the building and was ready to render the scene in her own way. We thought an exploration of our twin artistic relationships to this building would be a great idea for a Turners-centric exhibit. Anne Harding joined the project, contributing her amazing research skills to reveal its colorful past. I especially look forward to reading the personal memories of the building as people share them on the interactive timeline.
*for those who don’t know, FUBAR is an acronym for “f***ed up beyond all repair”