It has recently come to my attention that the properties I photographed in late 2014, two old, majestic beauties on Dixie Highway, have been torn down.
I first noticed this tragedy while browsing Google maps as I often tend to do, checking up on the properties I’ve photographed and researched. Then, a comment on both houses regarding their demise prompted me to head back to Google for photos of the most recent images of the properties that I can obtain long-distance.
For your comparison, 318 and 316 West Dixie, both built 1910, torn down around 2016–at 106 years old.
316 West Dixie:
Image above: 316 West Dixie in August, 2013.
Image above: 316 West Dixie, boarded up and abandoned, in fall 2014.
Image above: 316 West Dixie lot site, January 2016. Most trees (including what appeared to be the oldest tree on the site, right) are cut and removed.
318 West Dixie:
Image above: 318 West Dixie, August 2013.
Image above: 316 West Dixie, Fall 2014.
Image above: 316 West Dixie lot site, January 2016.
Image above: looking south down the Dixie Highway at 316 and 318 lot sites. (316 lot site is closest, 318 lot site is just past 316).
In conclusion, I am completely with the lady who commented on my original 316/318 West Dixie posts–this certainly shows the true colors of the historic society and the Elizabethtown government that not one but two 106-year-old homes stood vacant for 2-3 years before being destroyed–not sold, remodeled, or restored–but torn down.
Congratulations, Elizabethtown. Your heritage speaks for itself.
Kentucky is full of little towns with only a relative handful of people (who are usually all relatives!), quietly abandoned houses, and a lot of silent, ignored history.
Munfordville, Kentucky, just off I-65, fits the bill. Most notably in its rich past, Munfordville brought up two boys who would end up generals on opposite sides of the Civil War.
As I was strolling Munfordville in early 2013, I couldn’t help but notice this incredible–and very neglected–old house.
The sagging porch, the faded grandeur of an age long gone–oh, I had to see more!
The walking tour and the sign in front identified the home as the Francis Asberry Smith & Louise Thomas Smith House. The details of its origins were meager, which only served to make it more mysterious.
The more I saw, the more I was amazed. The house seemed to never end. It was certainly one of the largest in-town homes I’ve come across. And from the broken glass of its front windows to the sidewalk that hugged the south wall to the curiously empty lot next door, it practically oozed a story ripe for the telling–if I could only find it.
The notice–a small sign posted on the front door–told me what the home had been most recently. But before this old beauty was an apartment, who had she belonged to? Who lived here? Who dreamed her up?
My most immediate source was the walking tour pamphlet that was guiding me through town. It offered this tidbit:
At the end of the block is the Francis Asberry Smith House. This beautiful old home was built around 1835, the date impressed on several of the bricks used in construction.
F. A. Smith moved to Munfordville in 1830 and started a general store and later a meat processing plant. During the war, Smith, a staunch Union man, refused to sell any products to the Confederacy. It is unknown as to why they did not confiscate his goods, unless his friendship with Buckner had some influence.
Knowing that this home had once hosted Civil War generals made the fact that it looked about to fall into the dust all the more disheartening. However, as time passed, thoughts of the FA Smith house faded, and it wasn’t until recently that I thought of it again.
Pulling up my trusty Google maps, I decided to cruise downtown Munfordville and see if this ghostly structure was still standing. Sure enough…
June of 2013, so sayeth the Google maps copyright date, shows one of the most obvious features of the home in chaos: the front porch, fallen from its perch, now resting on the façade of the home. Look closely, however, and you’ll notice that this is not the doing of nature, but rather of two men standing to the left of the porch.
Of course, being the fatalist that I am, I immediately worried that this was part of the demolition until I realized…they wouldn’t send two men to remove the porch if they were bent on destroying the house.
Well, would you look at that! Signs of someone cleaning up the place? It’d be a first in my F&F chronicles that a beaten up and abandoned old home was actually reclaimed and restored, but that’s exactly what it looked like they were up to in June of 2013.
In the process of researching F. A. Smith for the purpose of a more in-depth history post, I was fortunate enough to come across a historic photo of the house at the following link:
Yet again, another prime example of the consequences of passing time. This photo is undated, though the caption at the link above indicates that a photo of the home ran in a Harper’s Ferry newspaper during the time of the Civil War. (Please note: it is not the opinion of the writer that this was the photo that was used in said article as the apparel of one of the men on the porch and the quality of the photo would suggest a later era).
One of the first “modern” photos I found of the house was the above photo, listed on Flickr. Taken in 2009, this photos reveals that a very run-down church, complete with boards over the windows and scattering shingles, used to sit next to the Smith House. Even back in 09, you can still see the sag in the porch roof, but the house appears to be in overall better shape than it was when I found it 4 years later.
In December of 2010, the house is starting to show signs of wear and tear. The church next door is still standing, though it appears that debris from the dilapidated church still blows over onto the Smith house and property. http://landmarkhunter.com/153384-f-smith-house/
The above document is an NPS “Kentucky Historic Resources” form. It is dated Jan 23, 1980–just about 6 months before the home was placed on the historic register. This revealing document details several facts:
According to sources in the area, the original owner was a man named George A. Craddock.
Even according to this revealing document, the builder remains unknown.
Craddock sold the home to Mr. Smith in 1837 when Smith moved to Munfordville from Harper’s Ferry.
The porch was added in the 20th century, proving my assumption (that the photo above was taken in a later era) correct.
Judge McCandless bought the home in the 1920’s, which would indicate that there was a significant gap of time (from 1889, when the Smiths moved to Missouri, to 192?, when McCandless moved in) during which a different, unknown family(ies) likely occupied the house.
Judge McCandless was the owner who added the porch according to this 1980 document, which would put the date of the oldest photo known of the home sometime in the 1920’s or 1930’s.
At the bottom of the document, someone appears to have sketched a layout of the interior of the house, era unknown. It indicates that the back of the house is an addition
Still wondering about Mr. Smith and Judge McCandless? Don’t worry. An in-depth history post with all the details of the known owners is soon to follow.
I knew it’s happen sooner or later–one of the questionable old derelicts I’d photograph, document and research would be restored. And that’s what happened with the F. A. Smith house.
Incredibly, I saw the home at what was likely the peak of its neglect, just prior to renovation efforts, which turned this historic old home into a physical therapy and wellness office. The work carried out by the physician who bought the place was so noticeable that he was recognized with an award.
There’s nothing that holds my attention like a good mystery, and for quite some time, the forgotten remains of isolated Camp Lucy Mac in Ludington State Park, Michigan, have been just that. If you’ve not yet read this article, please follow the link below for the full tour of Camp Lucy Mac as she looks today:
But where there’s a will, there’s usually a way, and about a week ago, I finally got ahold of the newspaper articles that would provide me with the information–and even a few of the photos–I’ve been looking for. Through these articles, I’ve been able to discover some information that was previously unknown and confirm a few of the rumors I’ve heard.
Here in chronological order are some of the more interesting articles, courtesy of the Ludington Daily News, pertaining to Camp Lucy Mac.
Camp Lucy Mac Bonus: The Lodge, The Rec Building, or Something Like It…
Since my first article on Camp Lucy Mac, I have struggled to clearly define which building at the camp was the lodge and which one was the recreation hall, opting simply to call the buildings Bldg 1 and Bldg 2 as I could not say with certainty which one was which. Not necessarily assisting me in my quest to delineate between these two buildings are the newspaper articles that seem to confuse each building with each other for different reasons. Before I go into detail on the reasoning behind this debate and for your reference, here’s a copy of the map from my previous article.
So, here we go: why I was so darn confused about the buildings of Camp Lucy Mac!
Case 1: Bldg 1 is the Lodge, Bldg 2 is the Rec Hall / Kitchen / Dining Hall.
Evidence for Case 1: The June 22, 1944 article clearly describes the lodge as being at the end of a lagoon with a “great view of the lake”. This readily describes Bldg 1 and not Bldg 2, which does not border any water. Notably, this section of the article doesn’t mention a recreational building at all.
Less on the scientific and more on the intuition side of things, Bldg 1 struck me initially as the lodge, not Bldg 2, which was less scenic and seemed more like a general purpose building. But hey, they’re foundations. What do I know.
Case 2: Bldg 1 is the Rec Hall / Kitchen / Dining Hall, Bldg 2 is the Lodge.
Evidence for Case 2: Just when you think you have everything all figured out, a newspaper article gums up the works! A July 16, 1942 article, which includes a photo of what (structurally speaking) almost has to be Bldg 1, specifically refers to this structure as the Rec Hall / Kitchen / Dining Hall.
Per the photograph in the article, the building is in an L-shape; the only L-shaped foundations found at Lucy Mac were those of Bldg 1. This clearly does not describe Bldg 2. The building was described as having a kitchen and a stone fireplace, which have both survived in varying degrees to this day as the fireplace is still visible and the tile in the end of Bldg 1 appear to be from a kitchen. Structurally speaking, Bldg 2 has nothing to suggest that it ever contained a kitchen or a stone fireplace…or at least, it has nothing remaining!
Case 3: Bldg 1 is all of the above and Bldg 2 is something completely different.
Y’know, sometimes it just happens: buildings undergo structural and/or functional changes, and are known by various names at different times, sometimes going by two names interchangeably. I believe this is almost certainly the case in this little saga as in one instance, the June 22, 1944 article actually refers to the recreation hall and the dining hall / kitchen / stone fireplace as being the same building: “The rustic recreation building served as a dining hall and kitchen and the stone fireplace was used for campfire when rain prevented the use of outdoor campfire”. Interestingly, this section of the article doesn’t even mention a lodge.
As a teasing additional tidbit, a June 21, 1941 article describes a dedication ceremony that took place in the “main lodge”, suggesting that there may have actually been two buildings that served as lodges at one point in time.
Now, while the information presented in Case #3 doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibilities of either Case #1 or Case #2 being correct, it does seem to confirm that the same building is being described in two separate parts of the same article and is apparently known by two names. This is the most likely answer and (for the moment) the best conclusion I can offer to my lingering constructional conundrum at Camp Lucy Mac.
Harper’s Ferry is a city rich in history, much of which is interpreted right on the surface of the town’s bustling tourist district. However, there are a few interesting little pieces of history that aren’t interpreted in plain view of the casual tourist, and as you well know, those are some of my favorite mysteries.
Hopefully, my previous post and the photos therein have whetted your curiosity as to the origins of this building, as the original encounter drove me to vigorously research the history. Although the NPS didn’t take the time to interpret the building itself on site, I did find one tiny, tantalizing historic photo on an interpretive sign near Lock 33 of this building in what must’ve been its heyday.
This only drove me to search harder, though all these years, I was never able to find out anything more about this building other than that tiny photo on the interpretive sign. My first clue that this search may be a bit easier this time around was when I came across this photo right off the bat:
When I first started my search anew on Google, I came across modern photos of this building, which reported this structure as Lockhouse 33. Being that the house sits directly across from the now-dry C&O canal and Lock 33, that seemed to make perfect sense. It was also reported that a flood had destroyed the wooden floors and roof, leaving the house a shell.
Admittedly a bit embarrassed that I hadn’t guessed that this structure was the Lock 33 lockhouse, I continued my search for more information until I finally found a reputable source for my information–and interestingly, this source’s version of what this building actually is differs quite a bit from the rumors.
Finally, after wading through pages of photos and supposition, I found three solid sources upon which to base the history of the Stone House. The house actually stood partially on C&O Canal land, so after making an agreement with the canal company, a man by the name of James Eglin began blasting away at the bedrock of Maryland Heights that still stands directly behind the house. Eglin built the house starting in the winter of 1840 and completed it before spring in 1841.
Now, Eglin was a businessman in Harper’s Ferry, but unfortunately, despite his business savvy, he was never able to obtain the title for the house. It seems that Eglin rented the house out after it was built, but come Civil War time, the Union Army tossed out Eglin’s tenant and turned over the house to the lockkeeper at Lock 33, a gent by the name of John H. Reed.
John Reed reportedly operated a store out of the stone house as well as a some sort of bar. Reed occupied the property until 1889, when, at the time of his death, the property passed to his son, Winfield S. Reed. Incidentally, there was also a massive flood on the river in 1889, which reportedly caused considerable damage to the canal, boats, and structures that were built near the canal.
Now, Winfield Reed wasn’t exactly–shall we say–a responsible young man. Turns out, he was indebted to a man by the name of Albertus Spencer for quite a pretty penny, and in 1893, Spencer won the house and another property lot after a lawsuit against Reed. Spencer, apparently without many bright ideas of his own, continued to operate a store and drinking-type establishment out of the stone house, which had quickly earned itself quite the reputation–so much so that a petition forced the place to shut down just before Prohibition took effect in the second decade of the 1900s. The petition apparently stemmed from not just the reputation of the drinking house, but from a fight that occurred earlier in the year in front of the house that resulted in several people losing their lives.
With Prohibition in effect, Spencer built a two-story wooden frame house next to the stone house and moved his store to the new structure. In the stone house itself, he opened a museum that featured information about the infamous John Brown. During this time, Spencer conveyed the stone house to his wife, Mary Spencer, and upon her death in 1923, the house passed on to her sister, Elizabeth A. Stockman. Stockman lived in the second story of the stone house, continuing to operate the museum on the first floor from 1924-1927. In 1927, Elizabeth Stockman moved, taking the museum and its artifacts with her and leaving the stone house to her son, Edgar Spencer Weaver. Weaver lived in the house from 1927-1930, when he and his family moved to a new house on a different lot.
The years 1930-1933 are a bit of a question mark in the history of the stone house, but in 1933, when Prohibition was repealed, Edgar Spencer Weaver’s widow, Hester Weaver, reportedly re-opened the two-story frame building next to the stone house as the bar that would become infamous in Harper’s Ferry and an entity that the stone house is still mistaken as today: The Salty Dog Tavern. Though the bar was closed in the early 1940s, the area around the stone house was once again know for its bad reputation and high concentration of drunks.
From 1947-1953, a man named Patrick O’Brien owned the house and used it as a rental property. In 1953, he sold the house to Richard and Marie Torres for $5,000. What the Torreses did with the place, I’m not quite sure, but it’s pretty clear they didn’t do much in the way of caring for the house. A fire in 1960 reportedly damaged the structure considerably, and by the time the National Park Service was taking over control of Maryland Heights in 1963, my sources report that the internal structure of the stone house was on the verge of collapse.
Yet another fire several years after the first was apparently enough to do-in the interior of the house, and all that remained standing is what we see today–a stone shell of a home.
Though if you take a look at the previous post, you’ll discover what I consider to be a bit of a mystery.
Sure, if you look closely at the interior of the house, you might be able to see a bit of charring, especially on the walls of the second story.
But what about the wooden windowsills and doorframes that remain intact in the house? Are those original? Were they somehow spared from the fire? Did the park service decide to replace them for scenic purposes? That is one question I have that I may never answer.
If you’ve never been to Harper’s Ferry, WV, I highly recommend it. Despite being one of the most history-rich areas I’ve ever toured, it’s also stunningly beautiful–a classic old American town built into the side of mountains overlooking the convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. What’s more, it’s a perfect place for someone such as myself, who finds a certain allure in the abandoned and ignored.
Though a large percentage of the town and the surrounding area are actually contained in a National Park, I’ve found that due to the NPS’s tendency to let ruins be ruins, the fact that these locations are not perhaps as remote or neglected as others I’ve explored doesn’t detract from the mystery of what they once were.
While there are several abandoned places I might take you in Harper’s Ferry, I figured I’ll start with my favorite location: the Stone House.
As much as I’d love to tell you all I’ve learned about the history of this interesting home, I’ve found myself inundated by the sheer amount of research I’ve located. Due to this fact, I will be writing a second post on this house, dedicated solely to the history. Stay tuned!
Here’s a question for you: what do you do when someone tells you about a 1950’s-era Scout camp, the remnants of which lie abandoned in an isolated woods within the confines of a popular state park? You go find it, of course!
It was a cloudy day and a long trek to reach the location that was reportedly the site of a summer camp back in the post-WWII era. So take a visit to back when times were a little simpler and the forest was just a wee bit thinner.
IF YOU VISITED this page before 11/10/15, it might benefit you to give it another read! Based on further information discovered, this article has been heavily edited.
PLEASE NOTE: for the sake of privacy, the folks who accompanied me on this visit have been removed from the photos. As I am not photo shop-savvy, I have simply cut them out of the pics and filled in the area remaining with a solid color. I apologize for the lack of aesthetics in this post, but do try to look past the glaring edits to see the beauty of nature reclaiming this old campground.
And now, the history…
As you might imagine, a find like this left me itching for answers. While my source knew the approximate location of the abandoned ruins of the above camp, my source wasn’t sure what years the camp operated, what it was called, or if it was a Boy Scout camp versus a Girl Scout camp. Upon returning home and to internet coverage, I began my search immediately.
Surprisingly, information about this particular location was hardly forthcoming. Several hours of searching left me thinking I’d never get to the bottom of this one until a name popped up in an old newspaper clipping from 1941: Camp Lucy-Mac.
Upon reading the article, I realized I had found what I was looking for. I found yet another newspaper article, this one from 1944, which gave me the lowdown of this little-known campground.
Back in 1932, the Girl Scouts (GS) took over a Boy Scout camp at Canfield Lake, which is just north of Ludington near a town called Manistee. It was renamed Camp Michawa. This worked out well for a few years until this small inland lake dried up to the point where it no longer supported water activities, and the GS folks moved across the lake to Wisconsin to Camp Sinawa in 1936. But the Michigan GS troops wouldn’t find themselves traveling across Lake Michigan to attend camp for long.
In the early months of 1937, a lady named Lucy McCarthy was watching her efforts to create a GS camp in Ludington State Park (LSP) take root. Having organized the meetings between the Michigan Conservation representatives and the GS leaders, the site for a GS camp within LSP was approved on a 6-degree March day. From that point on, construction and reorganization began.
Mrs. McCarthy organized local men from Ludington to come out and cut down trees, clear out poison ivy, and make the area generally inhabitable for excited Girl Scouts and their counselors. She also orchestrated the transfer of items from Camps Sinawa and Michawa to the new site, bringing over everything from tents to tent floors to latrines and an outdoor stove to Lucy-Mac via Lake Michigan.
On July 11, 1937, Camp Lucy-Mac opened and was named in honor of the lady who had worked so hard to start it. According to the Ludington Daily News, Mrs. Jennie Lind was the director, and the camp, though humble, was off to an auspicious start. By way of activities, Lucy-Mac boasted outdoor cooking classes, swimming, boating, hiking, overnight trips, handicraft, and an opportunity to work on scout badges.
That isn’t to say the budding camp wasn’t without its problems. In its first year, there were no permanent buildings–only tents. The Girl Scouts who attended that year named the main dining tent “the sieve” due to the amount of water that poured in through its holey roof during rain showers. The outdoor stove was the only location where food could be cooked in the entire camp, and so all food was cooked outdoors–rain or shine. The wells that were sunk on the day that the camp opened were soon shown to have bad water, so all water was brought to Lucy-Mac from the CCC Ludington-Pere Marquette camp from across Hamlin Lake in large milk cans. To boot, it seems that the men Mrs. McCarthy had recruited to pull poison ivy were not as thorough as they ought to have been as the paper reports that this first year, most of the staff got poison ivy so badly that nearly each of them had to go home at some point to recover.
In later years, permanent buildings would be added, starting in 1938 with a screened-in kitchen. The outdoor stove became an incinerator and a convenient location to make popcorn at night. By 1941, the State Park would add a bathhouse, laundry, a lodge, and recreation building.
According to a newspaper article from June 22, 1944 (which is the main source for this article), the lodge building, which is likely referencing Bldg 1 in this particular case, was described as being at the end of a lagoon with a great view of the lake. (For further info on why this has been a point of contention in my research, please scroll down for a link to the next article pertaining to Lucy Mac!)
Behind (south of) the lodge, there was the sandy playground–surely the clearing we came upon on the way to the camp–which was used for making tin can breakfasts, playing baseball, and hosting nightly campfires and evening dramas put on by the campers. The girls’ tents were set up around the lodge and swimming area. And finally, Pirate Island, which was just north of Lucy-Mac, was nearby enough to host camp-outs and tin can cookouts (remember those tin cans one of my companions had noticed in the water?).
While I was able to discover its opening date, I have not yet discovered when or why Camp Lucy-Mac was closed or what led to it being demolished to its foundations. If any of you happen to know the history behind this curious camp, please leave a comment below!
EDIT 11/10/15: I have recently gained access to the aforementioned newspaper clippings that reveal more information and also contain some photos of this camp. The article containing this info is now live! For your convenience, please follow the link below:
Hello again, happy readers! Today, I take you to the barrier islands of Virginia: specifically, the Chincoteague National Wildlife Preserve on Assateague Island.
Whilst walking down the beach on an idyllic vacation in this mosquito-ridden paradise, I glimpsed from a distance a couple of abandoned buildings one fine summer’s eve. Repelled by mosquitoes who feared neither the threat of slapping hands nor the stench of Deep Woods Off!, I vowed to return one day, armed with a map that showed me the objects of a future photographic mission: the Assateague Coast Guard Station. It wasn’t until a year or so later when I returned during the winter–and not coincidentally, mosquito-free months–to photograph the lost and lonely of this stunning island.
These photos were taken in the early winter months of of 2012, so keep in mind that these photos are not current.
PLEASE NOTE that these photos are of the Assateague Island CG Station and Boathouse only. Unfortunately, the Lifesaving Station, which was located near the head of the Woodland Trail, is no longer in existence.
Behold, the object of my inquiry! Looking at the above map toward the southern border of the island, you’ll note the Old Coast Guard Station, denoted on the southern-most edge of Tom’s Hook. While the fish factory ruins are also present along that shoreline, we did not identify those ruins and were only successful in finding the old CG station.
And now, for the meat and potatoes of why you probably read this blog. The photos!
Now, before you go assuming the worst of your gracious host, it was at this point that I began to wonder if this building was in fact a fish factory as the map would’ve had me believe. Given the fact that a boardwalk ran from the confirmed Coast Guard Station out to the mysterious building and the fact that the fish factory seemingly had no business on the water, I had already started to suspect that this building was part of the Coast Guard station and not in fact a former fish factory.
Immediately following the section of the adventure, we followed the boardwalk back to land and found ourselves staring at this remarkable piece of history that stands very nearly alone on an all but abandoned spit of land: the Assateague Island Coast Guard Station.