Thanks to my Mother’s keen eye, I came to learn of an abandoned house existing in Manalapan, New Jersey.
I was so excited about this house that twice I explored it within a few short days to photograph it under different lighting.
For the first visit I parked at a gas station across the street, sprinted across the four lane highway and staggered up a filthy snow bank onto the front yard. Despite the rush of traffic behind me, I could feel the heavy silence in front of me from this once majestic house.
I advanced through snow and the young trees that had sprouted everywhere in hopes of filling up the open space in order to view this rather sophisticated two story farm house from various angles.
The roof of a decaying and formerly grand wraparound porch is now, with the exception of a small section, resting on the ground, exposing a band of pumpkin colored brick sandwiched between layers of stale, aging white wooden panels. In the back were a few smaller brick buildings, also in a state of deterioration. One building was definitely a garage, but now looks to be a seasonal home for a transient individual, while the others look more like storage buildings typically seen and used on a farm.
In the back of the house I found a couple of open doorways and gingerly stepped inside to find dated furniture along with wallpaper from the 1970′s. It looked as though the original occupants took what they valued and left everything that they didn’t want before boarding the windows up. Parts of toys, some old dishes, food jars and clothing were left scattered about. It was obvious that local kids and squatters have been here over tha years, but it was also obvious that they didn’t bring in all the rubbish that I was seeing.
The floor was mostly hidden beneath the rubble and garbage. In the back of the house, with the windows and door spaces left open and exposed to years of harsh weather, were wooden floorboards rapidly rotting away. When looking in and down from one of those window spaces I could see items, such as articles of clothing and colorless plastic objects that I could not identify, from upstairs now lying on the basement floor. At the base of the stairway rested the plastic head of a dismembered doll within a handful of inches from one of these rotted holes, its dress positioned casually over the edge.
In the front the floor was stronger and capable of holding my weight. Carefully, I walked across the first room, possibly a kitchen, and into the next. It wasn’t until my second visit that I had built up enough courage to walked even further inside the rooms, carefully avoiding the back rooms and positioning myself in the door frames to take my photographs. I figured that since door frames were considered safe places during earthquakes then the same logic would apply to a house that may decided to collapse from beneath me.
It was a very nice house at one point and, knowing how NJ has been dividing and transforming what was once beautiful and vast farmland into overpriced and homogenous housing developments and stripmalls for the past 25 years, I am betting that the owners probably sold their property and retired elsewhere. Sadly it is a common story here in NJ. Many of the old farms in Central NJ are now gone and several of the ones that still exist are preserved only through state funding. I plan to do some research on the area and see if I can pull together a more solid story of what really happened, but I think my guess is pretty close to the truth.
Judging from the state of deterioration, I’m guessing that the property was regrettably abandoned sometime in the last 10-15 years. This was obviously grand home that once belong to a secure and probably affluent family. The architectural details both inside and out are a bit more sophisticated than other farm houses I have entered. I wouldn’t describe it as flashy or expensive in design, but solid in form with some lovely decorative elements in the trimmings.
January 2012 Update: I’m sad to inform that this beautiful house has been demolished, most likely for new development. I came back with the hopes of taking some exterior shots without the snow and maybe try to retake some of the interior shots from different angles, but there was nothing left of the property except for the trunks of a few trees. I not completely shocked that the house was gone – the floors were dangerous to walk on – but I was still hoping for more time with this one.