Tag Archives: Abandoned houses

The Little Sidney House

I almost missed this little Nebraskan house. It lay sequestered across a small bit of distance and some active RR tracks. If it wasn’t for a brief and lucky moment, of me glancing to my right when the road was slightly elevated, I would have continued South into Sidney, oblivious to any personal loss. Fortunate for me I often experience these lucky moments!

For a fleeting moment I had considered immediately pulling Simone, my beloved Escape, over onto the shoulder of the highway, parking, and sprinting across the tracks and grassy landscape toward what I have referred to ever since my visit as the “Little Sidney House”. Named for its close proximity to the nearby town of Sidney.

Instead of parking on the highway, I managed to spot a place to safely cross the RR tracks, Pacific Union I think, and gain access to a dirt frontage road that would lead me straight to my desired destination.

Pulling up onto a grassy path that was once the driveway, I immediately notice a discarded Christmas tree tangled with another tree and still decorated with its red ribbon. It was a depressing sight. It looked as though the holiday tree was ceremoniously tossed out the front door and forgotten about before the door had shut.

I interpreted the Christmas Tree as an indication that the house was probably recently abandoned by its previous occupants, since it was early Spring.

Inside, like so many other houses before, there existed a mess that gave me reason to suspect my earlier thoughts about when the house was abandoned may have been a bit off. There were chunks of the walls missing and scattered on the floor in pieces. Damage woodwork, and a destroyed bathroom and kitchen. In the kitchen the counter with sink was torn away from the wall and laying on its front side and the wall paper looked dated, possibly from the 1970’s. In the front of the house I saw evidence of a small fire that almost got out of control. I suspect the fire was from vandals visiting the house after the occupants abandoned it. There was no upstairs level, but there was a basement. I did not venture below because there was a dead animal at the foot of the stairs.

The house was small and the floor plan was similar to what was commonly built in the 1920’s, give or take a few years. I know the area South of the house had been settled in the late 19th century and to the North a town was established in 1913. Based in this and some basic knowledge of housing styles, I think my estimate is fairly accurate.

Out back I found a pile of rubbish with items that would make any collector of 80’s memorabila ecstactic, a Rambo thermos, a couple of those classic plastic lunch boxes that were so popular in the late 70’s and 80’s and an old plastic Polaroid camera.

Its been almost a year since I had ventured into the Little Sidney House, and I hope to one day soon make a second visit. Just to see what has changed. I am curious to know if the Christmas tree still lies entangled in the front yard, or if another visitor found the Polaroid camera and decided to make off with it.

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Sweetest Little Cottage in Kentucky

The setting was picturesque; a faded path leading toward a young forrest cozily enclosing itself around a quaint cottage slowly succumbing to abandonment and decay against a mountain slope while small bits of green emerge from slumber to celebrate the upcoming Spring.

The cottage looked like it could have been at one time the perfect getaway for a writer seeking bucolic inspiration for his or her latest novel, or an artist craving quietude after spending a length of time in the big city. Most likely it was a comfortable home for a small and modest family. Some of the details echo a Victorian influence. Perhaps it could be described as Folk Victorian?

The Cottage was in weak condition. The porch could not hold my weight without the wooden boards snapping, I wishfully tried. Only the three front rooms remain as the back end had collapsed a long while ago. I have a feeling that the Back room was built as a later addition, possibly to keep up with a growing family. Behind the house existed the remains of a storage room or root cellar of some type. It was made up of local stone and was partially encased in the upward slope of the ground. peeking inside through the front opening I could see that there was still some damaged shelving left against the back wall. Not to far away remained the outhouse, locked with what I imagined was the original hook lock.

I noticed some evidence that the house was eventually wired for electricity, though I do not think it was originally so, partially because of the root cellar and outhouse along with the simplicity of  what could be seen. There was black electrical box of some sort built into a narrow space between the front door and a window. From the outside, several wooden boards were removed to expose what I think was where the wiring would have existed. I am guessing that maybe someone came along and took the copper wiring. I didn’t see any outlets in the bedroom or the main living room, but I could have just missed them.

My favorite details of this wonderful little cottage was the brightly colored wallpaper inside. Looking through what I suppose was the bedroom window I saw a blueish painted wall with a missing piece revealing an wallpaper designed with flowering bouquets of vivid colors. I wish I could have gotten closer to it for a better image. It was a lively print. In the living room there was at least five layers of completely different wallpaper patterns. Some of them looked like they came from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, but I am not exactly sure. Still reading up on that subject.

Another impressive detail was the still vibrant shade of Haint Blue painted on the porch ceiling. It looked as though it was freshly painted not to long ago, when in fact the opposite was true. I once heard on an house detective type of television program that people long ago would paint the porch ceiling this particular color as a way to repel evil spirits away from the home. There wasn’t much information about Haint Blue or why this color is so common on porch ceilings and interior walls. I did find an NPR article that touched on the subject.

My guess is that the cottage was built prior to the 1920’s and has been abandoned for at least 30 years, maybe even longer. Thick vines had permanently attached itself to the outer walls of the bedroom and young trees thicker than the diameter of a quarter  grew from the small crawlspace under the house  outward. I stood at the window of the living room for a long time admiring the quaintness of this little space. The charming essence of cottage was undeniable. It would be obvious to anyone that this was once a cheerful home.


The Gurley House

The Gurley House, once existing on the edge of a little town in Nebraska, was a two-story farmstead partially surrounded by a fence of tall, dark and thick evergreens. The somewhat isolated setting was similar to a rustic image imagined out of a book or admired in a quaint American Regionalist painting by Wyeth. The house was simple in architecture, but full of charm, and could easily wake the imagination within even the most characterless of individuals. Parked at the edge of the driveway, I took in the vision before me like it was perfect cup of tea meant to be savored by all the senses and not mindlessly gulped down like a sports drink. There was something special about this house.

From some simple research I estimate that the Gurley House was probably built between 1910 and the mid 1920’s. The town itself was founded along the railroad tracks in 1913 and the electrical outlets I found inside the house were common starting in 1923. Some of the architectural elements of the house, such as the wood trimmings and the efficient floor plan, also place it around this era. I don’t know much more than that.

I found the windows of the first floor to be completely smashed out, no surprise there, and doors were left wide open, thus making it easy for a curious traveling artist to enter and explore with her camera. Normally while exploring an abandoned place like this my first steps are timid and small until I gain sense of how sturdy my surroundings are. To my delightful surprise the floors were extremely sturdy and in fantastic condition. Even the stairs and upper level were safe to freely walk about. There was no visual evidence of wood rot that I could find. The place was a mess from crumbling plaster and previous visitors having their fun.  Walls were pitted with holes that varied in size and the wall paint peeled off in thick strips. I had never seen paint peel off the wall in a manner that imitated fabric or wallpaper. It was fascinating.

The downstairs was in possession of a few decrepit chairs, which happens to be one of my favorite subjects to photograph while exploring decaying residences, and plenty of colorful rooms.

The upstairs didn’t have much of anything to look at except for some colorful wall damage. There were a few rooms, but only one was open. The other doors were jammed shut and I could hear the sounds of panicking pigeons on the other side as I jiggled the handle. I decided to leave them be and return to the first level. At this point in my quest for Rural Decay I had never before ascended upstairs. Sometimes I would venture a few steps up to get a partial view, but mostly I would stay on the first level, as it seemed to be sturdier than the upper level. I guess I was feeling a bit brave that day, especially with the condition of the floors.

I didn’t take as many photos as I normally aim for, mostly because I was planning to return with my not quite yet possessed new Wide Angle Lens. Some of the rooms were acutely small and the use of an ultra wide-angle lens would have helped in capturing the full essence of the room.

Tragically this house no longer exists. I have passed by the little Gurley farmstead a few times since my visit last May and with each passing I quickly crane my neck in hopes of catching a glimpse of what is now an empty lot. As of yet I do not have the details of what happened. Interestingly the little stone garage and large barn are still standing which leads me to suspect an accidental burning. According to my logic, if the owner was going to tear down the main house then why not tear down the other equally dated and damaged buildings. It would save time, money and other resources to do everything at once. Just a thought.

This is the first house in my Rural Decay collection that no longer stands and a few others, I have recently learned, are to be demolished within the near future.  It is a heart breaking reality that I am sure will happen often in the future.


And they put up a parking lot…

I won’t disclose the location of this house because I have not yet been granted the permission needed to photograph it from a distance any closer than the road. I say yet because, despite the “no” I received, I am still working on other angles to gain legit access.

These photos were taken before I found the owner’s contact information posted on a tree.

I thought for sure that when I called the owner of the property that he or she would have been cool with me coming onto the property just to photograph it for my rural decay series. The lesson learned: NEVER assume.

Granted this house is not exactly located in a rural community, but it is still a perfect specimen of a decaying farmhouse that has been empty for the last ten years. I personally would have guessed fifteen years when I saw the interior decor and furniture, but ten years is what I was told by the owner.

The property owner, who also manages a major local realtor company, briefly explained that the current plans for the farmhouse are for it to be torn down, along with another smaller and younger house, within the next year for the development of yet another strip mall in the area.

His reasons on why I was not to be granted access onto the property were pretty lame, at least in my opinion. He stated that engineers will be surveying the property and that kids might be inside setting fires or illegal hunters might trespass etc. I understand the issue and concern over liability, but I made it very clear that I would sign a waiver and take full responsibility for my own self. I strongly believe that I am responsible for my ownself when I make a decision to enter an older building with weak floors and such. I know the risks and still I am willing to do what I do because I believe in what I do.


Frozen House

 

I found this frozen beauty a few years back when I was just beginning my quest for rural decay. It is or was located on a narrow farm road in Northern Iowa. Most of it at the time was still standing with the exception of the front room and part of the kitchen. The front room had fallen completely to the ground and somewhat blocked the one clear entrance inside. I debated heavily about climbing over its gelid roof and into the open living space. There was a deep basement below and no one knew where I was, so I regretfully decided to remain outside. Inside the house the floor was covered with bits of the ceiling and a inch or two of snow. A few tattered bits of furniture remained behind. I felt that this house was once a jovial space.

For the duration of my time spent there I was trying my hardest not to succumb to hypothermia. Several times I had to return to my car, which I left running on the side of the road so that it also would not freeze, to thaw my fingers out and warm up before venturing back out into the Artic. The wind chill was equal to what was experienced in Fargo in the dead of Winter. It felt like it was blowing through all the layers and straight into your bones. It was FREEZING!!

Most of the photos taken on this infamously chilly day were pretty bad both technically and compositionally. I had little clue at the time to what I was doing, on what direction I was wanting to take this budding passion of mine and what my new camera was capable of doing. Everything, at the time, felt new and it was exciting. A few of the images taken then were okay and they are posted here now, but I know that if I happen back that way I will happily return to this little farmhouse and retake those images. If I am lucky the house will still be standing and maybe I can learn more about it.

 

 

 


Leaning House of Oklahoma

The Leaning House of Oklahoma, so cleverly named for its lopsided structure, is located in Oklahoma’s sparsely populated Panhandle, also known as “No Man’s Land”.

I had passed by this quiet little house several times before finally noticing it. Once it did catch my attention I could not help but feel dumbfounded that the house had ever escaped my attention at all.

It is a small simple house of three rooms standing in solitude with a single towering tree against a vast grassy landscape.  Nothing else seems to exist when one finds oneself situated on the side of the road in front this deserted space. In every direction I look there is only tall sun-bleached grass, or the highway stretching into more nothing.  “No Man’s Land” is a very appropriate name for this region.

The house itself is would be considered very petite by today’s standards. Looking at it I cannot imagine it being a home for a growing family, especially for a modern family of today. My first impression, based on the architectural simplicity, was that it once housed workers for a local ranch or business, but upon further inspection my impressions later changed.

Stepping inside through the front door space, I immediately noticed the symmetry between the windows and doorways. If there is a window on the left wall then there was another window directly across on the right. The placement of each window frame perfectly matched the placement of another window on the opposite side. The front door was perfectly aligned with the door space between the two lower rooms and the backdoor.

In lower level of the house there were two basic rooms. The front was the common living area. On the walls was some pretty ornate wallpaper, dating back to the 1940’s, still clinging to the large slabs of plaster covering the wall crate. The wooden floor, which was still sturdy despite its kexy appearance, was bare of any covering and in the center laid the ratted remains of what appeared to be a small chair

In the back was the kitchen with a small space blocked off, possibly for a bathroom. The roof had mostly collapsed and is now existing on the floor, which was in a similar state of deterioration. Beneath was no basement or crawlspace, just a couple of inches between my feet and the Earth. The kitchen sink was still there, along with some empty cabinets and the rusty skeleton of an old mattress. In the corner was what I believe to be the narrowest stairway I have ever seen leading up to a single bedroom. The extremely tight space would not allow a person with any amount of girth to comfortably fit. I am not a particularly large person, average in size, and I felt like I would get stuck if I took a few more steps up.

From some basic research on electrical outlets, wallpaper design and the history of the region I want to date this house sometime from the mid 1940’s to possibly the early 1950’s. There was a single electrical outlet in the front The house was definitely not

My speculation is that this was probably built for a young couple starting their lives together shortly after WWII. There was only a single layer of wallpaper, this indicates to me the possibility that there may have been a single occupation and from the state of the house I suspect it wasn’t occupied for very long.  This house did not hold the same ghostly vibe that other abandoned houses have. It felt empty, like it had been empty a lot longer then it had ever been occupied. This area of Oklahoma was not an easy land to live off, hence the clever  nickname “No Man’s Land” and it is possible that who ever originally lived here, like with many rural communities, left for larger communities.


 



Manalapan House

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. 


You’re Not Breaking the Law, You’re preserving history

My Mother is a funny person and just when I think I have her figured out she always manages to surprise me.

My family is and has always been very supportive of my passion to document rural decay in America and my own saintly mother has even taken it onto herself to scout for abandoned houses for me in the great state of New Jersey. I recently teased my Mom, who has very clear ideas of what is right and wrong, that she was encouraging her daughter to break several trespassing laws.

Her quick and blunt response: “you’re not breaking the law, you’re preserving history“.

Gotta love and fully appreciate how the Mom thinks! I am strongly inclined to agree with her. Some day these houses, these wonderful relics of the past will no longer exist, but my photos will and hopefully with them so will a bit of history.

This will be my third consecutive year that I have spent hunting for and exploring abandoned rural houses with my camera. I can still clearly remember the first house I came across in rural North Dakota, just a few short miles South of the Canadian border, and the rush of fear I felt about entering it. In fact I didn’t enter that first house because the house displayed a menacing vibe that got the better of my often overactive imagination…

Ever since that day I have kept a keen eye out for similar houses and worked hard in improving my photography skills in order to capture the essence and power of these forgotten structures. I enter them with little fear and plenty of determination to see what clues remains inside from the building’s previous life. Sometimes returning several times to see everything in a different light or season.

One day I hope to create a book on the subject, displaying my images and sharing my stories and research, but for now I seek, document and write.


Table Rock Revisited

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Table Rock has been in my thoughts for several months now.

The last time I visited I had only a mere 20 minutes to walk through the empty village and photograph the first images that caught my attention! I had promised myself, like always, that I would return to this little forgotten community of rural decay to further explore it with my camera.

So here I am, again.

I parked Simone, my trusty ford,  at an abandoned nearby gas station about 1/2 mile away. There were signs all over the place stating “No Trespassing” and I really don’t know if the company still sends people to check on the area or not. Plus there wasn’t anything to provide proper cover for Simone. The entire development is easily viewed from the Interstate and I was aiming to be a little more stealthy than I have been in the past.

The plan was to focus more on details that I had missed during my previous visit and to venture inside a couple of the houses. I didn’t enter any of them last time due to the time restraints.

Once inside the development I made the decision to again NOT go inside. With more time on my hands to really take in the details of my surroundings I can see all the evidence of squatters.  First I look into the ground floor windows of the “big house”  at the entrance of the housing development and saw several sleeping bags and other personal objects laying about. Later, in other houses, I found unbroken windows with blankets hung up to keep light out, and more personal objects suggesting that there were a group of people possibly still squatting.

Out of respect for their privacy and personal space, I decided to remain outside. My thoughts were that these people don’t know me or what my intentions  are and I don’t wish to put them into a situation where they may feel that they have to react defensively. Interestingly the last time I was here I recalled having an intense feeling that I was being watched by a few of the houses. Perhaps I actually was… I never did see anyone while I was there, only their belongings.

Later on I learned that there has been a large problem not just with squatters in the village but also people illegally using the space for Meth Labs. The isolation and desert landscape makes this empty community of houses a target for some illicit activity. Knowing this makes me feel grateful that I had followed my instincts and remained outside, despite my curiosity.


From what I had seen through the windows it looked rather cozy inside. The carpet was still plush looking and some rooms still had their walls fully intact. Several of the houses looked as though they had been thoroughly gutted and terribly abused. While other houses appeared  to have been spared some of the same cruel treatment. Perhaps because these houses were the houses people choose to dwell inside?

I took my time walking around the neighborhood, poking my head behind houses and over fences. Looking for clues of what life was like before everyone left. Keeping an eye out for any sort of security, there was a brief moment when I thought for sure someone was driving toward the village to find me but it was a blessed false alarm. my guess is that the residents left maybe around ten years ago and it looks like there was at one point several other houses that no longer exist. There were a few cement foundations left in the center along with open lots and small fences.

The solitude and stillness of Table Rock Road was intense! Near the end of my visit I found myself stopping and sitting in the middle of the road itself listening to the din of the birds and sharp buzz of a few insects.  The sun was warming and a gentle breeze was calming. I could have spend hours there relaxing and meditating at the spot.

And now, after looking through my photos and writing about my experience, I look forward to visiting it again with different lighting and mindset


Galchutt House

Galchutt, its a small town located just off the Interstate and with no services available for those traveling through the area. All that exists in this little spec of a town are a few sporadic houses and a lone church. You would easily pass it by without realizing that it even existed.

From the Interstate highway I had noticed this old two-story house snuggled comfortably within a thicket of tangled trees.  I have driven on this particular stretch of Interstate a thousand plus times over the past few years and never once did I noticed this house before. Possibly it was overlooked because of the trees in conjunction with the visual distraction of an overpass in close proximity. Regardless of the whys, it is better now than never..

Its early December when I find the Galchutt House and the sun sets around 5:20ish these days. I manage to arrive just before 4PM when the sun is low and casting a strong warm glow on everything. The house is located at the end of a barely used farm road. Most of it is covered in snow. I couldn’t drive all the way up to the house so I parked in the middle where the road was somewhat clear of the snow and then quickly walked the rest of the way. It was cold.

The house looks like it has been empty for a very long time, possibly even since the 1980’s or earlier. Because I didn’t enter the house  I’m not sure exactly what it was that I saw inside, but there was what looked like an old heater in the style that echoed the 1940’s or 19 50’s. There wasn’t much else inside the house besides the building materials lying in piles. The second floor was swiss cheese. Several boards were missing, giving a clear view outside the front upper level window from the back lower level window..

 

 

Looking inside through one of the glassless windows I saw that there was no basement to dangerously fall into, only a shallow floor space beneath the boards. The real danger would have been the house itself collapsing above me. Looking inside through the windows I could see how the building was concaving inward at the house center. It was literally falling apart at the seams like a poorly stitched jacket, but from the outside the house looked eerily peaceful. Walls were tearing apart at the corners, the effect of which provided an ‘Alice in Wonderland‘ like perspective.

The day was beautiful and the air was extremely chilly. After about 20 minutes I could barely feel my fingers and after 20 more I could hardly bend them to take photos. I figured that that would probably be a good time to leave. The sun was getting closer to the horizon and now that I know about this house I can come back for more Interior shots.. Maybe even getting a closer look at the heater.