Ruined structures have long been a favorite subject for artists because of their frequent poignant beauty. While the term “ruin” typically conjures up images of ancient stone structures crumbling in lush landscapes beneath invasive trees and vines, a similar – but more desolate – beauty can be found in much more recent ruins: abandoned farm houses and their outbuildings. These places still quietly recall rural life as it was more than a century ago. Their simple and often strictly utilitarian construction stands in stark contrast to the more refined buildings built at the same time in more populated places. The lack of sophistication in the following farm house is typical of the kind of construction that was once quite prevalent throughout the High Plains region.
Likely built between 1890 and 1905, the house was abandoned by the mid-twentieth century – possibly as early as the “Dirty Thirties”. It is noteworthy that the house had never been wired for electricity. It is evident that it began as two rooms but was later expanded by two one-room additions. Each of those has now collapsed, leaving the original core revealed once more. I was given permission from the land owner to visit the site.
Let’s take a look – but watch out for snakes!
The house is just a speck on the vast plain. An old car frame – placed upright – and a dead tree guard the approach to the house.
An early addition to the front has collapsed.
Remains of a brick chimney are strewn amidst the lumber.
The presence of an overhanging eave tells us that the portion which remains is the original house. Note the the rafters are run horizontally and that the roof sheathing runs vertically. This design has probably helped the house shed water and promote its longevity. The casing around the door, typical of the 1910’s, is more refined than the trim in the original house (which appears to date to around 1900).
The interior casing of the same doorway. Note that the bottom has been spliced, suggesting that the carpenter made an error with the baseboard; another doorway in the room has similar casings notched to receive the baseboard.
At right, the baseboard is let into the door casings. The remains of a four-panel door still hang from the jamb. At left, the doorway to the bedroom has a header which is much narrower than the side casings (which do not have baseboards let into them).
The pine flooring has been face-nailed.
A butt-jointed baseboard corner is finished with a short section of vertical quarter round.
Remains of the presumed front door retain a cast iron steeple hinge.
This small shelf was an original feature – built into the wall prior to plastering. Originally it overlapped the window casing but was cut back at some time, possibly so as not to interfere with a curtain. The shelf once continued through the wall to create a similar shelf in the bedroom. They may have been intended to hold oil lamps.
This is what is left of the once-continuous shelf; it appears to have been sawn off. A hole in the plaster reveals a piece of painted wood – a good clue that salvaged materials were used in the construction of the house. Note that the single layer of plaster has never been painted.
The bedroom may be modest, but the view from the window is breathtaking.
Construction of the roof may be seen more clearly through the bedroom ceiling.
The woodwork and ceiling were painted blue. Here, through a trap door to the attic, a central chimney is visible. It appears to be supported by the wall below it.
This is the flue to that chimney as seen from the main room.
Doorway from the main room to a former lean-to kitchen.
The lean-to is in an advanced stage of collapse.
The kitchen stove and some window sash rest on what is left of the floor.
The kitchen addition as it appears from outside.
What are likely the original shingles still cling to the roof. The clapboards are similarly weathered.
Granduer and simplicity.
Detail of weathered siding.
This concludes our tour; does anyone want to see the remains of the bermed concrete barn and other curiosities?