Nestled in Northern Iowa

Nestled in rural Palo Alto County, sits the barely there town of Ayshire and the remains of the Silver Lake Consolidated school.  The regal brick building with two grand entrances sits right on the main road with its front door wide open, with its only remaining visitors the birds and maybe a few thrill seekers.

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Various shades of bright blue paint still cling to the walls and the tattered remains of heavy curtains continue to hang from the classroom windows. Even though the children are no longer here, this school is anything but empty.

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It is impossible to look at these empty classrooms and not imagine what they once looked like filled with school desks and books, yet I still see so much beauty in what these rooms are now.

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Opened in 1921, the Silver Lake Consolidated school was one of two schools open in Ayrshire Iowa, a once thriving community in Northern Iowa.  As evident in the picture below, the school was certainly a centerpiece of the town and stood proud along it’s main road.

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Not long after the large, modern gymnasium was constructed and attached through the lower level, the school would finally meet its end and be consolidated with the Ruthven school in 1982.

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It is interesting to note that the main building, while open to the elements, seems to be withstanding the test of time with more grace than its newer addition, which is already crumbling in on itself.  Really proves that they simply do not make them like they used to.

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Erased From Everything But Memories

While crisscrossing the rural county highways and dirt roads of Central Iowa, our weekend explorations landed us in the town of Popejoy.  With a population last recorded at a mere 70, this little town is barely hanging on.

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After spending hours attempting to research this building, I reached out to one of my favorite Abandoned Groups online.  Besides a small paragraph regarding consolidation of districts, not a scrap of information was out there regarding this fairly large building.

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The story of this school would eventually emerge from an unlikely source; a small cookbook containing a history of Popejoy.  In late spring of 1959, the last class of students would graduate from it’s halls.  With only a few remaining classes of grades 3 through 8, the school would hold out until May of 1983 when its halls finally fell silent for good.

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During the next year, the school building and bus barn were sold at an auction to the Schutt family but in 1989, the buildings returned to the possession Franklin county for back taxes.  The school would sit quiet and desolate until December of 1993 when it fell into new hands.  Little is known about what happened during this ownership until it changed hands yet again in the winter of 1995/96 when a businessman from Iowa falls bought it to be used as a foundry making outdoor electric lamp posts.  Based on the condition of the school, it doesn’t seem likely that these plans ever took off.

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According to the history documented in this little cookbook,  virtually all papers, records and pictures were simply discarded upon the schools closing in 1983.  The only remains are the senior class pictures and a few trophies that are safely displayed at the city hall.

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It is so hard to believe that a building as important in the upbringing of children as a school could be so completely erased from existence.  This school truly only remains alive through the memories of people that have ties to this little town and to those that care to read its history in a simple cookbook.

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Treasures Up North

It’s been awhile since my last post but honestly, I really just haven’t had anything new to post or say.  It’s taken me a few months to even feel like picking up my camera again, but I know it is what I need to be doing to heal and feel better.  These are just a few really beautiful places I found while traveling up north with my dad.

Thank you everyone for sticking with me through my silence!  I hope you like these ones as much as I do.

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Little abandoned house nestled in the wildflowers.  Located in North Central Minnesota, there was not a town to be found for 20 miles in either direction.
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Nestled in the former site of Kimberly, Minnesota, this school house has been left to the elements since it closed its doors in 1961.
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The crumbling remains of a house, now used as a garage space in Northern Minnesota.
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Besides the schoolhouse peacefully sitting on the hill, this little building is the only reminder that there was once a thriving town here known as Kimberly.
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Abandoned Nursing Home, Northern Minnesota.

Saying Goodbye

While this may not be my typical post, I recently lost the man that was always the biggest supporter of my photography, even if he didn’t quite understand my passion for abandoned buildings and decay, and it would be wrong to not take a minute to talk about him.

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From day one, I have been my grandpa’s girl.  Even though we don’t have many pictures together Grandpa, I treasure all the images we do have and I will continue to think of you every time I pick up my camera.  As a kid, you let me help build your fence, wear your hat and “smoke” your cigars, you taught me to fish and how to swing across the monkey bars, and you never got tired of the hours I wanted to spend building domino towers (just to knock them all over) and playing Chinese checkers.

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When you started picking me up after school, you would always bring my favorite snacks and if you didn’t have anything that day, we always stopped at the nearest gas station to pick something up.  Even though it was complicated, you always tried to help me with my math homework, even though it usually resulted in us both being so confused it was hopeless.  You helped me build a mousetrap for school that didn’t hurt the mice, just because I couldn’t stand the thought of them dying and you made sure that every other complicated project I came up with managed to be created, no matter how long it took.  When it came to me, there were no limits to your patience and support.

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As time went on, you continued to be the father figure that I needed and you supported me through every phase of my life. From my first pocket camera to my current Canon 6D, you were the biggest supporter of my photography and always made sure I had the tools to continue growing and learning in my passion.   And when I was hospitalized for my depression, you never made me feel like I had anything to be ashamed of.  In fact, you encouraged me to find comfort and relief in my photography and that is exactly what I did.

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There is no one in this world that is quite like you grandpa and I honestly do not know who I would be today without all the love and support you gave me.  Saying goodbye is the hardest thing I have ever had to do and it’s so incredibly hard to accept that you will no longer be here with your amazing hugs and enormous heart.

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I will never forget your love and all the things you’ve taught me about being a good person with a heart full of dedication, drive, and passion for the life I have been given. You will always be in my heart and I will spend forever striving to be a person you would continue to be proud of. With love forever, your little stinker ♡

Pokegama Sanatorium

After spending years actively working to fight the tuberculosis epidemic, Dr. Henry Longstreet Taylor found himself frustrated with the slow pace of progress in his home state of Minnesota and decided to take matters into his own hands.  In 1905, he utilized his own money to open a private institution on the outskirts of Pine City.  It would inherit its name from the lake whose shores would border the property.

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Photo Credit: Minnesota’s Tuberculosis Sanatoriums (mnsans.com)

Spanning 35 acres, Pokegama Sanatorium would privately cater to a limited 36 patients. With a price of $30 to $50 a week, it was a staggering amount when compared to the county sanatoriums that rarely charged the maximum $7.  With this price tag though, came a long list of luxurious amenities never seen in the overcrowded and understaffed county facilities.

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The original 15 open-air cottages were comfortably warm with steam heat and woolen blankets, private bedrooms, and bathrooms that only had to be shared between two or three people.  A private farm catering only to the sanatorium provided high quality food and the reception hospital added in the early 1920’s would have many modern amenities including elevators, a long-distance telephone system, and a high class surgical suite.

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With ground being gained in the fight against tuberculosis and World War II creating a shortage of both supplies and staff, Pokegama would officially close its doors in 1944.  Soon after shutting its doors, Pokegama was sold to a group called the Redemptorist Fathers, who intended to use it as a school for priests.

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The site would again exchange hands and under the name “Pine Manor” it would function as a chemical dependency center.  Compared with its Sanatorium predecessor, Pine Manor provided a relatively cheap treatment cost of roughly $2,000 compared to other privately owned centers in the state that charged anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000.  Even with this advantage, Pine Manor would only last until 1986 when financial troubles would cause it to close its doors for one last time.

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All that remains of the once sprawling estate is a shell of the once grand brick reception hall.  Covered in graffiti and filled with the debris of old furniture and nights of partying, the hospital is certainly in its final stages of life.  The peeling paint in the common asylum colors and walls covered in large windows still maintain a beautiful quality though.

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After more than 20 years spent in empty and lonely solitude, how many more years does this forgotten sanatorium have left?  Will it live to see another 20 years or does it have a limited amount of time left on the its clock?

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Three Door Stone House

One look at this house and you know it is something you don’t come across everyday.  An utter lack of modern amenities, including electricity,running water or any trace of modern appliances testify to the age of this house.  The only remaining access to the upper floors, a rusting ladder attached to the outside of the house, only adds to the strange quality of this house.

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Even without the modern amenities that have come to characterize our idea of a house, there are numerous personal effects in each of the two first floor rooms. Debris litters the floor and hides the wood plank floor.  A bookcase filled with dust covered bottles, an old fashioned desk with a painted dollhouse, and a partially collapsed dining room table all support the fact that this was indeed once a home to someone.

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This house raises so many questions that have no answers.  When was this house originally build and how long has it been sitting alone in rural Iowa?

The Epitome of Beautiful Decay

April of last year was a time of remarkable changes for me.  To say I was fortunate to have many people in my life willing to help me through my grief is an understatement.  While trying to find myself again, I spent a lot of time behind my camera, trying to find some semblance of beauty in a world made dark.

It was during a rehabilitative trip to rural Iowa, in which we spent two rain filled days getting stuck in the mud, that we stumbled upon this unforgettable house.

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Standing completely bare in the middle of a muddy field, it has been left to rot and fade away.  Just a glimpse of the outside is enough to make you wonder how someone could even contemplate leaving it behind.  Even with the faded whitewash and rotting wood pillars, this house has a powerful and undeniable presence.

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From the beautiful stained glass windows facing the front porch to the mahogany pocket doors and built in cabinets, everything about this house was obviously done with love and attention to detail.  Even the dining room and kitchen ceilings were crafted with great care.

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Even in it’s advanced stage of decay, you can see what this house once was.  While standing among the rotting furniture and garbage littered rooms, I closed my eyes and could just imagine the room filled with warm light and laughter.  It is truly the epitome of beautiful decay, in every sense.

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Even though I could photograph just about anything, I believe it is a privilege to capture the underlying beauty of places like this home.  Behind the peeling wallpaper, rotting floors and broken furniture is someone’s story, someone’s mark on the world.  The opportunity to capture it is simultaneously heartbreaking and irreplaceable in beauty.

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The Little Pink Farmhouse

Since February of 1989, this little farmhouse nestled in the heart of Wisconsin has been left in complete solitude to crumble and decay away.  Without a single town in miles and few neighbors in sight, the farmhouse has truly managed to remain a time capsule of belongings and memories.

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A house with so much visible history makes it hard to understand how so many personal artifacts can be left to nothing more than the cold hands of time.  Is it possible to love something so much, we would rather see it rot than belong to someone else?  Or do we simply see so much value in the things we love that we forget how meaningless they can be when left in the hands of a stranger.

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On the other side, maybe I am being too romantic.  While I like to think of love and laughter once filling these walls, I know that some places deserve nothing more than to be forgotten and left to rot.  Not every piece of the past deserves to be remembered in the future.  There are some parts of my own life that I have pushed into the dark recesses of my mind, hoping they will slowly rot away until they are nothing more than a dark whisper.

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We will probably never know what this house truly was or what it meant to the people that once inhabited it, but it doesn’t really matter anyway.  The fact is, it is there.  Whether it left a beautiful or dark mark on the world, it has simply refused to be forgotten by a world that is trying to fade it away.

Wisconsin Snow

Maybe it is the fact that it has felt like a long winter, more so emotionally than anything, but it has been so difficult to find the motivation to go out and take pictures.  I keep looking at my camera sitting in the corner and I swear I can see it collecting dust.  There is no doubt that photography is my saving grace when depression is creeping at my door.  Unfortunately though, they have yet to invent a camera that also pulls you away from your comfy couch and warm blanket.

This last weekend, I finally found a friend nearby that motivated me to go on an adventure in neighboring Wisconsin.  Initially it seemed like a wonderful idea, especially considering the lack of snow and fairly reasonable winter temperatures.  What we didn’t know is that we would be wading through knee deep snow for the entire day!  I guess it wouldn’t be a true adventure without a few things failing to go according to plan right?

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Our first find of the day turned out to be a gorgeous shell of a house.  Nestled on the intersection of a fairly rural road, it was buried in a mess of trees and what I am certain is a lot of incredibly tall, tick infested grass.

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One of the more interesting aspects of this house is the complete removal of all the original woodwork.  Is it possible that someone cared enough to preserve each piece of trim and flooring, or was it left to rot and eventually stolen after years of decay?  Certainly only one of dozens of mysteries lying within this charming farmhouses past.

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It is also hard to deny the beauty in peeling wallpaper.  I have yet to come across a room like this without it stopping me in my tracks. Something about it is so devastating, yet it almost provides a special glimpse into the secrets of a house.  Like peeling back the layers of the houses life, you are slowly being allowed to see into the depth of its soul.

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Maybe this is what makes these houses so beautiful to only certain people.  Maybe you have to be damaged in some way to see the beauty behind something so decayed and to some, useless.