Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Abandoned Structures

I’ve noticed that many bloggers such as Heather, Danielle and Donna seem to love photographing old abandoned buildings. If a photo is worth a thousand words; photos of abandoned structures are worth countless words. Abandoned structures have viewers asking, “What could have been and what could be?”

In reality most of these structures are far beyond repair with insufficient foundations or roofs that have let in so much moisture that every board and nail needs to be replaced. However when we look at them we can’t help but see the spirit in which these structures were built. We can imagine the joys that were shared there, yet somehow we can envision the tragedies that took place to deliver them to the state where they now.

I lived in a time of trust in the town where I grew up. This means that no one locked their doors. If by any chance a house was vacant, one could just walk in and look around. There were several homes that were between occupants that had been built in the 1700’s and 1800’s. As I wandered through these homes I could see remnants of things left behind. Many things were of value, but respect was of a higher order. There was seemingly no vandalism back then.

I remember the best abandoned mansion I walked through. It was known as the Havemeyer Mansion, not the one in New York, but the one in New Jersey. The photo above is not the actual home, but somewhat closely resembles it, though the house in the photo is probably half the size of the mansion. Havemeyer’s son had another mansion on the property which is still there and maintained though he is no longer alive.

There were several remarkable things about the building and its contents. The front doors were large and heavy. The lighting fixtures were old but extreme quality. Some were converted gas lamps. The hardware in this home was absolutely stunning. It was all heavy and hand crafted. There were a lot of paintings of birds all through the house. I understand Henry Senior was an Audubon fan. He probably knew Audubon. This was a home that had servants, probably several of them evident from smaller bedrooms near where servants would work, such as the kitchen, laundry and the stables.

A few months after I walked through, the mansion was burned to the ground by what we called back then, a fire bug. I don’t think anyone was ever arrested or convicted of the crime. I remember clearly the first time I rode my bike past the smothering ashes. I was sad that someone could actually do that. It saddens me still.


Blogger Beth said...

As kids, we used to wander through a deserted farmhouse & barn. Of course, these dwellings were haunted. ;)
My biggest thrill (no big surprise here) was discovering old books and magazines.
That charming place was razed to the ground to make room for suburban sprawl.

6:14 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

It's sad that they don't make houses like that anymore. Even the most expensive executive mansions are made of drywall and particle board with plastic fixtures. Not a gram of handcrafting in them anywhere. Pretty soon building a house will be akin to playing sims or yoville or building a model airplane. All of the pieces of your house will be in big snap-apart plastic frames and you'll just glue them together.
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same...

7:19 AM  
Anonymous F. Lee said...

Thinking back about "fire bugs", can remember how sick I was as a youngster when seeing a plume of smoke wafting up from the forest on the north face of Tillamook Head...I knew the only structure up there was the Angora Hiking Lodge, a beautiful big log cabin built by the CCC before the war--it was a favorite hiking destination for a couple of generations of North Coasters-no roads up there, it was well hidden and too find it took some doing if you didn't know where it was. It sat on a little patch of somewhat level ground nestled in some tall timber-couldn't even see it unless you were right up to it-- and commanded a beautifully breathtaking view far out to sea. How can people be so destructive to destroy something so cool. Of course nobody ever knew who did it-the nasty punks deserved some punishment for that. Somewhere, maybe in OHS photo archives,there must be pictures of it-can't recall ever seeing a picture of it-

Then there was Astoria's long hot summer on 1988, when an arsonist by the name of Paul Godfrey took it upon himself to torch several wooden structures along the waterfront and up in town. That guy was a real screwball-one of those crazy mixed up clowns who derives sexual pleasure from setting fires and watching them burn. He destroyed George & Barker station, which lay in the East End mooring basin-it was an important part of the gillnetting business for all the uppertown folks. He also lit up and destroyed half of The Trullinger apartment complex on Bond..some other lesser known structures and some the fire dept was able to save. This was one jumpy town with that freak on the loose-thank God he didn't kill anybody, but that little fucker is still locked away-one sick screwball he is/was.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Fan said...

F. Lee Wasn't he a fireman?

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, he was the son of a Fire official from Longview WA. It came out during the prosecution that the father sexually abused him during his formative years--strange story indeed.

10:28 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Beth, I was respectful. There were some books there for the taking, but the art that was left behind was a real temptation. I took nothing, but the subsequent fire took everything.

Darev, I can see where dry wall is the way to go having worked with slats and plaster in the past, but I still refuse to use MDF (particle board) in any project. It simply doesn't hold nails, and I have to laugh when ever I see it being used on roof construction.

F. Lee, the man with a memory. I remember those events when I first got here.

5:45 AM  

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