It’s hard to tell who won the war

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The First Presbyterian Church in Taiban was built in 1908 for $250, over half of which came from loans from “the ladies of the Baptist church and the Taiban Savings Bank.”* Hopes must have been high in Taiban back then: the railroad was there, newly relocated from a more northern route. There was a bank, a hotel, a school, and a contract to build 50 homes. There were already over 400 residents.

But then, trouble arrived, in the form of the Pink Pony Saloon and Dancehall. The town was broken into factions; periodic elections made alcohol legal one time, then illegal another, back and forth all the way into the 1930s. By that time, the effects of a long drought and the Depression, as well as the ongoing alcohol wars, took their toll, and the Presbyterian church held its final service in 1936.

After World War II, there were only about fifty residents. But with the church closed down, it looked as though alcohol had won: bars were the tiny town’s only successful businesses. People from surrounding dry counties in eastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle would travel to Taiban when they felt a need to quench a certain thirst; the wealthiest patrons would fly in, landing at what became known as the Taiban International Airport.

But life was hard, dry-land farming harder. Passenger train service was gone, and the roads were necessarily hospitable. By the 1960s, only one business – a bar – remained in town.

Today, the bar’s gone.

But photographers take the time to pull off the road (which is more hospitable now) to take pictures of what’s left of the First Presbyterian Church. Somewhere along the line, concrete steps and a handrail were added to make for easier access. There’s graffiti now, on the walls – prayers and Bible verses and a sketch of Jesus with outstretched arms as if to say, “Write on these walls, my children.”

Taiban, New Mexico
photographed 9.20.2013

* Read more about Taiban’s history.

Posted on September 30, 2013, in architecture, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Interesting story about the town and the church. I wonder if the steps and handrail were added to make it easier for the vandals and taggers to desecrate the church. Does anyone else find that odd? In any event, this is truly a great shot and I can see you spent some time on the processing to make it more effective.

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    • The steps and handrail do seem like an open invitation to come in, look around, and tag something.

      I am glad you like this; the building is frequently photographed, and I was trying to get something that didn’t look like every other photo ever made. The light was low, the sky cloudy (no signature black skies on this one!), and I was using a new lens. I actually wasn’t entire sure I could get anything blog-worthy…..

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  2. Don’t mention the war, Basil! 🙂

    Nicely done in tint which adds a bit more atmosphere than b&w I suspect. Looks like all the pews are gone.

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    • The only thing inside is graffiti. And bird droppings. And a stray beer can or two. And photographers. (It’s more crowded than you’d suspect from this shot!)

      Excellent Fawlty Towers reference, too. I am working my way through the series on Netflix.

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  3. Interesting story!
    Cool place. 🙂

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  4. I like the processing too. And the composition. I was wondering if there had been a steeple on the tower and your link provided the answer – an open one with a bell.

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    • Thanks. I tried to not make it look all the OTHER shots of the same place (http://bit.ly/1dSdnby, for example). Also – I used Topaz B&W plug-in on this.

      There’s a lot of information in that link! I’ve been through Taiban hundreds of times, but have stopped only twice. After I read that history, I wished I been paying more attention for all those years of going through.

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      • Wouldn’t it be nice if people put together websites for all the little towns, now gone and the small road corners with two or three run down houses now remaining? It would be endlessly interesting to browse those and photograph what is left.

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      • I agree – I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of places like this because they are a few miles off the road and I just don’t know to go looking for them.

        Are you volunteering to start such a website? Or am I reading more than I ought to into your comment?

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      • Volunteering? Nope. You know me, I work in order to get two days off free of pay, every week.
        In some ways your blog already does this, by telling some of the stories visually. With luck some people will find your blog and add a personal note about a place they used to live, or something.

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      • That would be nice – so far, though, I haven’t really had much of that. But I did have a woman comment on the One Day | One Image Facebook page, telling me about a ghost town in New Mexico, Encino. Donna Catterick went through there the other day, on her way home from our weekend in Santa Rosa, and sent me a photo a of a motel sign that says “Lo Low Prices.” I have to go there, soon.

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  5. A fascinating story behind this image, Melinda. The processing is is very apt too – it has that vintage quality about it that adds to the story line.

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    • Thanks, Andy. I was trying to get a more vintage feel than I usually go for.

      The town does have an interesting story, and I wish I’d know it a long time ago: I’ve gone through this town several times a year since 1978 and only a few days ago took the time to research it. Better late than never, I guess….

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  6. Did you write on the walls, too, Melinda?
    A great composition and I like the sepia. And your stories, your writing always makes me smile!

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    • Thanks, Karen. I am trying to write more on the blog, and am happy to know you enjoy it.

      I didn’t know that writing on the walls was a thing, so I wasn’t prepared. But I probably wouldn’t have, anyway. (There’s a great bookstore in Austin, Texas, where people are encouraged to write on the bathroom stalls. It’s possible that I have taken photos of some of the things I’ve seen written there. That’s not weird, is it?)

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  7. Wow, what a profound piece here Melinda. Your composition really adds to the profoundly haunted feel of the scene, and I just love your write-up on it.

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    • Thanks, Toad. This stop was worth the half-hour it added to my trip; at first I was disappointed with the cloudy skies, but now I see they add to the moodiness of the scene. And that moodiness no doubt influenced what I wrote about the place.

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