Sitting beside a park not too far up the road from my house, there is an abandoned house that still has a story to tell. There are clues that I cannot read, information I have not found, but there are others that are quite clear. Why has it been left here, at the edge of the park, with no sign, no information posted about its historic significance, yet it has not been torn down, nor even quite allowed to succumb to the ravages of time.
Patches on the oxidized roof are clearly new, although the structure that supports it is clearly original. If you look closely at the back of the house, in the image on the right, you can see that the windows were larger at one time, but were replaced with these smaller ones, which are now boarded up. Another window was to the left of the door, but was removed entirely in a long-ago patch job that was not very carefully done. From the height of the door opening and size of the overhanging roof, we can deduce that a rear porch has been removed entirely.
In each of the images above, the palimpsest of a fireplace and chimney remain. The plywood visible just behind the remaining side window in the upper photo lets us know that that was done more recently, most likely after the house was abandoned. Was it stolen so that its bricks or stones could be used elsewhere? Was it removed to prevent its weight from damaging the house itself? Or was it the invitation to start a fire the impetus for its removal?
Softened sunlight on the porch tells the larger story of the southern porch. This sheltered, protected outdoor space was not built only as a place to sip iced tea and mint juleps, but mostly as a way of controlling sunlight, allowing only just enough of the harsh southern sun to reach the interior of the house.
Jagged edges and open spaces along the porch and sides of the house show not only the destruction that has been visited upon this house, but also the quality of the structure and materials it is made from. Even with these broken spots, the house itself retains its integrity. The real wood of the siding is largely intact.
Below the house we can see that someone with at least some knowledge of building has decided to preserve the structure of the house, adding new concrete block and a new joist to prevent the porch from sagging. The brightness of this wood marks it as new, while the concrete blocks that support it are quite different from those that support the remainder of the house. Doing this required the used of a jack to lift the porch before setting the supports in place.
More concrete block has been added to create a stairway to access the building. This is a much simpler operation, but still requires some effort. By the way, this photo also shows why the new joist was needed. Do you see how the support closest to you is twisted? That shows that some force destabilized the porch.
Who would have put this effort into an abandoned house? Did someone buy the house and intend to fix it up? Did the amount of work needed discourage them and cause them to abandon the project?
Beneath the house, strewn about all over the ground is evidence that this is a favorite spot for another kind of abandon. Beer cans speak to the wild abandon that marks high school parties. It seems a bit extraordinary that a bunch of high school students would go to these lengths to save their party house, but one bit of evidence gives information that you, dear reader, may not know the import of. The cup, nearly buried in leaves, bears the name of a high school, and not just any high school. This is the high school in the wealthiest part of Gainesville, a high school known for money and parties. In other words, these are kids that have access to the money to put into an abandoned house.
The southern porch is a place to watch, to see what is going on in the world. Theater chairs, attached in a row, sit on this porch, as if the nearby park might be a play worth watching. Another set lays collapsed on the other side of the door, ready to be set up when the time is right.