So this house was an interesting find. I noticed it in 2015 and decided to take a look. It's still there, sitting on it's own on a stretch of farmland. It stands out like a sore thumb and is not hard to find. I don't know the story of this house. I wish I did. It's an interesting place and must have once been a beautiful home. There is evidence of bee keeping on the property. ( Collapse )
Far off, at the crest of a wild-grown field, stood a faded, weathered edifice. Ivy-wrapped and ashy white it lingered like a ghost over the housing development which had come to nest in the knolls below. Even from a great distance you could recognize that the old mansion had seen much, and from out across the meadow of tall grass and briar it invites you to come closer, to listen to its tale of life and death, and life again. To know the story of the Selma Plantation.
As we made our slow approach, and as the old structure became increasingly clear, and more minute details came better into view, the ambiance of the property began to turn. No longer did this old manor seem a looming phantom, it was in fact much more humble, much more melancholy, like an elderly person left without a family. Abandoned with only their thoughts, and no one to share them with. Around the side of the old manor a peeling door stood ajar.
Within, the air was dense. Not with dust or debris, but the atmospheric weight of a house which had witnessed countless generations of people pass through its halls, and recalled each one with clarity. All this history was held there still, palpable, coursing through the fibers of the lath beyond the plaster. A lifeblood of sorts which served to sustain a house which many may have viewed as long-dead.
Wallpaper hung in strips from cracked and tired walls, decorative woodwork adorned doorways to dark chambers of grime and murk. The oldest of these walls date from the turn of the 19th century. In a past existence they formed a beautiful home which endured upon this Virginian hilltop for near a century before surrendering to a terrible fire. For years thereafter a burned-out ruin at the crest of a field was all that remained of the former home. The walls that survived the blaze stood resolute though, as nature began to reclaim the once-proud property. After the passing of some years a new, grand, mansion began construction upon that same scorched hilltop, with the surviving walls of the original home incorporated into the design. This final form, completed in 1902, is what stands to this day.
An immense main hall was, by any metric, the backbone of the mansion. Three stories of balconies formed the master staircase which spiraled around the perimeter of the pillared hall. At the center stood a deteriorating grand piano, crooked and out-of-tune, a reflection of the manor which it called home. On the floors above were extensive chambers, many with magnificent fireplaces, all empty and weathered. So barren had the house come to be that every sound one made echoed seemingly without end as the noise bounced back and forth off towering ceilings and through arched doorways.
This estate, and the surrounding 200+ acres, existed as a private residence until the mid-1970s when it was sold off, and converted into a quite impressive wedding and event venue. This endeavor lasted until the early 2000s when the property was sold yet again. This time the land surrounding the mansion was sub-divided off for new construction, and the mansion was left deserted. As the years progressed new homes began to appear on the landscape, and the mansion watched on, every year slipping further and further into decay and the ever-encroaching wood-line. A once-proud estate, now home to the few buzzards who had taken up roost in the attic rafters.
As we readied for our departure a storm began to slowly roll in. In many ways it seemed to suiting. The rain and greyed-out skies matched the dismal ambiance which hung upon us as we made our way off the property. Mud caked our boots and our clothes were soaked through by the time we reached our vehicle, but the weather was a far off thought. Selma had struck a nerve that now seemed raw and unable to heal – How could a place so steeped in history be thrown away as it were? What does it say for us as a culture when we can build dozens of new homes a stone's throw from a historic mansion, on the very land which was once its property, yet take no effort toward its preservation?
One evening, while going through emails, we came upon a link. It led us to a Facebook page titled 'Selma Mansion Rebirth', and proved to be exactly what the name implies – A page dedicated to showcasing the rehabilitation of the old Selma Plantation. To see the neglect scraped away, and the home once again cherished, was uplifting in a way that is terribly difficult to articulate. Surely many people know the feeling, but it seems that the English language fails to convey it in a meaningful way. To see a building seemingly written off to rot in the forest, brought back to life in such a way that it now exists not only as a wonderful home, but as an example that others may point to in future preservation efforts, is something we truly hope to see more of. In many ways saving the Selma mansion may well save other blighted properties in years to come, and that is something we cannot praise enough.
There is an expression which goes 'if walls could talk'. When looking back upon the Selma grounds from the vantage point of today, what was it that those walls were saying as they slowly moldered on that hilltop for all those years? We would like to think they were quietly repeating, “We are not dead, simply waiting.”
In these woods lie the ruins of a kingdom long fallen. Dotted between the trees can be found battle-worn fragments of the domain which once claimed these lands. They stand sparsely in number and frail in form, reduced to nothing more than gnarled echoes of what they once were. Time has laid upon these lands an unrelenting siege, and through it, a new kingdom has arisen. One of trees and briar. In a previous era, under a much different reign, things were brighter here. There was a life well beyond that of the woodland animals which now roam these parts. A home to fables and legends, a kingdom built upon a bedrock of fantasy. It was called the Enchanted Forest.
Opened in 1955, this bygone theme-park once sought to offer a travel destination to families seeking something a bit more fanciful. Claiming a tract of property in Ellicott City, Maryland, a vibrant castle arose surrounded by rides and attractions based upon nursery rhymes and fairy-tales, a dominion which eventually spread out over 50 acres. At the peak of its popularity, this province of whimsy saw some 300,000 visitors passing through the castle gates every summer.
We ourselves never knew this past existence, as our visit to these grounds took place long after the fall. For decades the property had sat without rule, save for that of nature. The few holdouts which remained had long lost their colors. Faded and peeling they stood less as relics and more as somber reminders of far better times than these. The canopy of the now-wild forest had grown to shadow much of the old park, replacing the light with dappled darkness. A lagoon, once clear and flowing now sat motionless, covered in a thick layer of emerald algae. The clamor of life has all but ceased in these woods, leaving in its stead a fierce nothingness that is both nowhere and all-surrounding. Still, at the center of all this Cinderella's castle still stood. Broken, distorted, and draped in ivy.
Though the forest may have won the day in Ellicott City, overrunning what remained of the old park and returning it to the earth, it could not claim victory over the spirit of the Enchanted Forest - Beginning in 2005 preservation efforts began on the besieged property, spearheaded by the 'Enchanted Forest Preservation Society', who ventured in to save and restore whatever they could reclaim from the devastated kingdom. Today the Enchanted Forest lives on, standing in renewed magnificence off-site at 'Clark's Elioak Farm', which is located close to where the original park once stood. Many of the rescued pieces have been fully restored, and are on display for a new generation of families to enjoy. Whatever did remain on the original grounds were razed in 2015.
Is this community still kicking? I tried to post here (on LJ in general) a few times throughout 2018 and each time it either crashed out completely, never loaded, or erased the entry prior toposting, so I gave up for a while. Until now anyway.
So the place I'm sharing today is a beautiful, and honetsly quite foreboding, public school building which dates from 1927. I'm trying out the new (to me) LJ editor, so please bear with me here...
Rows of rusting lockers line a corridor draped by shadow so deep you feel as if you could reach out and lay your hands upon it. Above, anemic skies distort and bend upon themselves as a light mist begins to fall. In through some unseen window enters a steady flow of cold spring air, it carries with it the bitter aroma of scorched plastic. Sirens wail continuously from some far off place, muffled by the brick exterior of the building to little more than a repetitive and endless drone. A background noise which carried through every corridor of the three-story school.
Within the classrooms there were no desks. This is most typical of shuttered schools, as districts often re-purpose them elsewhere, but here their absence seemed more significant. All around the desk-less rooms lay scattered materials from its past as place of learning - Assignments chalked up, graded papers hung on bulletin boards, prom photos strewn on shelves, and inspirational posters abound. But no desks. Just highly-decorated empty chambers to meander through or stand in the center of, wondering what knowledge these rooms might hold from the near-century of lectures which have transpired herein.
In the halls uncollected papers lay strewn the floor, books sit stacked in strange partially-toppled piles, and posters beckoning your vote in the upcoming school elections still cling to windows and doors. On the ground level is found the old auditorium, at one time the focal-point of activities at the school, it now stagnates. Cavernous, empty, and uncomfortably quiet, much like the entirety of the old school has come to be.
Outside the world too is shaded. We carefully walk through the tall grasses which were once a schoolyard, the cuffs of our pants becoming evermore sodden and cold as we proceed. Though early spring, it is obvious that winter has not yet fully gone from here. All around us exists a murky haze that hangs damply upon greyish-brown earth. Unkempt branches of dormant trees stretch out toward the sunless sky, others toward the brick walls of the massive old school. We stand now just miles from a major city, yet there is not a soul to be seen. Masses of fog periodically roll in over the streets and empty sidewalks, wrapping the school in a pulsing miasma. There was something strange about the fog though, it had an unfamiliar nature to it, and brought with it a sour and unplaceable odor. Only later did we discover that the fog we experienced wasn't actually fog at all, but wisps of smoke carried low by winds passing over a massive fire at a recycling plant blocks away. In a way the toxic clouds seemed suiting - The property of the school and the blocks surrounding it were colorless, desolate, and lifeless. Against all this though, we always shared the uneasy feeling of having eyes upon us. Likely this was just a result of our minds wary from the cold, dreary day. Or, perhaps the shadows of those halls held more secrets than they cared to reveal.
Not each place is worth more than one visit, especially if it’s just a small abandoned village house. However, I visited this decaying cabin three times and being in the area wouldn’t miss an opportunity to go there again. So what makes this site so special? Still cosy rooms coloured with the shades of decay? Lots of furniture inside letting imagine the life there? Or soft curtains of cobwebs which seems to be trying to hide the gloomy interior from the brightness outside? Let’s stop torturing our curiosit and open the old wooden doors.
Hello all! Hope everyone has had a safe summer thus far. I see LJ has once again changed the post editor since my last time here. It's definetly improved, but unfortunately I am still unable to simply copy-paste the HTML from our website entry into the entry form like I used to back in the old days. So, like last time, what I will do is share our writing and a selection of images. I will place a button at the bottom of this post that brings you to our website, so that those interested may see the entry in its entirety. Now, on to the post proper...
It was an unusual day - When filming, it's not often we find ourselves in a group setting, and it's even less frequent that we aren't the ones tasked with driving. So, from the onset this was a unique venture for us. It was an enjoyable change of pace for us, as we were in good company, and enjoyed the downtime lazily gazing out from the windows of the SUV as we made our journey. Eventually our ride made a final turn and slowly proceeded down the rough pavement of Newark Street, creeping to a stop alongside a curb. “We're here”, said the driver as he put the vehicle into park and killed the ignition. We paused as we exited the truck into the warm summer sun, taking a moment to stare at the plum of greenery across the street. A small forest in the middle of Newark, and within it lie the old city jail.
Though decades-abandoned today, the Newark Street Jail enjoyed a long history as the city jail to Newark, New Jersey. A history which begins with its construction along the bank of the then newly completed Morris Canal in 1837, a canal which no longer exists today. This prison was built to replace the former city jail, which had burnt to the ground in the summer of 1835, any remains of which are now sealed away beneath what is today Newark's Grace Episcopal Church. The Newark Street Jail was a standalone prison, and is several blocks removed from the courthouse, whereas the previous building had housed both functions.
Built of brick and local brownstone, the initial structure was little more than a two-story square, attached to a single wing of cells, and did not see further renovation until the 1890s when several additions were made to the base structure. 1907 saw the largest expansion to jail, with 112 new cells added and all the older blocks equipped with running water and toilets. The aging prison continued to see service as a jail until 1970, when it was abandoned in favor of a newer and larger facility. By this point it had expanded to contain more than 300 cells within its stone walls. For a short time after closing as a jail the complex served to house the Essex County Narcotics Bureau. When they relocated in 1989 the jail was left without use.
Our first steps on the property were not unlike the beginnings of a nature hike - We sought out a foot path in the woods and followed it onward. These urban woods are shallow though, a natural facade of twisting forms which hides away man-made geometry. Within minutes we were inside, and the transition was jolting. Even after one's eyes adjust, it took a few moments for the mind to comprehend where you stand. We had entered beneath a wall of cell blocks several stories high. Far above, light spilled through holes in the rot-pocked wooden ceiling. Where it reached the floor, it shimmered off embossed decorative ceiling panels that had let loose their moorings. Their brothers that remained above were tenuously suspended, like rust-filigreed guillotine blades over our heads.
One often takes for granted that cities are sterile places, as if their souls are made of asphalt and brick, and thick concrete blood will spill forth to clot any wound. In truth though, the urban landscape is just a thin skin over something much more primal, and without constant maintenance, nature is quick to reclaim what has been taken. The Newark Street Jail could serve as a textbook illustration of this principle at work. In the subsequent decades of disuse the jail has seen both tremendous decay and verdant new growth. Light catches and dances through the limbs of the trees, throwing silhouettes of color and shadow down the cavernous cell blocks. Cell blocks which, upon closer examination, proved to be far from vacant. As it would turn out, our time within the jail proved far more social than we had anticipated. We crossed paths with many others during our few hours inside, some were “just passing through” while others clearly resided here, their homes made within the old cells. It was evident from the personal effects strewn about that many more people called the old jail home than just those we had met that day.
Perhaps the most visually arresting sights of the jail awaited in the wings. To one side was wall of cells, again four stories high, the opposite wall was once home to a series of tall, arched windows. Their exteriors were steel framed and barred to prevent any possibility of escape, but the inner faces were constructed of a grid of glass panels in a wooden frame. Time has taken little toll on the steel or brick, but the wooden frames had fared badly - When the wood no longer had the strength to hold the massive window in the wall, it gave way, but most did not fall far. Nearly every window had tipped backward in its frame to rest against the highest tier of cells, forming a series of archways from which dangle countless panes of glass. The floor is littered with the remains of those that have already fallen, and the sunlight piercing the ceiling reveals a subtle beauty here, as it is captured and refracted in every direction by these fixed, dangling, and shattered squares.
Exiting the building we once again found ourselves in the forest, and though brief, it's impact is nonetheless intense as you pass through and back to the streets of Newark. Unfortunately our first sight upon re-entering the city was that of a police car parked next to the SUV we had arrived in. With our heads hung low in defeat we slowly made our way to the cruiser. When we reached the car two officers got out to greet us. They weren't here about our trespassing, rather they had just gotten on the scene in regards to someone having broken into our ride. Glass was everywhere, and on the passenger seat lay a large chunk of cement, which was obviously the culprits 'tool' of entry. All of our belongings were safely stowed in the bags we were carrying upon our backs all day, but the others we were with didn't fair so luckily. Asking if we should make a report one of the officers replied “You can, but I doubt much will come of it.”, noting that this was far from an unusual occurrence. In the end we passed on conducting any official paperwork, and decided to part ways with Newark as quickly as possible.
After seeing village houses usually abandoned since dozens of years and furnished in an old fashioned way, a real surprise was to enter one with a few relatively modern details inside and taken over by decay quite recently. The almighty time had not managed to bit the interior of the building too much yet, so it was still possible to have a short glimpse on the life in this place when it was in use. That is, in a few words, a story of a decaying house found in a village in Southern Poland.
It was a dusky December afternoon. The sun was getting closer to the horizon painting everything with dark shades and that day’s trip to South-eastern Poland was going to the end. However, a small abandoned house on the hill near the road made us stop and have a look inside. Quite cosy at first sight and bright from the outside, mainly because of its white walls, it had a completely different, gloomy atmosphere behind its decaying doors.