Monday, July 11, 2016

Aurora, Goddess of Dawn

The Aurora in 2011
I photographed this apartment building on Decker Avenue in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood in 2011. Its name, spelled in the Art Nouveau lettering style of the early 20th century, is Aurora. It was abandoned and crumbling, but clearly was once a beautiful place to live.

Last weekend I had another look at the Aurora, and found its deterioration five years worse — an upper porch had collapsed, windows were missing, and the front entrance was now covered with a wooden board.

In 2016.
A man walking past noticed me and my camera. "Are you thinking of restoring it?" he asked.

"I wish," I said. "I just think it's a beautiful building."

"That was a really nice place," said the man, whose name is Mark. "It had all the old things, faucets and fixtures and staircases. I knew everyone that lived there."

Mark's house is catacorner to the Aurora. It's a big, well-kept house with a large American flag hung between the pillars of the front porch.

Mark  talked about the Decker neighborhood, part of Cleveland's seventh ward. "I lived here all my life. I'm 54 years old." Gesturing down the street, lined with empty lots and old houses in varying condition, he mused on the passing of time, "I remember when this street was full." He points to houses and names the families who used to live in them.

"I went to school down here," he said. "I went to Addison [Junior High] and East High. They closed those schools. They don't care about education. If they did, they wouldn't close the schools. Those — what do they call them? Charter schools? They're no good. The classes now are too big — there's no discipline, no respect. The parents aren't involved."

He remembers the days when Fannie Lewis, a fierce champion of her Hough constituents, was the Ward 7 Councilwoman. "Fannie Lewis, she fought to get this area restored. The new guy, [Councilman] T.J. Dow, he doesn't really care."

Plans for improvement in Cleveland never seem to involve Mark's neighborhood. "They always forget about Decker."

Clutching his money, Mark was on his way to the corner store. "I like it here. I feel safe.

"It's rough," he said, looking thoughtfully toward East 79th Street, "but I feel safe."

Pamela Zoslov

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