Posts Tagged ‘Suburban Decay’

The Post-Dispatch is looking into the recent fire activity in the Carrollton neighborhood, which is certainly a step in the right direction. Perhaps with some media attention, Lambert will resume the demolition of our homes and finally put our area to rest. That has been the unintentional goal for 56 Houses Left, for I thought this project would only take a few months to finish. When I first started photographing in 2006 and when I created this blog in 2007, I thought, given the pattern of destruction, that everything would be wrapped up by early spring of 2008. Now, it is August, no demolition work has taken place since March, and we are witnessing the effects of a lawless area without the owner’s protection or concern through arson and other criminal activities so many have rumored to me about. Staged fights. Moltov Cocktails. And of course, the graffiti. This is why I don’t go into the area at night. This is why I don’t linger long there anymore. This is the disgrace that Lambert has blanketed our beloved homes with, and this is why we want something done. We can’t have our homes back. All we want is to go to bed at night knowing that the atrocities our families endured in the enddays was for some greater purpose. Unfortunately, Lambert still cannot prove that purpose exists, through the neglect I have documented.

The Post-Dispatch quoted me with 9 houses remaining and 17 have been burned. 9 houses remain relatively intact, but the 17 other parcels are in varying degrees of uninhabitable decay, 15 of which have suffered some type of fire.  Here is an updated list on the conditions of the 26 parcels as of yesterday, August 17th, 2008.

When looking at the dates, most of the dates are when I discovered the damage, not necessarily when it was inflicted. Give or take a few days prior for these dates.

12856 Bittick- Suffered severe weather damage April 10; barely structurally sound, heavy vandalism and racist graffiti.

12893 Bittick- Heavily graffitied in March 2008, burned to the ground around July 22, 2008.

4228 Manteca- Lots of vandalism, not structurally sound.

4217 Manetca- Heavily vandalized and graffitied, burned to the ground April 29, 2008.

4217 Manteca- Burned to the ground July 18.

4232 Manteca- Burned to the ground April 26.

4248 Brampton- Partial burn June 6th.

4247 Brampton- Majority burned July 22, ½ standing.

4245? Brampton- Near full burn June 1st, entire 2nd story gone

12736 Woodford Way- Burned to ground July 22, suffered major weather damage April 10

12752 Lonsdale- nearly burned to ground, less than ½ standing, March 30

4111 Weskan- burned to ground July 22

12634 Weskan- burned to ground June 14

4050 Chartley- burned to ground July 18

4219 Chartley- fire damage in back bedroom, May 2008; vandalism, not structurally sound

12637 Brumley- vandalism, appears to have charred marks on garage door

????? Hemet- heavily damaged due to vandalism.

12713 Asherton- burned halfway April 14th

12704 Marburn- heavily vandalism

12679 Grandin- major graffiti and vandalism

4323 Gladwyn- minor damage

14750 Gladwyn- minor damage (this one creeps me out the most- always had)

4197 Pont- minor damage, boarded windows

??? (green house) Pont- minor damage, boarded windows

???? Pont (corner of Pont and Gladwyn)- some damage, spotted many groundhogs using the home for shelter

4229 Pont- corner of Pont and Patty Lane(?)- boarded windows, relatively untouched

The homes on Pont and Gladwyn are the only ones remaining on the South side of 270.  I believe their close proximity to Natural Bridge Road has protected them from the heavy vandalism we have seen on the North side.

Thank you all to those who are standing behind me in my project to document the history of Carrollton.   I am still accepting photos and stories of Carrollton’s humble beginnings, if you would like to contribute to the book project.  You may contact me by clicking on the ‘contact’ link above.

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Nothing has happened in Carrollton since that fateful night where 4 houses caught fire.  7 houses in 48 hours burned suspiciously to the ground.   Since then, everything else has been relatively calm-  no vandalism, no arson, not even a thrown rock (not that there are any windows left to break).

So here is some info and other comments on the conditions of the last four houses that (probably) fell victim to arson.

12893 Bittick was a tan 1-story home on the corner of Bittick and Manteca.   Without good light and with much more photographic houses once nearby, I didn’t give this place too much attention.  Nevertheless, with time, some rather interesting things started to happen to this place which did start to spark my interest.   When I first discovered this house on Bittick, there was a white home adorned with red-orange trim next door.   Sometime in very early 2007, that home caught fire.  That was the first house that burned in Carrollton once I started photographing the area.

Back to 12893, another interesting feature is a wooden beam someone managed to shove through the front of the house at an odd angle.  The 6″x6″ beam was cleanly stuck right into the wall of the front of this home at a 45 degree angle as if it was a hot icepick stabbed through styrofoam.   One last little bit of interest from this home was the graffiti some vandals decided to scribble out on this place.  Inside, they wrote your typical middle school taunts, but on the outside wall they proclaimed large and loud in blue spray paint, “F*CK WORLD TRADE.”   I can’t help but be impressed that bored kids would take an interest in a divisive political issue.  Could it be that someone’s parent lost a job to a company that went overseas?  Could it be they want to boycott Chinese goods?  Whatever their position is on NAFTA (I am not taking this into a political discussion) and whether or not I agree with their message, we should get these kids off the street and into a spirited political science class NOW for here are some take-action kids with potential leadership qualities, albeit immature for now.

This house was burned completely to its foundation, leaving but a basement full of black ashes.

4247 Brampton was a white 1-story house with lots of brickwork and large green bushes in the front. The remains of a round, above-ground pool in the backyard stuck out of the ground like a strange white mini-Stonehenge.  This house was not much to speak of outside, especially being next door to a commanding two-story.  This little house was quaint, quiet, and almost completely camouflaged from the overgrowth of the bushes.   Inside, the place was relatively well kept.


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4050 Chartley has been the poster-child of what Carrollton has become, and since it too has been burned to the ground, has too suffered the arson fate that has claimed so many in recent days.

This iconic, lonely house stood at a rather prominent location on the corner lot of Chartley and Bondurant.   When I first photographed this place, the only indication that this otherwise cleanly kept home was abandoned was the few boarded up windows.  From the cottage-like shutters to the manicured bushes, this neat little house could have easily had its boards removed and a family move comfortably back in two years ago.  In fact, it had to have been abandoned longer than just two years, but with the loss of all other residents around, this home too became victim of intense vandalism in 2007, a fire which destroyed one corner of the home in the early spring of 2008, and the final, smoldering burn discovered on July 19, 2008.

Although once a fairly nice little place inside, it was the location of this house and the loss of all the other homes around it that attracted me to photograph it so much.   I do believe that this house was the first one I ‘seriously’ decided to photograph, exiting my car and looking for compositions for the first time.   It was in photographing this lonesome dwelling that I decided to take on this project for my thesis.

I was utterly enraged when I saw swastikas sprayed on the outside of 4050, and I proclaimed that I would not photograph such filth.  I still photographed the house and any other graffiti on it, but I tried to avoid angles in which one of the swastikas was painted correct (which was rare in the area for we must not be dealing with the brightest of vandals).  I didn’t post the photos as often, but I did continue to document the decline of this place.


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The most iconic, photogenic, and yes-my favorite home in Carrollton have burned to almost nothing the evening of Friday, July 18th.

When you document a static place consistently for almost two years, you find small niches where you return to again and again.  4245 Manteca was a house where I felt comfortable within, which is completely unexplainable for such a pathetic, haunting place.  Every time I return to the Carrollton wasteland, this house never seemed to lose that feeling that it was someone’s beloved home.  Despite the boarded up windows, glass patio door reduced to shards and welcoming in the elements, trashed out interior from wayward transients, and layers of boring graffiti, it still managed to carry on its former family’s presence.   I have no idea when this place was abandoned; it was vacant long before I started this project.  Considering it had boarded up windows and the airport stopped the practice of boarding up anything since 2003, this place had to have been abandoned for 4 years or more.   I would venture to guess it had been vacant for even more years than that.  

This house had some unusual characteristics such as customized interior archways and bold, bright colors. There was a terriffic skylight in the kitchen that cast a warm glow over all the glass and debris that vandals left in their wake.  An umber-toned brick mantle was the focus of a living room that was slowly being claimed by English ivy.  The yard was filled with the evidence of its former family.  There was a kid’s playset out back, nice quaint landscaping with pretty flowers in selected garden spots, a doghouse, birdhouses, etc.  The overall look of the interior was rather outdated.  A brown built-in stove matching dark woodwork in the kitchen and a dated color scheme suggested that remodeling was put off until they knew what would happen from the airport expansion.  Remodling in Carrollton was simply not done after the buyouts began since people knew they would not get their money out of it.  Keep in mind that rumors of the buyout were circulating in the late 1980s and the process actually began in the early 1990s.  Therefore, it makes some sense that this house may have not updated since the 80s.  I have come across more than a few houses that had some pretty old features, and 4245 certainly was no exception.


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I had to post this picture because, as we all know, nature will always win. Tiny maple trees are feeding from the ashes of this house. Although they have a long way to go, those little 6-12″ trees represent how truly abandoned this house is. Remember, this house has sat in this condition for four long months. At least mother nature is attempting to clean up the ruins of humans.

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I have no idea when it happened. It has been a while since I took a drive down Gist towards Lindbergh Blvd. ln May, Freebourne was still a park and a large family picnic was underway. I had thought about coming back later in the week to take pictures of the park where I had many great memories. So the next time I came back, another large picnic was being had, this time from a church outing. As I don’t want to interrupt a get-together, my camera and I left again for yet another day. This scenario happened repeatedly until I was completely drawn back to the burned houses for more artsy photographic explorations. Needless to say, I put the remaining attractions on Gist on the back list, assuming they would be there for a long time. I assume too much.

From the few new weeds grown on the dirt mound that was once the Robertson Fire Station, I would place the destruction around the end of May or early June. I can also venture to guess that is also when they decided to close down Freebourne as well.

For a while, I fantasized about purchasing the Firestation to turn it into an art studio. I honestly did not think the airport would go for that since it is directly across from the runway, but the tall, open interior space and upper apartment area would have made the most amazing studio and gallery. It used to be nestled right in with the large homes of Gist, and of course next to the park. It was still in operation as a firehouse during almost the entire buyout, closing down sometime late in 2006. Despite being openly visible to the new runway, the station had been heavily vandalized throughout 2007 and 2008.

The park was a place of many memories. I went to day-camp for 6 weeks in the summertime at Freebourne from the time I was 9 until I was 12. There was a giant bush with arching branches that created a wonderful lil hut where I would spend time playing. The playground portion of the park was on a steep hillside. Swinging from those swings, I would imagine jumping off and flying down the hill to my death. A concrete tunnel was once there, but I believe it was taken out sometime ago when parks everywhere converted to the boring plastic nightmares they are now. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful and large park with lots of forestry and wide open fields too. New developments do not reserve this kind of vast green space for parks anymore, and its sad to see such a useful space go to nothing. O’Connor Park is the last park near the Carrollton Subdivision that has not been divided (Oak Valley Park on Natural Bridge is barely in existence) or completely sold to the City of St. Louis. Oddly enough, you have to go through the streets of Carrollton to get to O’Connor Park, unlike Freebourne which was just to the outside. It puzzles me why they took Freebourne and not O’Connor too; O’Connor is an OK park, but its not nearly as large or picturesque as Freebourne and not nearly as accessible. It does have its nice spots, including a fantastic tree by the roller hockey rink and in general is rather (obviously) quiet. Overall, however, it doesn’t have very many trees at all and overlooks an unsightly industrial park. Rumor has it that O’Connor will remain in Bridgeton’s hands.

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4245 Brampton burned to nearly the ground on June 1st. Being a direct path through the subdivision and a nice shortcut for the city of Bridgeton, Brampton was always a major thoroughfare. So its no surprise that once the area was mainly vacated, this house suffered the brunt of the vandalism early on. People were getting into this house for some time, even while a family with small kids occupied the house on the corner from it. It was the last 2 story house left in Carrollton and the fire completely consumed the entire second story, leaving the first story completely torched yet standing. The water from the fire department had washed all the debris down the hill the house stood atop. As of this posting, the debris is still scattered across the yard, with merely red ‘do not enter’ tape wrapped loosely around the yard.

I didn’t explore this house much, except to photograph a random chicken which was wandering around this yard for about two weeks last fall. I don’t know how he got there, but I am sure he didn’t last long.

12634 Weskan burned to the ground around June 14th leaving only a few pipes and a brick window remaining in a vertical position. This one was a bit of a shock because its been relatively untouched for some time. The other homes lost to arson have either suffered great vandalism prior or at least were out of the main way through the area. Since this house did not have any graffiti and it was visible from 270, I would have not thought someone would try and burn it down. This place had been boarded up for as long as I can remember, and certainly while the owners of 4095 Weskan lived there. Other than the boards being knocked out and a few broken windows, this place had stayed relatively neat throughout the empty years. Even the bushes, now charred black, had seemed to grow in a manicured shape. The only thing I can remember being damaged early on was that the whole glass back door was broken out and the air conditoner laid in parts on the back patio.

These two latest examples demonstrate the complete lack of security of this area from the airport.

The Post-Dispatch reported yesterday that an additional 30 flights are being cut from Lambert.

So, Lambert- What are the long-term plans now regarding the former Carrollton Subdivision? The final occupants moved out 6 months ago. These houses are slipping into horrific desecration. The pool is a sickening health hazard. What are you going to do with this wasteland? We are all becoming more anxious to learn what will be the fate so we can finally close this book.

How much is the new runway really costing now? Apparently, it must cost more than you can afford to pay the demo crews to take out 26 home parcels, half of which have become arsonist playgrounds. The longer you leave them, the greater the risk of someone getting hurt. The red tape does not keep people out. Get those houses out of there, before it costs you (and I, the taxpayer) a lot more.

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Not since March 14th has an official demolition been carried out. In fact, the lineup of dumpsters and the wreckers themselves have been removed from the area in April. Lambert seems to be done for a while, which is completely inappropriate. 17 houses remains mainly intact while 9 others are left in charred ruins, some for months.

So to Lambert Expansion officials, who I hope read this: 26 former homes are left in sickening demise. End this deplorable mess NOW. For the sake of the people who once called this area home, finish what you have started and take out the remaining 26! They’re already displaced and planted elsewhere, but they still deserve dignity and respect! Give them the piece of mind that none of this was done in vain.. tear out the rest of the homes NOW!

Every house that now remains has been vacant for a year or more. Some have been vacant for four years; that is the last time they actually bothered to board up the empty homes. Those houses that once had that courtesy now have their rotten, moldy boards kicked out in the yards from the inside. There isn’t a single windowpane in Carrollton with a full sheet of glass. Most windows don’t even have a fragment of glass larger than a finger left in the frames.

We could say that we should be glad in this economy that Lambert at least got the people out. After all, they dragged their feet on the buyouts as some people waited in that limbo for over a decade. However, it just proves what a bad deal this was from the very start. They didn’t have the money then, and they surely don’t have it now. Its pathetic that Lambert forced some homeowners to wait as long as 2007, close to 15 years to finally move on. Its sick to leave their homes in this state of ruin and limbo for even longer.

Do the people of Carrollton still care? Do the former owners of the 26 remaining see what is happening? Yes they do, and I am witness. Former residents drive through all the time; I see them constantly while I am on my photo shoots. The worst was when I could finally drive two weeks ago, I went down Manteca, where some of my favorite subjects lie in ruin. I saw an old man parked outside the former two-story burn… his hand was over his eyes. Once he looked up and saw me from the opposite direction, he gained composure and quickly drove off. (more…)

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MantecaDriving down 370- “Hey, what’s up with the smoke… it looks like its coming from Carrollton.”

I hadn’t finished the history behind the last house fire from this weekend when I was alerted to a fire in the old neighborhood. When we got there, it wasn’t just one, but two homes on fire. They were 4217 Manteca, a giant, white two-story with red front doors and a huge favorite of mine, and 4050 Chartley, the lonesome white house on the corner lot of Chartley and Bondurant. The Chartley house is largely still intact, but the Manteca house, like its neighbor just up the street, is completely down to the concrete basement foundation.

When will Lambert learn? Again, I hope the fire district slaps the airport with enormous fines for allowing these houses to be put in this condition in the first place. If they needed them so badly, then they should take them down as soon as the owners move… not sitting vacant and useless for years. Its sad to see them destroyed via wrecker, but its even more sickening to watch them get vandalized and victimized to the point of arson. I hope the airport will now have the dignity to take out the rest of the homes soon before more families watch their homes burn away for nothing. The embarrassing news from last week’s post is bad enough for the residents. Hopefully, this rash of arson will make the news and give Lambert a slap on the other cheek.

4217 Manteca was completely destroyed on April 29th, 2008 by fire. It is the house from the night shot in this post. This house was in the top ten favorites for photographing, mainly because it had good light in the main rooms coming through the holes in the wall, and was fairly interesting overall. It was charming and definitely well-cared for until the very end. I’d even venture to guess that these people had pride in their house as it was updated with good carpet and contemporary kitchen styles. The clashing juxtaposition of an updated and cared for home with the vandalism made for a great subject. I’m not entirely sure when the occupants moved out, but it sat vacant for some time. (more…)

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This house at 4232 Manteca burned to the ground in the early hours of April 20th. You would think that, since two houses burned in two weekends, that some airport official will figure out the pattern and make some attempt at security. Well, they haven’t and now for the third weekend in a row, we have yet another house fire. This time, the house burned down to its foundation. I surely hope that the Pattonville fire department is charging Lambert heavily for their lack of protecting their own property. By the time I got there Sunday morning, the house was still smoldering. I took some haunting yet beautiful photos at this house, but I do miss this place already. Once again, you can never rely on taking pictures tomorrow. In Carrollton, there may be no tomorrow.

I always felt comfortable in this place. I had no qualms about entering here alone. Others, I have found, have not. One of my friends, just from viewing it from the exterior outright refused to go in. My husband swears this place is haunted… he said it gave him the most eerie vibes he’s ever experienced (and he’s grown up in 100+ year old houses). He said the living room especially felt haunted by something dark. Although I didn’t take this paranoia seriously, I will admit, he’s never been before the superstitious type, and in many ways much more braver than I. Knowing how much I liked this house, he went with me a couple times before, but refused to enter, so I went it alone. Its weird, but I found the exact opposite reaction to the living room. I found this parlor’s warm-hued window drapes to be almost enchanting as they billowed through the broken window’s breezes. The sitting room off to the left of the parlor had a brick fireplace and bright-red carpeting that clashed brilliantly against the view of the emerald-green through the busted up sliding glass back door. I wanted to explore the basement of this house, but never got the opportunity, until it was covered with the ashes of the floor above.

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