Forgotten Buildings.


As I headed to pick up my kids post-date night I drove by this tumble-down building in a nearby town. I pass by it often and have always been captivated by it's monochromatic tones and its slow decay.

Being alone in the car I had the luxury of stopping to explore and make a few photographs.


As I stepped out of my car and raised my camera a truck pulled over and a man got out. As he crossed the street he spoke to me. "It use to be a grocery store. Years ago." He went on to tell me the history of the building – grocery store, slaughter house and meat market, dairy, and finally surplus store and apartment building.

He was a neighbor and was as happy to share stories as I was to hear them.




There is something both magical and creepy about the energy around a building like this. I have long been drawn to decaying houses in the country. Even the flowers for Pete's and my wedding were gathered from a long forgotten lilac hedge besides a lost farmhouse. (Hopefully that sounds sweet and not just weird.)


I have been know to emancipate
occasional treasures from these forgotten homesteads, lest they be lost
forever through the crumbling floorboards. 

When Pete and I first moved to the country there was a farmhouse we would visit often. It was abandoned, with holes in the floors and holes in the roof and raccoons taking up residence on the couch. Amazingly, everything was still inside. Toothbrushes. Toothpaste. Clothes. Dishes. Furniture. Eye glasses. Everything. It looked as though life stopped there in 1955. Simply stopped, frozen in time. I wondered for many years about that place, about the people and stories that lived out their lives there. 

It has since been torn down (or perhaps collapsed), and I wonder if they ever cleared out the belongings or if they were simply plowed into the earth when the house fell in. I am so sensitive, so emotional, that I took several items from that house when I was in my 20's as an act of respect for whomever they originally belonged to. In the story I spun in my mind, I imagined that the people who lived there had died and noone ever came to clean up their life. There was so much sadness in that for me.

Vandals broke in regularly to make mischief and smash things onto the floor, which added to the sadness of the story. I fell in love with some coffee cups, a can opener – just random things – and took them home. We used them for years, and I would imagine the stories of what might have happened at that farm.

As a mother, I don't break into abandoned buildings anymore. I don't have the constitution and there is that whole modeling good behavior business. But they still captivate me. Lost buildings, lost stories.

(Note: For a phenomenal story from NPR about one such place, This American Life's House near Loon Lake
will have you glued to your speakers.
It aired years after we discovered "our" abandoned house and the story was so similar at times I had goosebumps. Perhaps the best radio story I have ever heard.)

edited: More photos can be found here.


5 thoughts on “Forgotten Buildings.

  1. Kathy says:

    Oh, Rachel, you made my heart ache a little with this post. I grew up in the country, on a few different farms, so I was always passing by old, abandoned buildings. I think I explored only one over all those years — an old farmhouse with some windows broken and filled with a sea of detritus of lives passed. I didn’t go inside, but instead chose a sunny day to simply walk around the outside, peering into windows to study the contents. There was an old, framed photo with other color snapshots piled on it sitting on an old cabinet within arm’s reach of one window, so I took them. I have them all to this day.

    My grandfather knew the family who once lived in that house, but he couldn’t explain why it seemed to be a dumping ground for the overfill of other lives – relatives, perhaps? Sadly, he passed away not long after that, so the story has gone — for now. I’d like to research more and learn about the people who once lived and farmed there.

    And one more thing: you mentioned that you picked lilacs from another abandoned farmstead, and I just love that image. I love lilacs, too; they’re one of my favorite signs of spring and new life. This leads me to make what I hope is not a terribly intrusive request: would you be willing to share any additional details about your and Pete’s wedding? My boyfriend and I have an ongoing discussion about what a wedding ceremony means and what it will mean for us and for our friends and families, and we are drawn to stories that don’t sound like traditional American weddings. If you’d rather not share such details, I understand, too.

    Thanks for your lovely writing and evocative photos, Rachel. They are a perfect break in the day.

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    Thank you for your kind words. Some of your comment gave me goosebumps. I know so well that feeling of peering inside and wondering at the lives past. Perhaps I will scan and share the photos I took at that farm so many years ago sometime. I love that you have the photos still. You would really enjoy the link I included, if you havent heard it yet.

    As for our wedding, it was very non-traditional! I am happy to share. I will send you a separate email soon.


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