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Downtown Deco

Thanks to Downtown Deco for this kit as it allows an opportunity for modeling urban scenery. I grew up on the streets of Calumet, Michigan, and the downtown buildings had already suffered the effects of the Great Depression. It was a prosperous mining town in its day as the red metal was in abundance and found in its purest form. The copper could be hammered out of the rock and drawn directly into the wire with little smelting. Money from Boston funded the operation as well as influenced the town architecture. In the early 1960s, when I was about twenty years old and planning my future, my father said, “Get out of this town because it’s dead.” The mines closed a few years later, and I have to say, dad was right. The first President, George Bush, declared it a historical district during his last days in office. Now the Feds have taken over the landmark mining company offices of the Calumet and Hecla, and little is being done to restore the town. Whatever negative statements I have made are based on fact, however, home is home, and there are exciting stories to tell with text and modeling.

Sunday morning in the slums, I don’t have anyone in the streets, so it must be Sunday morning. After all, it’s a neighborhood of drunks, dope addicts, and pickpockets. They disappear just like cockroaches in the daylight and won’t come out again until night. Rust stains (#1400) are overly evident on our concrete from the storm sewer drains, and maintenance hole covers made from cardboard.

Bringing life to the scene

Expansion joints were scored with the tip of a razor saw every 12 scale feet. Add joints down the center of the street. Random scores were made to represent cracks in the pavement. Diluted India Ink was seeped into all the scores to help define them. You can see darker black areas in some cracks where the street repair crew squirted tar in them. This was done with a brush and Acrylic paint. Storm sewer grates, utility hole covers, water covers, paper trash, and weathering the pavement bring character to the scene. Trees, people, and vehicles bring the action of life.

#1340 green sand was applied thinly on wet Mars Black acrylic paint for a weathered and worn roof. A clay chimney flue was made from card stock paper and painted orange from our pigment #1410. I was quite pleased the way this model turned out, but then after some time, it seemed dull.

Overdoing a model with signs and junk on the roof is something new to me. The task of building a model just to look like the picture above was always good enough for me in the past. That is a lot of work in its self. Now that the hard work is behind, adding detail is the fun part.

Taxi Pete’s Parking Garage was scratch built to provide personal interest in my first Downtown Deco block. Taxi Pete bought all his new cars (Plymouths and Chryslers) from my father. When dad sold his business after forty years, we rented space from Pete to park our vehicle in his garage during the winter. Pete Sarkisian came from Armenia as a sixteen-year-old orphan after the Turks killed his parents in 1918(?). You could always count on Pete being at the train station meeting the passengers from the daily Milwaukee Road train in Calumet.

The left roof is #1381 ballast for a pitch and gravel roof with openings in the rear wall for scuppers. Weathered tar paper was modeled for the right tent. The roof divider wall was made from plaster stones that I make for projects such as this. Clay flues were made for the chimneys at left. A couple of open windows have curtains blowing out and made from cigarette papers. Now the roofs await further detail.

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