Tag Archives: Farmstead

Road 16, Nebraska

Farmstead

The farmstead

The first time I discovered this remote farmstead, a rural oasis of decay in Western Nebraska, was in the early Spring of 2010. It was a fabulously gorgeous sun filled day with a cool zephyr. I was heading East with the intention of meeting up with my father in Iowa for our next work assignment and earlier in the day I had photographed two other equally exciting Nebraskan farmhouses near the Wyoming border. It was one of my most memorable and exhilarating days in rural exploration. It was a kind of day that one hopes to repeat.

Window

I remember the prickly jumpy sensation erupting across my skin when I caught my first glimpse of this lovely house quietly resting amongst overgrown trees and budding Spring grass. From the interstate I could easily see that the farmstead was sequestered from the living world by generously vast farm fields not yet prepared for the new growing season. I knew in my heart, my gut, my thrilled soul that something wonderful awaited for me here.

Missing woodstove

Missing woodstove

Within seconds I saw an exit and immediately turned off the interstate. I made my way toward an unusually wide dirt road, Road 16; and with my overflowing good luck the road led past the farmstead in question. Thanks to the unusual wideness of the Rd 16 I was able to park my car along edge without fearing that I would be blocking an unlikely passerby. There was no driveway or path that I could walk to farmstead leaving me with only one option, to run across the farmer’s field; it was still winter-hard and uneven from last season’s ploughing. Crossing the field was not difficult, but the rock hard furrows were not easy on the ankles.

underground storm shelter/root cellar

underground storm shelter/root cellar

To my incandescent delight the farmstead did hold many wonderful treasures for me to photograph! The house in itself was also pleasure to explore with the walls of each room displaying curiously colorful paint choices. I had expected the house to be an empty shell, but instead there were shoes, gloves, handmade furniture and a few antiquated items that I had eagerly hoped would still be there for future visits.

Rusted nails

Nails and hardware by the front door

My second visit was just a few short weeks ago, almost two and half years after the first. I had just completed a work assignment along the Western coast and was once again Eastward bound to meet up briefly with my father before taking a Midwestern detour to visit a dear friend.

To my pleasant surprise and gratefulness the house was still standing; lately it seems that many of my old haunts are quickly being demolished before I feel fully satisfied in knowing them, it’s a sad reality that comes with photographing and documenting Rural Decay. There never seems to be enough time to get what I want.

Inside is painted Haint blue

Inside is painted Haint blue

I was eager to see what had changed over the years and from the moment I stepped onto the property I could instantly see and feel the difference. There was once a pickup truck that looked to be from the late 1940’s or early 1950’s that was once parked on the edge of the property facing toward the house. I remember it being a dark forest green and rusted. All that is left from the pickup truck is a pile of broken windshield glass and four deep tire impressions in the ground. A pity, the day was a good day for a photograph.

Pickup truck

My only photo of the truck from before.

The tire impressions and broken glass

Where the pickup truck was once parked.

Inside the front living room there was previously an old black wood stove, possibly from the 1940’s. It was located beside the doorway leading into an adjacent room. Today, in the stove’s place was a pile of cream pinkish wall rubbish. I also noticed that the door was no longer hinged but removed and placed on the floor.

Woodstove

The missing woodstove

A third noticeable difference was a missing cast iron tub from the side porch. And though the tub is no longer there a faint outline of the tub along a wall faded from years of direct sunlight is the only proof that it had ever existed.

The outline of the missing tub

The outline of the missing tub

With the last few years bringing hardship to many across the country it is difficult to know for certain if the individuals who removed some of the key items for scrap metal or eBay were treasure hunters or the current property owners. When I first came the front door was closed and, respectfully, I closed it after I left. This time the front door was left open. I could be wrong, but this detail has me thinking that treasure hunters are the more likely case.

Laundry folding station and rotted stairs to second level

Laundry folding station and rotted stairs to second level

Despite the changes over the years the house still feels welcoming and new details, unnoticed last time, meet the eye. I realized during my second trip that the exterior was originally painted red, like a barn, before someone covered the thin wooden siding with a mint green and white shake siding. Some of the greenish square panels had broken off to reveal the original red color, now almost completely stripped, and were carelessly piled on the ground around the house.

The blue room

Blue room with gloves

I am curious to learn what will change in the next year or so before I return for my third visit. Will the house remain standing, will the few valueless items like a dusty ceramic cup or rotten pair of canvas shoes still exist or will it become a sanctuary for wild animals and passing squatters? Or, maybe nothing will change and I will discover another detail that had gone unnoticed.

Container

Item left in the pantry

Dusty cup

Cup left in pantry

Until then.


Sioux City Urban Farm

This was more of an urban farmhouse than a rural homestead. The surrounding area was a sprawling industrial landscape stretching outward the boundaries of Sioux City, Iowa and this little unsuspecting white farmhouse lingered quietly in the middle somewhere.

I made my father pull over and he waited in the car as I walked across the overgrown and noticeably lush front yard, careful not to trip over hidden objects or step into what I am assuming are gopher holes. The sky was above me was transforming fast and time was limited. Any moment it would begin to rain, the wind was already picking up.

I didn’t get inside the urban farmhouse, though I think I could have with some maneuvering on my behalf through a broken window and if my father wasn’t patiently waiting for me to return to the car.

Its funny how a parent’s presence can always alter the course of an event – no matter how old you are – regardless of their support and encouragement that they may give you. My father is very supportive of my need to photograph and document abandonment in Rural America, but sitting in a car while I do what I do isn’t exactly on his list of things to do. Though I must give him credit he showed patience when I am sure there were several other things that he needed to tend to.

Walking around the property I sensed that this is one of the last farms in the area to be torn down and transformed into something else. The air about it reminded me a little bit of West Manor Way – a rural road back home in New Jersey that was once filled with abandoned Victorian farmhouses, but now cleared for several rather ugly industrial buildings. This little urban farmhouse felt somewhat out of place and a bit lonely. About a half a mile in one direction existed storage like warehouses and small business strip malls with offices for truck parts or welding companies. In the other direction I could almost see the edge of the city as it began its transformation from urban center to outer industrial.

It was easy to see that this was at one point a well-kept homestead. The building itself was a classic white farmhouse with obvious additions built in the back. The grass, though overgrown, was not exactly an untamed jungle and to one side of the house along the edge of what would have been the driveway was a rather neat pile of short logs, possibly for firewood. Behind the house was a wooden fence dividing the property from a barn that was in poorer shape. The only real bit of chaotic mess, besides some small vandalism, were some random bits of wooden debris surrounding a car that was resting upside down.

I am guessing that the last occupants left the property within the last ten years at least and because the house felt so glum to me I don’t believe that it was a painless parting.


Bunny Acres Ranch

Texas is loaded with hidden gems for those who are adventurous enough to turn off the main highways and explore the endless number of county dirt roads beckoning for your attention. These largely ignored roads are bumpy, narrow, twisting, dust kicking scenic joys for the wanderlust at heart. You will find yourself thrown into the heart of real Texan life, unknown communities peacefully hidden behind the subtle changes in the landscape and scrub brush. It can, at times, feel like wonderland.

I came across Bunny Acres on one such county road adventure sometime in February of 2011; thanks to a wonderful couple who were kind enough to point me in the direction of some interesting buildings they knew of. I met them through a local historian in Coleman, TX who knew that they could answer some questions I had in regards to another house in the area that I had my eyes on. The couple was more than helpful and through them I have gained an even greater appreciation and love for the homes that I found.

The little ranch house of Bunny Acres was not completely abandoned; both the property and the house were still actively in use by a local rancher as a place for storage. The house was filled with bales of hay and around the property were some loose bits of equipment, a tractor and evidence of recent tire tracks. There was no easy way into the house without causing damage, and the doors and windows were locked. Because the house was still in use I wouldn’t want to mess around inside in case the rancher should come by.

The house looked like it could be a hundred years old; perhaps a little less, but not by much. It is definitely prewar. The small size of the house combined with the oversized and oddly attached porch roof gives the home a strange whimsical wonderland like vibe, though I don’t think that was the intention of the original builder. The entire house was gently resting on several stacks of cinderblocks, a common sight found in parts of the South. I assumed at first that maybe the current homeowners had the building relocated from another location – something that I have already encountered a few times within the area. See: Dance Hall. But recently I had also learned that, due to issues with the clay soil, many people in the area would choose to rest their homes on cinderblocks as a simple solution to avoid the expensive problems that the shifting soil would have on a foundation. Because of the soil, you will rarely find older houses in the area built with a basement.

 

I didn’t spend too much time at the Bunny Acres, but the little ranch did leave its mark on my imagination. I almost would have passed by it if I were not so lucky to be looking in another direction.

Lucky me and Lucky you!


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.