The Abandoned Ones

Prior to moving to the Northeast back in 2002, I’d never experienced very many abandoned houses before.  I mean, of course, they exist all over the country…but never had I seen the sheer quantity of derelict & abandoned homes [and businesses] as I experienced here.  Philadelphia and it’s neighboring areas astonished me with the number of beautiful buildings that were left to fall apart.   It was inconceivable to me that art deco factories, craftsman bungalows, brick row houses, and huge colonial revival homes alike were left to suffer with broken window panes, grafitti and boarded up doors.   They all [still] remind me of a poem I read when I was in junior high school by the American poet Joyce Kilmer called “The House with Nobody In It.”

Although I find it particularly sad, I also find these abandoned places beautiful in a sense.  Sometimes as you stand and look at these structures, you can almost feel the environment trying to reclaim them and take back what man created.  As a person that’s obsessed with architecture, design and how people live, it’s hard for me to see these houses left all alone and broken like this.  But I almost feel that by taking a second to acknowledge each one with a long glance or a photograph, I’m paying homage in some way to the life once lived there and the effort put into constructing each one.

I began to go down this sentimental road today b/c I saw the post over at Charles & Hudson about photographer Kevin Bauman’s series of 100 Abandoned Houses featuring beautiful & desolate homes around the Detroit area.   The photo at left is one of his gorgeous pics, and I highly suggest you head over to his site to check it out.

It obviously made me think about the many places all across the country that are hauntingly similar.  Seeing as how I’ve been obsessed with this type of thing for awhile, here’s a few additional links that you might like (if you’re also into this sort of thing):

1. Photographer Laura Kicey‘s collection of UnInhabitation.

2. Opacity’s collection of Abandoned Places.   The Staten Island ship graveyard is one of my favorites.

3. A selection of Robert Polidori’s Chernobyl photos.

4. And of course no collection would be complete without Robert Polidori’s book “After the Flood” featuring pics from after Hurricane Katrina.


20 thoughts on “The Abandoned Ones

  1. Your first photo is very impressive, and I share your feeling about it. When East and West Germany united, we could see a lot of houses like that, even in the neighborhood of totally newly built ones.

  2. Thank you Ulla! I took that photo in my old neighborhood in Philadelphia. I’ve always thought of doing my own photo study of abandoned properties. However, when I started it, I realized very quickly that they’re often in neighborhoods where the residents don’t want you pulling out your camera to document what’s going on there. I’ve been yelled at and followed several times.

    Oh well, perhaps I’ll give it another go sometime soon. I’ve got a little more courage than when I took this photo originally.

    1. Hey,

      I am writing my thesis on the problem with abandoned houses and commercial properties in Philadelphia. I am focusing more on houses than other properties, but I will be throwing commercial properties in as well because they bring so much blight to entire neighborhoods.

      I see that you have tried to take pictures in the really bad hoods. I am also a photographer and I want to take pictures for my project. I love in a rough neighborhood already so I am too afraid of taking pictures. I was a little nervous when taking pictures on my bike of Gary Heidnick’s house on Marshall street in North Philly.

      The people over the didn’t like it too much. But I did it anyway. Now I have a car! Anyway, if you are interested in really taking a trip around Philly, I mean a real good trip, to photograph of course, just send me an email. You can also check some of my photography on my MySpace page.

      Just so you know, I have a Nikon D80 SLR with 28mm-200mm lens and various other lens’ that I use, one 500mm for birding and a wide angle for close-ups, but normally I just use my 20-200 lens.

      Just let me know if you are interested. I do like pictures and your post.


      1. Thanks for the offer, but these days my own local hood provides me with plenty of derelict houses, so I don’t have to travel too far to find them… But I’d love to see your pics. Drop me an email with a link to them. And any good stories too.

    2. I don’t have any of my pictures of abandoned buildings on my MySpace page. I will eventually put some up. I would have emailed you back but you didn’t leave me your email address.

      It’s funny about your hood providing you with enough dilapidated buildings for your viewing pleasure. I have quite a few in my hood as well.

      I will keep in touch with this blog throughout my project and post some pictures for people to look at in the coming months.


  3. i grew up in Philly a really long time ago. When I went back a few years ago, my old neighborhood looked like a war zone. So sad. my son would love to be one of the urban pioneers so he is looking to move back and rehab a house. We’ll see.
    BTW, i can’t imagine a better place to grow up than Philly.

  4. Yep, Philly is a pretty great city. I have enjoyed living here. I’m sure your son will find a great house here. There are a TON of amazing places in the city.

  5. Seems that Elena’s motorcycle ride was maybe a bit… heavy on the poetic licence? Doesn’t make the images any less compelling though.

    That’s one gorgeous house!

  6. I completely agree with you on this — since moving to Philadelphia 4 years ago I’ve been blown away by the stunning architecture of so many abandoned buildings here. I really hope they’ll be restored to their original beauty. Bauman’s series is terrific.

  7. I find myself quite obsessed with abandoned row houses.. Baltimore is also a great city to find old boarded up houses and some that aren’t boarded just being vandalized. Saw a sign on one that said “Terry buys scary houses”. Haha If anyone lives in Baltimore and wants to take pictures of these sights, I suggest Wilkens Ave, S. Fulton Ave, Monroe St, Brentwood Ave, and Frederick Ave. There’s A street off Frederick (can’t remember what’s it called, but if you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about) with practically every house abandoned and perhaps most interesting, a derelict factory type building all cemented and boarded with a tree growing out of the roof… It’s very haunting.

    Again, just drive up S. Fulton Ave and you’ll find lots and lots of old three story ghost houses lining the street and empty plots where they’ve been torn down… One house had no boards on but every window broken and you could see it inside…or go inside, but I wouldn’t because it’s dangerous. Could be homeless people inside; squatters, structural issues…etc. If you take pictures, do it from a car–Anywhere–Philly, Baltimore, Detroit, New York–anywhere in case you need to get out of there fast.

  8. I looked at the Camden pictures and I must say, for a small city across the river from one of the largest cities in the country it sure does pack a punch. I could get more pictures, or at least nicer pictures, of abandoned buildings in Camden then I can in Philly.

    I have to post my pictures of Philly. I will soon. And @ Lewis, you definitely have to drive through and take pictures to avoid getting shot or at least shot at in some areas. I went and took some pictures of Gary Heidnik’s house in North Philly on Marshall Street and I made the mistake by riding by bike. I was out taking pictures around the city and just decided real quick to get off of Erie Avenue to take the picture.

    Bad idea! I guess the residents of the neighborhood were not used to seeing white people in their hood, so you could imagine how shocked they were when I actually stopped on my mike to take pictures while everyone was staring at me. I had this uncomfortable feeling but something kept me from splitting, so I continued to take some pictures.

    It’s the worst neighborhood in the city but it’s very far from the best. My neighborhood might be just as bad but for some reason I feel comfortable walking around taking pictures since people see me all the time.

    Well, I am glad to see this blog still up and running.

    1. My brother used to ride road bikes and was part of some kind of bike club thingy..Anyway, one of his friends, Mike, was riding through the city and he actually got shot. But he didn’t even realize it until he stopped! He wasn’t even taking pictures; Just minding his own business…Don’t think he’ll be riding through West Baltimore anymore. Haha

      Also, the safest and easiest way to see these places, such as Edmondson Ave, is to look at them with Google’s Street View. (btw, I’m surprised they don’t get attacked by angry people those cars stick out like sore thumbs. lol) Unfortunately, using Google has it’s disadvantages ’cause the images are copyrighted and therefore you still have to do it yourself, and they don’t go in alleys. Guess they can’t. Haha But on the other hand, you do get to see what you’re up against and which houses are blighted.

      Baltimore’s most blighted block of historic rowhouses off Sinclair Ln on Perlman Place has been destroyed…It is a great loss but probably for the best.

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