birth/place

birth/place is the first project of Defining Place. There will be more to come.

Contributors to this project were asked to submit an image that represents to them the state where they were born. Some contributors have lived in their birth states for many years, some never considered that state a home at all. Images are posted weekly on Tuesday mornings.

As you will notice, this project is limited in its scope to the United States (and protectorates). This was the level of complexity that made sense to me as a beginning, and as a U.S. native myself, U.S. natives were the easiest folks to access. I would love to be able to take this thing international at some point, but for now, I’m working on 50 states & change.

I am grateful to everyone who participated in this project. If you’d like to contribute an image representing your birth state, please do drop me a line: julia@definingplace.com.

You can explore birth/place images below as posted, or you can click here for a random image.

Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Washington

photo credit: ML Pendleton

photo credit: ML Pendleton

“This image evokes my childhood memories of riding on the ferry from the island where I lived, to the city of
​Seattle. The Washington State Ferry system serves an area encompassing Puget Sound and southern British Columbia, Canada, waters known as the Salish Sea. If the weather’s clear a ferry ride can offer incredible views of mountains, islands or a city.

I still find a touch of excitement when I ride a ferry, and the sea life and bird life will always fascinate me.” –ML Pendleton

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Florida

photo credit: by Ebyabe [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

St. Luke’s Hospital, Jacksonville, FL. photo credit: Ebyabe [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“I was born at the Naval Hospital, Jacksonville, Florida. My dad was a pilot stationed there and we moved when I was a year old. I have no memories of Florida but here is my story.

I enjoy genealogy and researched my grandmother’s life. Her name was Mary Jarman Hearn and she died when my dad was only 11. I never met her or any of her family. I found out that 30 years before I was born (1946) she went to nursing school at St. Luke’s Hospital, Jacksonville, FL around 1916. She is my connection to the place.” – Judith Hearn Culver

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

West Virginia

This piece was originally written & image created for West Virginia’s 150th birthday in 2013. Please check out its original home and other content at the website of Megan Mallory Martin.


photo credit:

photo credit: Megan Mallory Martin

“I’ve got some major West Virginia pride. I usually don’t boast or brag about how great my home state is – unless it comes up in conversation. But on this very special day – the 150th birthday of my home state – I’ve got to let my pride shine through and tell you how great my home state is and why we’re the center of it all.

My close friends have heard my “WV is the Center of It All” theory many times before, and as far as theories go, it’s pretty good and totally true – WV is the center of it all.

What do I mean by “it all,” you ask? Life, the universe, and everything? Sure, of course. All of the above. It’s just true, and I think my argument is pretty sound.

Directionally speaking, WV is neither north, south, east, nor west. We can actually claim all of them, and here’s why:

  1. We are north. WV sided with the north during the Civil War. That’s how we became a state in the first place. You can reference our history here.
  2. We are south. WV is mostly south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the geographic divider between the north and the south during the Civil War. Read up on Mason-Dixon Line facts.
  3. We are east. We are on the eastern side of the United States. Just check a map.
  4. We are west. Duh. We’re West Virginia. (And yes, West Virginia is a separate state from Virginia. Sometimes that needs to be clarified, sadly.)

Yep, we cover all the directional bases. Pretty cool, huh? When I shared my theory with a fellow West Virginian, he agreed with me and added some other geographic oddities for consideration. This fellow West Virginian travels all over the world for his job, so he definitely knows his geography.

According to my friend, if you check a map, you will find that parts of the state are:

  1. Farther north than Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  2. Farther west than Cleveland, Ohio.
  3. Farther south than Richmond, Virginia.
  4. And did you know the Eastern Panhandle is only 50 miles from Washington, D.C.?

You may want to remember this stuff. You never know when it will come in handy on Jeopardy.

So, on this very special of days – the 150th anniversary of my home state – I’d like to wish a very happy birthday to the mountain state, the center of it all. Yep, we’re pretty amazing.

As Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) says, “It’s a peaceful place where the mountains hold us close and the view from our window reminds us we’re part of a larger story – of something special.”

Happy 150th birthday, West Virginia!” –Megan Mallory Martin

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Pennsylvania

Water Street Train Station, Connellsville, PA. photo credit: Phill Provance

Water Street Train Station, Connellsville, PA. photo credit: Phill Provance

“Though I was technically born in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, my hometown is Connellsville, one of many sleepy hamlets nestled in the Laurel Ridge spur of the Appalachian Mountains. I took this photo of the town’s recently updated Water Street train station from the overlook in front of my property on N. Arch Street, and the lush blues and grays, the fog and the Romantic dreariness of the town’s industrial-era brick structures and prefab Sears & Roebuck houses, as well as the train station itself, have long made this one of my favorite images. Connellsville, after all, is best known for two things: first, since the early 1800s, when it broke with the county seat in Uniontown and instigated the Pittsburgh-Connellsville Rail Corporation, the town has served as the site of the first major train depot west of the Alleghenies on one of two eastern lines that eventually feed into the Transcontinental Railroad; and, second, Connellsville is more known for its famous sons and daughters who have left, such as Las Vegas founder, senator and railroad magnate William Clark, than for those who have stayed. As a poet and non-fiction writer, my views on place are complicated by having lived many places since high school, but though I rarely write about my hometown as a setting, I hope my work is never devoid of the northern Appalachian drawl and hard-bitten attitude of the descendants of coal miners and coke cookers I grew up around.” – Phill Provance

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Tennessee


“In keeping with its status as a totally secret, government-run town, Oak Ridge had one church, non-denominational and available to all faiths. It was called ‘The Chapel On The Hill,’ and is still there to this day. It’s where my parents were married.” – David Ross

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Montana

photo credit: Morgan McKay

photo credit: Morgan McKay

“This is a photo of my grandpa fishing off the dock at our cabin on Flathead Lake. Though my parents purchased the cabin just a few years ago, I’ve been going to the lake every summer for many years. It’s the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi and the closest thing I ever had to an ocean. In the evening–just after sunset–the water and sky melt into every possible shade of pink, orange, and blue.” – Morgan McKay

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

New Hampshire

"Old Man of the Mountain 4-26-03" by Jeffrey Joseph, public domain

Old Man of the Mountain 4-26-03” by Jeffrey Joseph, public domain


“The Old Man of the Mountain I chose, because (though he has since fallen) he has been the icon of everything to do with our state for a very long time. It’s one of those strange things that even though it seems silly, somehow meant a lot to you to know he was always there. To quote Daniel Webster, ‘Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.'” – Chris Therrien

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Arkansas

photo credit: M. Allen

photo credit: M. Allen

“This photo was taken at Petit Jean State Park on the wedding day of dear friends. It depicts wedding guests overlooking the Arkansas River on a late summer day. The image evokes Arkansas for many reasons, starting with the crazy-quilt landscape of Ozarks mountains, rich farmland, powerful rivers, and steep elevation changes. And it captures the heat and humidity that characterize the state through much of the year. Finally, it suggests my arms-length association with the place–I moved away from Arkansas as a small child, and while I have been back regularly since and know the place and its people reasonably well, I’ve always experienced it as an outsider.” – M. Allen

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Header image: map of Northeast Houston in 1922, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.