On Saturday the four of us went on a World Wide Photo Walk…a thing sponsored by Scott Kelby that gets thousands and thousands of photographers out walking around…all on the same day. It’s free, you sign up for a location, each location has a “leader” who organizes the general operation of the two-three hour shoot. This is the third one I’ve been on, this one was in Occocquan, VA, same little village where I cooked in a Belgian restaurant. I’ve been charmed and puzzled by Occoquan for almost the entire 30 years I’ve lived in suburban DC.It’s a small village. A quaint, artsy place. Houses built hundreds of years ago. But…this little village is different. For instance, except for the restaurants, everything closes at 6p.m. Everything. You want a gift, souvenir, coffee, artwork, whatever, if it’s not in a restaurant, you’ll have to go somewhere else. When I cooked there several years ago, that always puzzled me and that hasn’t changed. I am beginning, however, to give some credence to the possibility that there are ghosts in the town and that they don’t like people there after dark. The visiting diners and tourists may not actually get to see those ghosts but the locals know they are there and choose not to tempt fate. Sure enough, I went on the Rockledge Mansion website and found an entire page about the ghosts in the town…starting with the one that lives in the Mansion. From the Rockledge Mansion website: John Ballandine, a local industrialist, built this Georgian mansion in 1758 with the help of master builder, William Buckland. The ghost here is that of a friendly Confederate Solider.The eerie, empty feeling permeated my mood when I cooked there so I always tried to stay inside and not wander about on the patio or in the alley behind the restaurant. Same deal this last weekend. After dark we were looking for the restaurant where the Photo Walk people were meeting and ended up going down a stairwell (on the main street!!) with a plywood covered walkway into an almost empty bar playing music for a crowd of…one. Oops. Wrong place. Did I mention that Occoquan was at the midpoint between the Union and Confederate forces?After dinner we rushed from the restaurant to the car. Not sure why. It didn’t help that the stores in Occoquan were all decked out in Halloween regalia. Of course, there was no one there, the streets were empty—and dark.
Occoquan Water Treatment Plant
Kelsey and I did a walkabout on New Year’s Day 2011. During the day. The weather was fine, the sun was fairly bright and the Holiday Decorations were still everywhere in the village. Some years ago, there was a large water treatment plant just upriver but right next to the town. I am not sure when it closed, I’m pretty sure it was part of the Fairfax County water system since Fairfax used to get all their water from the Occoquan Reservoir. But it was closed when I was there in 2011, the first shot below is a view from across the river looking at the brick buildings and concrete bulkheads that held the huge purification tanks. The second shot is looking down the shoreline of where those buildings and that bulkhead once existed. Of course, what they don’t tell you is what’s left over after a facility like this is no longer needed. Who knows how long it took to get a permit and the funds to tear this old place down. Unless they leave the concrete bulkhead up, the entire river might change and who knows what that might do to the Village of Occoquan. Several of the photographers, including us, started walking through the plant ruins. We were chased out by a security guard but not before we’d gone in far enough to get these captures. The first shot below gives you an idea of the type of chemicals that were the “norm” in a place like this, the handle on the top makes it appear as if someone would carry the container or maybe it was something they moved to “tag” empty vs full chlorine containers. The second is a stylized view of the equipment seemingly frozen in a field of devastation.
Not All Doom & Gloom
It’s easy to get caught up in the ghost stories and the eerie feeling because once that starts, you just have a vision of a scary movie…in which you are the star. On the newer end of Occoquan, developers have built condos, shops, modern restaurants, new boat docks. Of course, except for the restaurants…all are closed by 6. The first shot is a Photoshopped overview of two lovers walking along the dock. I liked that they were alone and felt that the mood was romantic and very cool. But then, the music from “Psycho” started to screech, screech, screech through my head and I wanted to yell to them to get away. Smile. Not really.During the daylight, I took a couple of shots from across the river, night fell and I took one more on the main street. No stories about these, I’ll let them speak for themselves. Try to count the people you see.