I’m home for the holidays, and yesterday I got to roam my old stomping grounds. I grew up just blocks away from Sandy Beach, the site of the old Treadwell Mine of the Gold Rush era in Juneau, Alaska. It shut down in the 1920’s, and a huge fire subsequently wiped out most of the town surrounding the mine. But what was left was never really touched. Trees sprang up around and within the remnants of buildings. Pilings from the old wharf run from the forest across the beach and into the ocean. Cars and machinery emerge through the forest floor and strange angles, covered in moss and consumed by rust. The saltwater pump house, tall and narrow with barnacles covering its lower half, still stands in the channel – a true icon on Douglas Island.
I still like to imagine the hustle and bustle of the town in the early 1900’s. What life must have been like back then! If I could time travel to any time, it would be then – no question about it.
Yesterday I looked at the wreckage and ruins with a new appreciation. Hard shapes of industry and innovation softened in deterioration. The edges of machines lessened by the passage of time, by rust and moss, dirt and lichen. Order and disorder existing together at once, if viewed through the right lens. What once was a straight line is now wavering, but still suggests intention. The evidence of a skilled craftsman sits quietly in the forest, collecting dirt and slowly turning back into the elements from which it came. A rusty old car engine to some, a reminder of the intersection of humanity and impermanence to others.
To learn more about the Treadwell Mine, this PDF is a great place to start.