Monthly Archives: July 2011

Cement factory

Recently, when passing through the Southern half of Idaho with a friend, we both noticed the remains of a crumbling cement building covered in several decades worth of colorful graffiti. We were driving North on Interstate 15 and fortunately for us the shoulder of the road was wide enough to safely park while we had our photo adventure!

Our adventure didn’t last long, a mere 10 minutes, and we never got to climb around the ruins. The owner of the property had seen us walk by and drove up to make sure that we didn’t trespass onto his property. The cement ruins were behind a typical wire fence used by ranch owners and this particular plot of land was used for cattle.

When I saw the landowner step out of his pickup truck I quickly walked over to introduce myself and ask him about the history and purpose of the building.

He explained in a gruff manner that the ruins were once an old cement factory that had closed in the 1930’s after a fire destroyed most of the building. The building was never repaired and sometime afterwards the government decided to build the Interstate through the original property. Supposedly the government was responsible for tearing the entire building down as a part of the agreement with locals, but only removed what was necessary for the interstate itself and thus leaving the Landowner with small section of unstable remains on his cattle ranch. He was not happy about this.

Apparently he has had a long battle with people, like my friend and I, stopping to take pictures and then trespassing onto his land to take better photos. It’s real nuisance for his cattle and an insurance liability for him. Because of these very real problems for him, the local police have decided to take up a no tolerance approach and will arrest and ticket anyone who pulls over nearby the property. At least that is what the Landowner told me. He did say I could take a few pictures if I wanted, but that I was not allowed to cross the fence onto his property.

We knew from his manner that there was no chance of changing his mind. So we took our few pictures and returned to the car to continue our trip North.

I was disappointed that I didn’t get to walk around the building itself, which I found to be an interesting piece of local history definitely worth preserving, Just the same, I can completely understand the concerns and perspective of the Landowner. If I were in his place I would not be to keen to put myself at risk for a lawsuit either, nor would I want to risk the safety of the cattle.

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The Perryton House

I came upon this Texan house at the end of a long quirky adventure involving two other abandoned houses in Oklahoma and picking up along the way an amiable migrating homeless man from Florida.

Located in the Texan Panhandle, just a few miles North of Perryton. This house was a simple no thrills white Ranch style building with red trim around the windows and an oversize front porch that could make any Southern grandmother with a pitcher of sweet tea envious. The most impressive feature, for me, were these colossal trees firmly planted at each corner and creating a surreal mellow oasis in the barren panhandle. I stood beneath one of the tees and was in awe that they had grown rather straight and large in an area well known for its consistent strong winds. Most of the trees in this region tend to look like they could use a V8 juice, but not these Perryton trees!

I found the front door left ajar, almost like the house was patiently waiting for me, and displaying an amusing little sticker warning that I may be carried out if I break in…  HA!

Inside I found the air to be almost too musty and stale to breathe. None of the floor was visible beneath the piles of damp moldy ceiling panels and what looked like dirt, but could also have been decomposing building materials. Walking across this room was like walking on living sponge. Each step would slowly spring back up as I moved forward.

Seconds after entering the house I turned to my left and beheld what was the most perfect photo opportunity! An ugly faded floral reclining chair juxtaposed against a damage mural of a classic Western landscape. I was not expecting to find such a great image. Immediately I leaped over the filth and crouched low to get some decent shoots. The whole scene looked like it was frozen in time, as if the owner had meant to step out for just a moment with intentions of returning to her seat for an evening of jeopardy.

This was the first interior mural that I have come across in my decay adventure. Usually I find odd paint colors or peeling layers of outdated wallpaper patterns. I imagined that someone related to the previous occupants had painted this. It felt intimate.

From the living space I eagerly walked down the hallway, trying not to trip on the ceiling panels, to see what goodies might exist in the bedrooms. Sadly there wasn’t much of anything else to see and a few doors were jammed shut.

From the window of one room I noticed a police officer had pulled over and was outside looking at my car. For a brief moment I froze and could feel my heart thumping wildly against my chest in hopes of escaping out the back while leaving me behind to be carted off to the local jail.

At first I didn’t know what to do. I have been in and out of countless abandoned houses and NEVER once been caught by the authorities. I knew I couldn’t hide inside the house and quickly decided that the best action to take was to be proactive.

I walked outside and without hesitation I put my hand out to the Officer, introduce myself and gave him a quick explanation of what I was doing before he could even speak. I figured that if I was blatantly honest and showed all my cards he would see that I was not a threat or causing any harm.

To my relief the Officer turned out to be really cool and even seemed interested in my photo series. He didn’t seem to mind that I was there but did give me a warning to be careful because the locals are not the type that would react kindly to intruders.

I asked if he knew anything about the house or who owned it, but sadly he couldn’t recall a time when there were people living here. Apparently the place has been in poor condition for many years because the owners chose to let the place fall apart rather than sell or rent.

I did not stay to  much longer after the Officer drove off, but based on his account and a Ghost Buster sticker that I had found on a  back window I am estimating that the house was abandoned at least 20-25 years ago.

About 6 months after my photo adventure, I passed by and saw that the Perryton house had been completely demolished. Nothing is left except a few of the trees along the edge of the property. Seeing this empty space was unfortunate, I had hoped to return to retake a few photos.


Zink Lane

In central Virgina among the Blue Ridge Mountains there exists an overlooked rural lane leading to a small country home on the verge of demolition.

Zink Lane is a short paved road that quickly fades into a wooded dirt path. It was a hunch of mine that taking this easily missed road would lead me to the modest two-story house that I saw next to the interstate.


What stood out to me about this house was its extremely close proximity to a major highway and the peculiar set of tiny windows.

The house felt despondent. The front porch was littered with papers, broken glass and garbage left behind by previous intruders. It also looked like the front exterior wall was covered in burnt feces. My first thought was that who ever lived here was not fully embraced by the rest of the community. I have never seen an abandoned house attacked with feces before; and personally for me the act of throwing dung bombs at a house resonates deeply hateful vibes.

While Looking inside through the broken front window I could see that the stairs leading to the second level were missing; they looked like they were violently torn out. The rooms on the first level were dark and uninviting with little light coming in through the small windows. It was not possible to enter the house through the front door, but I did find a way inside through the back door.

The property was not leveled. It had a slow declining slope toward the Interstate. I was hesitant at first about walking up the weak set of stairs in the back to enter what would have been a kitchen on the first level. I couldn’t find another way in and was nervous about the conditions of the floor after seeing a very deep basement space underneath the house. After some internal debating I decided to take careful steps and hope for the best. I knew if I didn’t enter the house I would kick myself later, best to avoid those moments.

Inside was pretty bare with the exceptions of a few items like a broken stereo dating back to the 1990’s, it looked very similar to one that I had owned, some empty shelves on the kitchen walls, dingy faded curtains, a squatter bed and random materials. Even though it was bright and sunny outside, inside I felt like I was in a cave. I could not imagine ever living here, nor would I want to imagine such a dreary thing.

While slowly making my way around the back end of the house I noticed a huge fluffy dog running by a window. At first I felt a moment panic and wasn’t sure what to do. Was this dog with someone or loose and on its own? Was it friendly? A few short moments later I see the owner and by then I was already outside in case it was someone coming to check who was on the property. It turned out to be a local man taking his dog for a walk in the woods. I inquired about the history of the house, but he was relatively new to the area and knew nothing, but suspected that the house will be demolished soon. Apparently there was once another house on Zink Lane that was also abandoned and recently torn down for the expansion of a truck stop.

Before leaving the property I stopped at the front porch again and decided to look through the piles of dirty old letters. I didn’t read all of them. They were out here for many years and in pretty gross conditions. Dirt, bugs and I don’t want to think what else I was touching.

The letters told more complete story about this house and its last occupants. All the letters were from a woman, I won’t share her name, who lived here in the late 1990’s and sent to her estranged husband in custody of Virginia State Correction.

Her letters were intense! She was a hardworking and struggling single mother who kept in contact with a man that she had mixed feelings for. She cared about him, that was obvious, but didn’t trust him. He had hurt her with his infidelities and criminal behavior. In her letters she would tell him about his kids and her daily life as well as call him out on his nonsense.

I could tell that she was not a very well educated woman, her grammar and spelling was painfully poor and sometimes difficult to understand. She constantly struggled with bills. A few times she was close to being evicted and on the verge of homelessness. Because all the letters were from her I am suspecting that they were returned to the house from the prison or him after she and her children had vacated the house.

Whether she left on her own accord or was forced out by the landlord I do not know.  The most recent letter that I saw was dated in February of 1999.

The letters confirmed my first impression of the house feeling despondent. There was no way a family could be full of happiness while living here. The interior walls oozed gloom and despair. The location of the house was uncomfortable and oppressive. There was no privacy despite the secludedness of the woods and dirt path.

After reading the letters I could only hope that the woman and her children moved on to a brighter and less depressing space.