Tag Archives: Art

Unknown, Texas

It was a beautiful early Spring day when I found this muted little house. I was originally en route toward another abandoned home known as The Green Roof House located a short distance away; when I noticed the Unknown House quietly existing amongst its naked shrubs and dry golden grass.  The setting was like any other rural Texan home left abandoned for reasons unknown; it was isolated from its neighbors, simple in structure and – despite its close proximity to the highway –  it was barely noticeable by most who would drive by.

What I remember most about the Unknown House was the masculine vibe that seemed to silently ooze through the broken boards and missing windows. When poking my head through one of the glass less window frames for a better view of the interior, I could almost faintly detect the rustic scent of cologne mixed with sweat and dirt. It is not very often that a house comes across to me as being so decidedly masculine. Normally it is the feminine presence that I would sense in these old homes. It is usually the stentorian remains of  someone’s “feminine touch” such as the revealing layers of decorative wallpapers that would linger behind long enough for me to find and photograph.

I have wondered a few times if this building might have been used to house the unmarried men who may have worked the ranch belonging to the earlier mentioned  The Green Roof House; though nothing inside or on the property was found that could prove my theory right or wrong.

I don’t remember why at the time I chose not enter the house.  I can’t recall a feeling of unwelcome as I walked around the building and I cannot see anything in the photos that showed any real danger in entering. There was no basement to fall into nor any wasp swarms to avoid.

I left the house, undisturbed, and continued to the Green Roof House.

NOTE: The Green Roof House’s story has not been publish as of yet. 


School Is Out

I came across this wonderful example of a prewar high school building several years ago; it wasn’t until recently that I managed to locate the owners and gain access inside. Several times I had tried to learn the identity of the owners through online searches and a visit to city hall, but had no luck. Finally I decided to stop and talk to the locals in town, and eventually one person lead me to another who lead me to another until I found someone who knew the answer to my quest. I was given all the information I needed and kindly informed that similar requests had been made before but not granted.

After leaving my business card with a member of the owner’s family and playing short game of phone tag with the owner, I found myself on the in. The owner liked the work he saw on my website and agreed to let me inside under the condition that I do not reveal the location of the building and kindly share with the owner some copies of the photos; as he is planning to renovate the building soon and would love to have a documentation of what it was like prior to renovation.

Conditions were fair enough for me. I would have given him copies anyway, as it is only a fair exchange for his generosity.

Plans were made to meet outside a week later and the owners gave me a lovely tour of the building prior to my photo shoot.

The high school was a large building constructed in 1922 and originally served only the local town population until eventually it served as the main high school for the entire county until it closed its doors in the mid 1970’s. At that time the high school students were relocated to the newer high school building, built to accommodate the growing population, and the original high school building was converted into a middle school for the next 15 years. The building has been empty since maybe 1989 and the gymnasium, built in the back in 1952, was used until the mid 1990’s.

In the school’s early years a small open room in the school’s basement served as the only space sanctioned in the surrounding Baptist County for social dances. It was hard to believe that this room was meant for social parties when it was so dingy and dark. There were no windows to this room, only a large door leading to the back. This same door was also one of my only two ways out of the building should I need to leave or escape.

When we first entered the building the owner wanted me to wait by the back door so he could check ahead for squatters. Apparently he and his girlfriend noticed a broken window the previous day and were not sure how long ago it had been broken. When they bought the school a year ago there was an issue of squatters and they wanted to check the area thoroughly before leaving me alone inside. I could appreciate that!

The first floor was where the science rooms existed. There were lecture rooms that reminded me of modern college stadium style classrooms, but much smaller in scale; pipes and electrical outlets that would have been connected to chemistry tables. There was also a dark room with attached art room. The art room still had an easel and one of the doors had old set of earphones hanging on the knob.


In the front and center area of the building existed the main stairway from the front entrance leading up to the second level. Walking up these stairs I could see the grind of thousands of previous footsteps on the edge of stone steps. The students were no longer around, but they left their mark.

It was on the second level I found the principal’s office, library and study hall room and, most excitingly, the lower access into the school theatre.  The theatre was my favorite room. I found myself walking back to it several times. There were a few rows of seats that dated back to the original 1922 seating and the rest were from the 1960’s. Some of the seats were missing, a couple of doors rested in the aisles and the light fixtures were damaged from previous destructive trespassers. A set of eerie gray curtains still hung as the stage backdrop and plenty of lovely light came in from the large windows. The theatre took up two floors, most of the back center of the building and was complete with loft seating from the third floor.

The third floor was filled with simple classrooms with some old school chairs and the access into the theatre loft seating. I found plenty of graffiti left on the chalkboards from previous students. I think the owners were going to find a way to preserve those. The chalkboards were in great shape and it was amusing to read some of the written comments from former students.

Surprisingly the damage found inside the school was minimal. There was some roof leakage in the front. The leak made the walls and floor weak, visible on both the third and second floor. In the back corner of the theatre room was another leak. Both the leaks were fixed by the current owner to prevent the damage from getting worse and areas affected will eventually be repaired. Beside the two small sections to be avoided for safety reasons I had no problems or limited access with the rest of the building.

I spent about 4-5 hours inside; taking my time and returning to several interesting spots as the natural lighting outside changed. There was one point during my day when I stopped everything and sat in the doorway of one brightly painted room just to gaze down the empty hall; taking some time to reflect in my sketchbook on where I was and what I was finding. With the exception of the pigeons and muffled sounds from the outside world, it was rather quiet inside. I felt alone in my own little world and wanted to enjoy that moment before it was time to leave. I like to think that buildings like these have their own souls and will connect with a person, such as myself, in the same way that I often feel connected with them.


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.


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.


The Britt House

 

This isolated beauty immediately captured my imagination.. She was standing alone on a remote rural corner calling out to me as a drove by.. An hour later I was back and crawling all over the place. Inside were empty oil drums and large tractor tires mixed in with chunks of ceiling and wall plaster.. The Kitchen was mostly collapsed in the back and exposed to the weather elements. I never did go upstairs, the last thing I wanted was to fall through the second level floor.