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Cross the Susquehanna River from the west where Route 30 stretches across a mile wide span, take the exit on the east bank, and if you turn right at the light (what I usually do when returning home from a week of working in Washington, DC), you'll climb and descend a steep hill that passes my little town of Marietta, Pennsylvania. If you turn left, you are immediately in the commercial center of Columbia, once a prosperous hub for the processing and shipping of the region's natural resources, now slowly rising from decades of economic stagnation, crime, and poverty.

I'm glad to see once decrepit buildings hosting antique shops, storefronts being restored, even an edgy microbrewery serving decent food and better than decent beer to a growing local and tourist clientele. But what I like best about Columbia is the unpretentious starkness of the places that have not been restored. So a couple of sketches of a big old brick tobacco warehouse next to a long abandoned railroad siding. A reminder of a time when even the plainest and most utilitarian of structures were handsomely built to last.

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