Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The Mill Mountain Star; Roanoke, Virginia

I am a political scientist and an artist - it is an odd combination, one that often leads to a logical schizophrenia of, to use the Latin, taco grande proportions. When I wrote my masters thesis at ol' Virginny I had the opportunity to play around with both, writing about the iconography and symbolism in one of the major press/propaganda organs of the People's Republic of China - Beijing Review. It was cool, even if I did turn green from too much time in the bloody library.

You're wondering where I'm going with this one, aren't you? You're wondering if I'm using the Chewbacca defense. Well, I'm not. So stop fretting.

Well, after talking to our friend Tyler G. Kidd about our respective times in Charlottesville, well, I started thinking of the old volume and the notion of iconography came to mind. I started playing on the net, then glanced over at a volume of my favorite series of books on all things Knoxville, Jack Neely's Secret History. Well - a web search later and I'd found this article on the MetroPulse's website on, you got it, the iconography of Knoxville. It was a real pleasure to read, and I knew I wanted to link it up here. Well, that just got me started, and a started a whole series of web searches on the subject for towns all over. These are the ones I found that warranted some further consideration. The list, I'm sure, is far from complete - that said, an hour of surfing turned up this funktastic list.

Asheville, North Carolina: A man with an excellent name, Mr. Ralph Grizzle, wrote up an article on "Gargoyles, Griffins & Grotesques: Architectural Embellishments Abound in Asheville" in 1997. Its a great read, and it taught me that Walt Disney worked as a draftsman in Asheville in his younger years - which, frankly, explains an enormous amount about his ascetic choices.

Johnson City, Tennessee: First, I just want to say that I bookmarked this site as soon as I found it - I can't believe I haven't run across it before, frankly - its Johnson's Depot, which is an absolutely, positively, 100%, wonderful collection of, well, not Americana so much as Johnsonicana. Citycana. Regardless, this site is relevant here largely because it collects images not only of cemetary monuments, but also by virtue of the fact that it collects a plethora of fantastic postcards. Worth, say, seven months of your time.

Lexington, Kentucky: Who doesn't love Henry Clay, or his monument? That I've never seen. Yet.

Point Pleasant, West Virginia: Dude, wow. Unmissable. Magnificent. Elegant. Like a huge, moth-shaped, man-shaped religious ecstasy.

Roanoke, Virginia: What can you say about an enormous, neon star on a mountain? If you've been to Roanoke, well, you can say you've seen it. Its the Mill Mountain Star. I found a couple brief notes on the Star, one on Roadside America's homepage, the other on Wikipedia. Neat.

Wheeling, West Virginia: I have never heard of this particular monument, so all I'll note is its name: the Madonna of the Trail.

West Virginia: West Virginia University hosts a website on the American Religious Experience and one of the articles on this page is on gravestone iconography in, well, the state of West Virginny in general. This page not only has some interesting narrative, but some photos that are both chilling and beautiful - one, and I think you'll know which when you look at the page, is gonna' stick with me for awhile.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Just spent a week in Roanoke last week with legal business. Was my hometown for 18 years. Back in 1964
climbed the Star on one damp, beery evening.

This time, I drove uo to just hang out on the observation decks and watch hawks in the breezes, acorns drop like gunshots on the deck and enjoy a beautiful, sunny, cool day.

Anyone who visits the Roanoke Valley should make Mill Mountain a
destination if for nothing else than to enjoy the view