oN tHE squARe


Small towns in the southern part of the United States commonly have a town square, which if you’ve never seen one is literally a square parcel of ground in the center where the town courthouse sits and around the square there are buildings like the ones in this film photograph.

Some things never change because people resist change; being creatures of habit. Not all change is good, but an unwillingness to change simply because we don’t like change is an unhealthy and unhelpful attitude.

It develops a town where it’s commonplace to see abandoned, decaying structures and a large population of elderly people. The children who were born and raised in these small towns go off to college, get jobs in large cities; sometimes in other states and rarely if ever return.

This photo reminds me of a movie set.

“The places we have known do not belong solely to the world of space in which we situate them for our greater convenience. They were only a thin slice among contiguous impressions which formed our life at that time; the memory of a certain image is but regret for a certain moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fleeting, alas, as the years.”
— Marcel Proust said that


Comments (29):

  1. Elaine Hancock

    Mar 7, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    A lot of the small towns in Maryland and Pennsylvania also have town squares. The saddest ones I have seen are in small towns in the Midwest. They are like skeletons of what once was.
    I like the treatment in this image.

  2. Diane

    Mar 7, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    interesting you mention that this feels like a movie set because the town where I now live (actually it’s a village) has been the site for a television series the past two years. They will be back in April to shoot the next season — in our town square.

  3. Michael Rawluk

    Mar 7, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    We had a beautiful old courthouse that was torn down a few decades ago and now we have a lovely parking lot. The courthouse would have made a great arts centre.

    • sherri

      Mar 7, 2018 at 11:58 pm

      yes, city planning works well when ‘thinkers’ are on the planning committee

      your idea is terrific

  4. Harry

    Mar 7, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Unfortunately, things do change. As soon as a Walmart opens within 20 miles, several fast food open next door to it, and a couple of other strip mall chains pop up. Then the small, usually family owned stores and restaurants on the square get boarded up one by one. This is a nice shot of an apparently well maintained small business district.

  5. ....peter

    Mar 7, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    great presentation of how we can be so stubborn that we hold on to the past so tightly… i loved your story of the town square…. we have a town circle here in the north and the businesses keep on going out of business…. since Wall Mart came to town:-)

  6. Elizabeth Buckalew

    Mar 7, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    I do like your photo – it certainly does look like a movie set!

    And, I really like your narrative, Sherri. There are a few towns out west, here, that followed suite. Prescott, AZ being one of them. It’s handsome courthouse stands in the middle – just as you say – of a square, where a canopy of 170 trees shields you from the Arizona sun in the summer, and a stroll around the grounds reveals several historical statues. It is not only the geographical center of the town, but also the spiritual, I’d say. Many celebrations, summer concerts, campaign kick offs and political protests take place there.

    • sherri

      Mar 7, 2018 at 11:55 pm

      that’s interesting about making use of your square from celebrations to protests

      in the town where i photographed this, the square is empty after 5:00 on weekdays and a complete ghost town on weekends

      as for protests, nobody in this town would protest anything. there’s even a city ordinance against teenagers cruising. to me, that’s un-American. i’d rather have kids cruising out on a public street than on some back road.

  7. Tatar@Y

    Mar 8, 2018 at 12:27 am

    Un joli traitement pour cette composition. )

  8. lisl

    Mar 8, 2018 at 12:50 am

    It’s hard to believe that this is a modern image, sherri

  9. Nicou

    Mar 8, 2018 at 1:07 am

    Quelle image et forte luminosité et ces diverses échoppes avec ce rouge sueprbe.

  10. Michael Skorulski

    Mar 8, 2018 at 1:26 am

    The scale of all the buildings is so modest. But it is nice to see that Bobby’s is still functioning. The image and explanation were enlightening.

  11. Graciel·la

    Mar 8, 2018 at 1:58 am

    These US small towns are (for me) special places. I like them a lot. (In fact I’m “in love” with US)
    And, yes, it is true that many movies are remembered.
    In your comment on the desertification of these places, you are right too.

  12. grouser

    Mar 8, 2018 at 4:12 am

    Yes the facades do have a one dimensional quality to them as though there is just a scaffolding framework holding them up. Nice to see a family business still survives at least

  13. Martine Libouton

    Mar 8, 2018 at 4:50 am

    Haaa oui tout à fait un décor de cinéma j’aime beaucoup !

  14. mhelene

    Mar 8, 2018 at 5:31 am

    Great composition . I didn’t know this ” square “. You must know to change or at least not jam on a change because life and its bends is more interesting

  15. Maria-lina

    Mar 8, 2018 at 6:04 am

    Très original et tout beau, c’est comme dans un film d’antan… Bise, bon jeudi dans la joie et la tendresse!

  16. ruthiebear

    Mar 8, 2018 at 7:51 am

    A quaint view. Growing up we would travel to TN to visit my mother’s family. My grandfather would spent some of his days sitting on the town square. NOwadays the “town” had become a city and the square is no longer the center. This photo is a reminder of simpler days.

  17. Steven

    Mar 8, 2018 at 7:53 am

    The small towns of the Midwest are constantly trying to reinvent themselves as their town squares lose retail to the sprawling suburbs. I love this view you’ve captured as it evokes the small town feel. Great capture!

  18. Will Williams

    Mar 8, 2018 at 8:18 am

    This reminds me of some of the small towns in rural CO. I suppose a lot of small towns are similar. I especially like the texture in the sky, it has very natural film quality. Man I miss film…..

  19. Larry Bliss

    Mar 8, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Somehow the bush completes the image.

  20. Anne

    Mar 8, 2018 at 9:53 am

    Movie set comes to mind straight away – a very evocative image Sherri.

  21. Willem

    Mar 8, 2018 at 10:46 am

    Wise words about change accompanied by an atmospheric fitting photo with an excellent composition.

  22. Claudio

    Mar 8, 2018 at 10:57 am

    True, it seems like a movie set was my thought in looking at the image.
    Unfortunately it also happens to us, even if to a lesser extent considering the different dimensions of the country.

  23. Steve

    Mar 8, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    I grew up in the Midwest and many towns there have squares. The town I grew up near and in is as you describe above. I left there decades ago and never looked back.

  24. Tom Wilson

    Mar 8, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    And not only in the South – many years ago I stopped at a motel, north of the Grand Canyon, which was behind the town square – which was actually a patch of dirt with hitching posts still in front of the shops and bars!

  25. Franz

    Mar 9, 2018 at 3:28 am

    I’ve known a number of small towns like this, both in the US and in Canada, and most have ‘gone to the pot’, as it were. Sad but true. And even mid-sized towns are affected by these developments. Here in Austria we have a similar problem in some parts of the country. So it appears to be an international trend …
    Apart from that, I love what you did to the image and how you presented it!

  26. Elaine-

    Mar 9, 2018 at 7:29 am

    my husband is from a tiny northern town, and while all the kids who grew up there left, most of them went back to the slow movement of life there… in that dying town… this picture sort of reminds me of his home. it’s beautiful and sad at the same time.

  27. Lewis

    Mar 9, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Love the polaroid feel to it!
    Super Americana


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