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.

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.


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.



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.


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.


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.



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?




My Beloved Burtrum Schoolhouse

During another one of my binges scanning google maps, I came across a promising looking little town in northern Minnesota.  With a population barely reaching 144, there is nothing left of this little town but a few blocks of houses, a couple small town amenities and a large  three story building at the very edge of town.


On a cold February day, we were greeted with a significantly different view when compared to our first visit the Spring prior. No longer shrouded in foliage, an entirely new view was presented.  Shattered windows and boarded up doors provide a sharp contrast to the still sturdy brick walls and cement foundation.



With the back of the old schoolhouse completely open to the elements, we were fortunate enough to have full access through the boiler room to the stunning remains of this once expansive schoolhouse.  Your first view upon entering the heart of the school is a large wooden staircase with faded and crackled blue stairs.


A few steps to your right takes you into an old classroom, filled with broken furniture and a deteriorating piano.  The patterned tin wall coverings have spent years rusting and give the room an eerie orange glow.


The red and green bathroom holds it’s own unique beauty, with the original wood bathroom stalls and the vintage style toilet tanks.


Venturing up the deteriorating staircase provides a stunning view of the front windows.  The dusty filled light illuminated the peeling paint and the exposed wood beams.  The second and third floors also hold a treasure of old classrooms and walls full of broken windows.


As visible in all the pictures, the heart of the school was succumbing to extreme water damage and the rest was simply experiencing the cruel weathering of nature.  It was still so heartbreaking to hear of it’s final demise this year. It will always remain one of my most beloved locations and a stunning example of the beauty in decay.


The Roos Family Farm

My first visit to this sprawling homestead was in the Spring of 2015.  After pulling off an incredibly busy state highway and almost getting stuck in a very long and horribly muddy driveway, we were greeted by this typical Minnesotan farmhouse.  What I didn’t expect upon that first view was to find it filled to the brim with a lifetime of memories and belongings.



Wardrobes still filled with a mixture of vintage men’s and women’s clothing, old newspapers and children’s coloring books littering the floor, farming receipts and soy bean catalogs, old farming receipts and a pair of dusty glasses.


While I often find myself incredibly moved by the locations I encounter, there was something special about this family room.  From the dark mahogany piano covered in dust and the faded Mozart music books to the old television set surrounded by trash and the image of a young child and Model T.  This was one of the first houses I ever encountered with so much history left behind.



It wasn’t until recently that I decided to dig into the past of this little white farmhouse.  What I uncovered was a typical american story.  Married in 1880, German immigrants Louis and Paulena Roos made their home in rural Minnesota.  Their son William, one of seven, would make his home in nearby Lester Prairie with wife Emma and carry on the farming tradition.  A love for agriculture and farm equipment would further pass on to son Reuben, who would return to the family farm after serving his country in the Korean war.


After his death in 2014, an auction was held to sell off the collection of antique cars, tractors and farm equipment he had so obviously loved and cherished throughout his lifetime.  With only a year of time passing between the auction and my own visit in 2015, there is no doubt that this house was starting to decay long before it was left vacant and open to the elements.


Recently purchased by a large corporation, this house will likely meet the cold metal of a bulldozer in the coming years, if not months and is certainly in the last moments of it’s life.  While always hard to accept a family home such as this left to rot, it is even harder to imagine it being completely wiped out of existence.  While doubtful that I will have the opportunity to see it again before it meets it’s inevitable fate, I am thankful for these precious images and a carefully preserved Polaroid in my china cabinet to remember it by.

My Journey Here and The Mismatch House

Since stumbling upon my first house while driving the back roads of my hometown six or so years ago, my process of hunting locations has changed drastically and oddly led to the development of this blog.  As an ever expanding community, there are hundreds of photographers out there in love with urban exploration and more than willing to share their love with others.  They are in all corners of the world and yet, there are very few people documenting and sharing the obscure locations of the North.

As a native Minnesotan, I am amazed that so many beautiful locations have never been documented!  Besides my fellow explorers over at Ghosts of Minnesota, there are virtually no groups or communities dedicated to our region of the map.  In addition to my desire to share my passion with the world, this lack of northern documentation led me to the idea of starting this blog.  Why not bring my love of abandoned buildings to a place that is more personal and accessible to those that are hunting the web for locations just like me?  After years of uploading to flickr and facebook, I want to reach out in a new way to my fellow explorers and abandoned enthusiasts!

With that said, I introduce you to one of my favorite places:

The Mismatch House


This house was nothing more than an accidental find, but it remains close to my heart to this day.

  While heading home after exploring some well documented sites in southern Minnesota, my best friend and I stumbled upon this very odd house.  Barely standing on a few remaining cement blocks, this was nothing more than a shell of a house.  A few weeks before this picture was taken I was married to someone I thought I would be with forever.  Little did I know, it would take a divorce, many months of crying and a few more of isolation to realize how lost I had been.

In a relationship spanning 7 years, I had completely forgotten who I was.  On the outside I was trying to be who he wanted, who my family wanted and who everyone else wanted.  In the end, I turned into a dark shell that barely resembled a person at all.  I was this house as many may see it.  An ugly mismatch of broken pieces and an empty structure.

  In the months that followed, I started to rediscover myself.  My family and friends surrounded me in so much light and love.  Suddenly, I realized it was okay to be exactly who I was, not what I thought I should be.  I spent years thinking I needed to be the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, the perfect friend… In this process I was constantly changing who I was.

Maybe it was the depression and low self esteem, or maybe it was simply the innate desire to make everyone happy that made it take so long to realize the truth.  I didn’t have to be shiny and perfect on the outside for people to love me.  If I just accepted my imperfections and let myself be who I was, the people that mattered would see the beauty in me as well.  In the end, I am still this house.

What changed?  The view.

 Some people may see this house as ugly and deserving of destruction.  And in some ways maybe it is.  It is a mismatch that shows the weathering of time it has endured.  For awhile, this is what I was.  Lost and unable to see the beauty in myself.  Now?  I have found a way to see myself as okay just the way I am.  I finally understand that I don’t have to change for other people to see me as something beautiful as well.  Beauty doesn’t have to be perfection… Like they say, it is in the eye of the beholder.

Scars and imperfections just make us unique and I am determined to see the beauty.