Humble and Ambitious

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 5:30pm

There are, all around us, bits and pieces of other eras, scraps of history quite literally along the roadsides we travel every day. In particular, cement steps have long fascinated me; they belong, in large part, to the time Block Island first opened her doors and said “welcome” to the outside world. They were cut into embankments upon which houses and boarding establishments sat.

It was the ones along the main roads that I chose to capture in the fall of 2018. They made for fanciful musings: those embankments were too uniform, were they created when foundation holes were dug; were the steps put in place with an expectation there would soon follow boardwalks, or at least improved roads, and more “company” foot traffic; were they there to direct Sunday visitors to the front door; were they simply a statement of hospitality? Were they set so ladies in long dresses, disembarking horse-drawn carriages, would not have to plod up a hill, their hems on the grass?

Today, many are unused, nearly hidden by privet hedges, or a remnant from a long-gone hotel, or leading to long hillsides of yards — scratch the no plodding up a hill.

A few are tended still, sporting freshly painted railings, but in fall of 2018 many were collectors of fallen leaves. I found over 40 sets of steps, all fronting on a public road. A few were older and of stone, but primarily  made of simple hand-poured cement, reminders of a past both humble and ambitious.

Here are a few.