Tag Archives: Kansas

Bavaria Highschool 1925

Sometime in February of 2010 I came across a small unincorporated town in central Kansas with a highschool building dating back to 1925.

I remember it being a bone chilly day when I came into town.The sky was bleak and uninteresting; and not a single person but myself seemed to be outside or maybe even in town itself. I had knocked on the doors of a few houses with the hopes of learning something about the history of this school, but no one answered. I sort of suspect that a few had ignored me and watched me from behind the curtains.

The architecture of the school was the standard for this era of American high schools and my guess is that this little village was probably the largest of little unincorporated villages within several miles and therefore became the logical choice for a more central school that could educate a growing population. My other guess is that eventually, like many other rural communities across the country, the school most likely was closed sometime between the 1960’s and 1970’s for consolidation with an even larger school in a larger nearby town. As modes of public transportation improved and the American population both swelled and shifted from rural isolation toward more city centered locations – due in part to economic and cultural changes – it became financially necessary for midsize rural towns to once again combine their resources with an even larger and more modern school buildings in larger towns that had the ability to serve to a wider territory.

I wanted to and it was possible, though unsafe, but I didn’t climb into the school at this time; nor have I had the chance or luck of returning to reshoot and explore the area further.

Peering into the interior through a broken window I could see inside was loaded with what appeared to be several decades worth of unwanted and broken property from possibly the entire town. Dusty tables, broken lamps, rusty bicycles, deflated basketballs and much more were all in view. There was barely any space to comfortably stand let alone walk around and I suspect that my presence in the little village was seen as intrusive; I don’t know if this was an accurate vibe or just my imagination. From what I could see, beyond the junk, was a large open space that was very likely a gymnasium and/or multipurpose room serving also as the cafeteria and assembly hall. I remember my old elementary school, that was also once a the high school with separate entrances labeled for boys and girls, having a similar layout and the room functioning as several rooms throughout the day.

I am still devising a plan to return and take better photographs of this high school – please don’t judge me on these two – and of several other nearby buildings on my list; and spending more time in the region talking with locals, hopefully a less chilly atmosphere. I currently have a couple of regional contacts and hopefully more will come.


Monument Church

I’m in Western Kansas.

And there exists about 11 miles West of Oakley the unincorporated town of Monument, KS. Monument is a small spec of a town. It was once considered a large town for the area, but like many other prairie towns it is on the decline. Now it is populated mostly with elderly folk who grew up in the area and chose to stay.

About a block or so away from the main highway is an old church that was beautifully lit by the late afternoon sun. Within seconds I found myself standing on a grassy corner in awe of this magnificent find!

I learn from a local woman that the town was originally settled by German and “White” Russian immigrants. I’m not exactly sure what she means by “White Russians”. She wasn’t all that sure either what it meant. It was a term that had been used to describe her family heritage. The best explanation was a group of Russians that first went to Germany before arriving in the states… All I could think about was the drink..

At first I was kinda nervous about photographing the church with all the little houses and their occupant around watching me. Most people don’t really mind me poking my head around, but normally I am out of sight from town and its denizens. With Simone parked on the side of the road, I managed to wave a passing local resident down to ask if she knew anything about the church. Being that I had planned on walking around the property I thought it best to see how someone local would react to my presence. Sorta feel out the place a bit.

The woman, Crystal, was more than friendly. She knew who owned the property and drove home to get the owner’s phone number. Since she couldn’t get ahold of the owner she then called the owner’s Daughter. Crystal then came back to where I was and waited with me until the Daughter called back with how to get ahold of her mother.

20 minutes Later Jolene, The owner, drove up with her grandkids and unlocked the church door for me!

I felt so grateful and fortunate! I really didn’t think that someone would drive from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere just to let me inside a decaying church. But here she was more than happy that someone was wanting to know about her little church.

The church was constructed in 1930 and used by local Methodists until maybe 20 years ago, when the congregation then united with a Methodist group in Oakley. Around this time Jolene’s father bought the building in hopes of preserving and maybe doing something with it. Sadly nothing was done with the building except being used to store all the random antique items collected by Jolene’s father. Sometime in August of 2010 a strong gust of wind blew a large portion of the roof off during a storm. Since then the pigeons have taken over even more of the inside and thus created a mess not worth cleaning up.  There was some talk on repairing the roof, but the costs are too much for the people of a small agricultural town to conceive on paying..  eventually they will salvage what they can and let everything fall…

Its a sad story.

Jolene hasn’t been able to enter the building for a while. She grew up in this town and went to Sunday school in the church basement. Seeing it in this condition is hard for her, but with me she decided that now was the time to see it again before it gets worse. She talks about the items inside, what they once were used for. Some of the items belonged to her family from when she was a child, other items were picked up at shop sales by her collecting father..

Inside were maybe 50 pigeons. They were all over the place. Most of them flew out through the ceiling gaps. A few remained behind. The place was filthy. Everything was covered with pigeon droppings. But at least the wooden floor was sturdy and I didn’t have to worry about falling through into the musty basement with all the shit covered antiques.. 🙂

After rummaging around inside the Church with Jolene we walked next door to the parish house. i looked through windows as Jolene immediately went for the front door. I was impressed. She was just as ready to see inside as I was. 🙂 The place has been empty since the mid 70’s and was once occupied by an old widow. Jolene had no recollection of the widow’s husband. She once heard that he worked with the trains. There was no bathroom inside and the outhouse that once existed was used as kindling for a school spirit bonfire last year.

It was a very informative photo excursion! Jolene was more than kind and generous for spending so much time walking and talking with me.