In the little town where I live there are many, many buildings that stand empty. Some were left behind when the jobs and the money disappeared. Some are in a limbo of legal wranglings. Some have simply become too old to be maintained.

On our town’s main street there stands a crooked,  creaky,  wooden building that once housed a little general store. For so many years, the town’s children came here for candy. The mothers came for fresh milk brought in from the farm up the street.  Generations of families came in for the newspaper, a loaf of bread, candles or kerosene or batteries.  The store’s wavering, rippled windows have looked out on the central street of this little town since the 1920’s.

Now the store is empty, the window displays show only dust.  The milk from our local farm has long since been sold to a big interstate conglomerate. The candy is gone, the papers are now read on-line.  The wooden beams that hold up this hulking old building have warped and bent; the roof is leaking and the wiring is brittle and frail.

I am guessing that the beautiful old red and white clapboards will be taken down soon, left in a pile of dusty memories.

In my small town there are so many houses that have been left alone, empty, abandoned.  Each is marked with a vivid red X, a sign to local firefighters, saying   “If I am burning, you should let me go. No one hides inside. No one lives here now.  I am an empty shell. Let me burn.”

SONY DSCNo matter that the house was once the pride of a young family. No matter that at one time the graceful slope of the roof was a sign of genteel prosperity.  No matter that in a time gone by the delicate posts of the porch sheltered a happy family out taking the evening air.  No matter that these gnarled old trees used to hold swings where girls in gingham dresses giggled at the sight of boys in suspenders and straw hats.

Now the house is empty. The prosperity is gone. Now the trees are old and bare, the street is cracked and worn.

No family laughs around the fireplace here any more.  No mother croons a lullaby to her baby in these rooms. No lazy dog is left to doze by the front door.  No letters are delivered here now, no packages wait on the step for the birthday boy to arrive.

In my small town, there are so many proud old houses that stand marked by an X. Dark, echoing, alone.  Waiting for the fire or the storm or the wrecker that will come to finally bring them down.

In my poor little town, the rhododendron and the hemlock have proven to be stronger than the people who once called these places “home”.  Every day on my way to work, and every night on my way home, I drive past a house that has been abandoned and alone for so long that the bushes have grown right up and over the door.SONY DSCEvery day, and every night, I picture the children who must have eaten their breakfasts and headed out this door to school.  Every day I think of the mothers who must have carried groceries in through it, and the grandparents who must surely have arrived here on Christmas Eves of the past, loaded down with gifts and cookies and love.

And every day, and every night, I wonder how long it has taken for the bushes to cover the path and hide the door.  And I wonder if those wise and strong old plants are trying to shield the house, and keep its secrets safe.

28 thoughts on “Abandoned

  1. Lovely old house (the first one)….it just needs some love and attention. It certainly has character. I love the porch and the Mansard roof. Sad when a town slowly dies. You have written a lovely, soulful post.


    • Oh, how I wish someone would come out and save that house, and so many others near it……..
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I wish I knew how to rescue those homes, and to give them to families who would love them and appreciate them so much.


  2. Such a beautiful post, Moms.

    My Mom & Dad bought a house in 1963 that was abandoned and totally run down. A few years ago it was sold for $1.5 million (sadly not to anyone in MY family). People need to protect the beauty that they have because you never do know.

    I’d love to know where it is you live! My brother lives up there, too.


    • Sorry to make you sad, my friend.
      I have been looking at these old “grande dames” for a long time now, so this post has been percolating for a while.
      I would love to see the whole are come back and be as vibrant as I know it once was.


  3. No ‘X’s’ to mark them here, but we have our share of Falling-Down Houses, as the granddaughter calls them…many well past the point of salvation. So sad. I’d even be happy to see them taken apart and the pieces reused, but they just sit and rot…
    Good post.


      • Portsmouth, RI, just north of Newport…Everything from rotting Colonials and Victorians to 70’s ranch houses. One not far from us has been empty since the early 90’s, when the owner went to prison on drug charges. By the time the Feds released it, there was so much damage from them, the weather, and the local teenagers that no one even bothered to try…


      • That’s awful!
        And we have one that has been empty since a fire some 15 years ago. I have been watching it fall in on itself, taking photos every few months.
        There were toys…stuffed animals…..left on the lawn to rot. I have hated to see the house collapsing, but I have loved watching the grasses and wildflowers and baby trees coming in to cover all the sad remnants left by humans.


  4. LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Beautiful writing and of course very happy to see from your post, and comments, that I’m not the only one who feels such sadness at these types of homes.


    • They make me wonder so many things: who lived there, who grew up there, who built them, who planted those lilacs…….I know that change is inevitable, but it is the long, slow decay that I find so troubling.
      Thank you for reading, and for taking the time to comment.


  5. Beautiful post. I live in an old pre-1900 house and wonder about the many secrets from this place…can’t imagine the stories to be told about the houses with the big X on them.


  6. I became a carpenter many years ago to learn to work with wood and hopefully some day find an old house, a bit run down that I could fix with my new skills. Over the years it never quite came to pass as prices went higher and higher. Now that the there are homes to be had (if one can wrangle the paper work) my energy like these old homes has faded.


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