According to the 2010 Census, four residents remain in Lily, South Dakota, a charming little town in Day County, about 45 miles southeast of Aberdeen. It’s in lakes country and it is a beautiful drive. There are a number of fading structures in Lily (so many in fact that I didn’t even shoot them all) including a former gas station, and a church that looks like it was converted to a shop or possibly a home. …
The sun doesn’t set in Silver City. It pulls a curtain across the mountains as it moves.
At 6,000 feet, the ghost town sits in a bowl surrounded by 8,000 ft. mountains. The darkness settles on the western face first, then drifts across the valley floor, as though it didn’t want the day to end. Moving like a miner at the end of his shift underground, the shadow makes its way up the eastern face before merging in secrecy with the night.
The stars announce their presence in bursts of constellations and galaxies that can’t be seen by city dwellers. The town that thrived before Idaho became a state doesn’t have light pollution.
Silver City is one of the few mining towns that didn’t explode in flames or evaporate into 21st-century consumerism. Visiting Silver City is going back into history only to find history isn’t decades old, but rather still around us every moment.
I was in western Idaho shooting a couple gigs for some clients when one asked me if I wanted to see a real, genuine, old-fashioned ghost town. I couldn’t help but think, what other kind of ghost town is there if it’s not “…genuine” and “old-fashioned.”
Jumping into their beat-up jeep with the olive paint held together by brown rust spots, we moved along the road watching the animals fight for space with passing tumbleweeds. Leaving the modern world behind us, we turned left and didn’t stop until we landed in the past, 25 miles later and a 125 years ago.
Silver City once had over 20,000 people living inside its sprawling lots and acreage. Over 1000 mines honeycombed the peaks while eight saloons kept the miners thirst away and three brothels kept them happy. A general store was the entry for nourishment and provisions. Even a hospital existed.
Today, there are still 75 structures left. Built between the 1860s and early 1900s, today they stand vacant and solitary as though waiting for flickers of former residents to come back home.
When Silver City was relishing its zenith, the metropolis had a baker ‘s dozen of streets, seventy-five businesses, three-hundred homes and a population of about 2,500.
Some of the country’s major stage lines operated in the area and in 1874, Silver City had the first telegraph and daily newspaper in the territory. Telephones were in use by 1880 and the town was “electrified” in the 1890s.
If you look carefully, you can discover four distinct burial areas despite nature’s voracious struggle to reclaim them.
Being a child of the 50s and 60s, I felt as I might see Gene Autry tie up his horse at the old hotel that hasn’t changed in 100 years and maybe Tom Mix coming out of the tavern after killing his thirst — with a sarsaparilla of course. No beer or whiskey for my childhood champions.
The streets were sandy. Just as they should be in the shades of recall. The saloon doors rocked solemnly in the stiff evening gust and the church on the hilltop, Boothill, was the only building that made the evolution from cowboy movie into the 21st century.
Silver City lies 70 miles southwest of Boise in the Owyhee Mountains. Take Highway 78 out of Murphy and turn on Highway 95 near Sheaville, at the Silver City turnoff. The town is only accessible by car from about Memorial Day until the end of October. The rest of the year, a snowmobile is needed.
Jerry Nelson is an American freelance-photojournalist. He turns his pen and camera on social justice issues globally. When he’s not traveling, he lives in Buenos Aires with his Argentina wife, Ale, and their cat Tommy. Contact Jerry today at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter (@Journey_America)
All content copyright Jerry Nelson, Journey America, and Sonic Tremor Media.
This is a guest post on historic Rush, Arkansas from international photojournalist Jerry Nelson of Journey America. His comments are included below.
Rush, Arkansas is the leftover of a zinc mining town in the Ozark Mountains in north Central Arkansas. Thriving from 1880 until 1940, the mines were important in the development of the railroads.
When World War I broke out, the Rush Creek mines were at the epicenter of zinc mining in the state. Ten mining companies operated 13 mines — more than any other mining district within Arkansas.
The buildings and ruins still visible at Rush are all that remain of the mines and the families that lived, worked, worshiped and played there. All traces of other mining districts have disappeared and Rush is the only one left not just with the buildings, but the mines as well.
The Rush Historic District today looks as it did when it was at the epicenter. The ghost town, mines and waste piles are still visible in the bluffs and set the flavor of an abandoned mountain mining community.
The district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
Photos copyright Jerry Nelson, JourneyAmerica.org
Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media
Tolstoi, Manitoba is very tiny hamlet about 90 kilometers south of Winnipeg and was one of the earliest Ukrainian settlements in Western Canada. I visited Tolstoi during a trip to photograph some abandoned places in southern Manitoba, like Canada’s first Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is just outside nearby Gardenton, and I’ve photographed a couple more places in the area, too, like the church in Union Point, and Ridgeville, Manitoba. …
This is a guest post from Kim Taylor of Discovered Dereliction, who was kind enough to share some photos from an adventure in South Dakota.
This solemn beauty is near Vale, South Dakota. I discovered it on one of my numerous back road trips looking to capture the many wonders of the Dakotas. …
Bodie, California might be the most photographed ghost town in the world. Tourists and photographers by the thousands visit this former mining community in Mono County every year, eager to see the former city of twelve-thousand empty, in a state of “suspended decay.”
These images were captured by photographer Ronald Partridge for the National Park Service as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey. Mr. Partridge’s photos illuminate a perfect moment in time, July, 1962, as California designated Bodie a State Historic Park.
Over the decades, Bodie has become a symbol of westward expansion, boom and bust economics, and the enduring fascination with the American roadside — no sleight to mom and apple pie, but put Googie architecture, Route 66 and Bodie, California on the list of things that are authentically America.
Gold was first discovered in Bodie in 1839, and according to the HABS report filed in 1962:
“…a quartz vein was discovered in August, 1859; but, though many efforts were made to exploit the area, it was not until 1874 that the great potential wealth of the district became promising, Bodie reached its pinnacle by 1879-80 when the population was estimated at 10 to 12-thousand, and when the production from the mines on Bodie Bluff was at its peak.”
“During all of the productive years the mines contributed 95 to 100 million in gold and silver bullion; and “highgrading” was carried on so openly that it was the magnet for the worst of the underworld who made “The Bad Man From Bodie” notorious.”
Notes on Bodie’s condition in 1962 were also included in the report.
“In its present state, the town of Bodie presents an abandoned and desolate aspect to the lone tourist with no moving thing in view unless it is a blade of grass, for there is not a living soul, excepting another tourist, or even a growing tree in the town or on the surrounding hills.”
“Bodie is situated in a semi-arid country at an elevation of 8300 feet where only a scrubby sage brush can endure the rigors of the weather. It is located 12 miles over a dirt mountain road east of U. S. Highway 395 near the Nevada border about 10 miles due north of Mono Lake.”
“An abundance of very good water is available from springs. At one time there were twelve breweries operating in Bodie for this reason.”
“The houses and buildings have a uniformity due to the common denominator of the same mouldings, siding and trim which appears to have been produced by a single mill. Also the raw sun-burned and unpainted pine of which the buildings are, for the most part, constructed adds to uniformity in color which blends with the red and brown earth. Variety is achieved by variation in plan and form of buildings and three or four brick buildings that still are standing, which becomes evident only upon closer observation.”
Visiting Bodie today requires ten miles of paved rural highway, and three more miles on a gravel road. I’ve also heard it’s cash only, and the nearest ATM is about 20 miles away.
This is exceptionally dry country and fire is always a concern. Bodie was devastated by fire three times — in 1892, 1932, and 1946.
Read more about Bodie State Historic Park at DesertUSA.
There’s little more haunting than a pioneer cemetery.
The photos on this page have been cropped, cleaned, and enhanced, and are copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Taunton State Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts was founded as the State Lunatic Hospital at Taunton and opened in the spring of 1854. It was the second asylum in the state of Massachusetts, built to ease congestion at the hospital in Worcester.
Taunton State Hospital’s main Kirkbride structure was designed by architect Elbridge Boyden, and several more wings were added over the years.
Taunton State Hospital expanded many times over the years until nearly forty buildings were included in complex. The main Kirkbride building closed in 1975.
These photos were captured by the Historic American Buildings Survey, the exact year and photographer are unknown, but it was sometime before the dome collapsed in 1999.
A fire struck the main facility in 2006, and the bulk of the original Taunton State Hospital was demolished in 2009, despite other parts of the facility continuing to operate and treat patients under the same name.
Lizzie Borden claimed to have been held in the asylum while she was awaiting trial (Lizzie Borden enthusiasts dispute this, the link where we got the info has now been taken offline), but records show she was never admitted to the hospital — only held in the jail. Serial killer Jane Toppan, who committed thirty-one murders by poisoning in the last decade of the 1800s, was also a patient at Taunton.
These skywalks, designed so patients could be shuttled easily about, were one of the most striking features about Taunton State Hospital. Turn of the century asylums frequently struggled to efficiently transport patients, many who were in wheelchairs, from building to building. We visited the remains of a sanatorium in North Dakota where this was accomplished with tunnels.
Matthew Christopher, an artist we respect and admire, visited Taunton some years back. Check out his amazing photos here.
The photos on this page have been cropped, cleaned, and enhanced, and are copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Last summer we visited the former Devils Nest ski resort, a failed resort in Knox County near Lewis & Clark lake, for a photo shoot. If you missed that, you can catch up here.
Curtis F. of South Dakota saw that piece and sent us some vintage promotional materials dating to the days when hopes were still high for Devils Nest. Click these images to see ’em full-size.
Although the resort never panned out, the wildlife and outdoor living are still quite an attraction in this part of northern Nebraska.
The ski resort operated for a couple years. Today, it looks like this.
When you open the second brochure, a little pop-up raccoon character presents you with a mail return card to get more information.
Although the yacht club actually got built, the Devils Nest Inn never did.
Since the advent of home video and the multiplex, the drive-in theater has been on the decline. Now, the transition to digital projection is threatening to end the drive-in for good, as more of the few remaining theaters are closing every year. This is the former Pineview Drive-In in Long Pine, Nebraska, where many magical memories were made. This site is just off Highway 20/7, on the county line between Rock and Brown Counties.
We arrived to find the owner has thoroughly fenced the entire site and posted the property, so we respected the owner’s wishes and took our photos from outside the fence.
Pineview opened in 1954 as an independently operated drive-in theater.
On busy nights, cashiers worked both sides of the booth. Before the carload pricing model, your friends had to hide in the trunk until you were past this booth, lest you have to pay for every individual in the car.
The playground was always a great place to meet other kids who went to different schools. Plenty of school days romances began here under the pink and orange hues of the Nebraska sky at dusk.
I’ve seen a few drive-ins in my day, but I’ve never seen one that was constructed entirely from a timber framework like this.
We photographed the remains of another drive-in, Stardust 17 in North Dakota a few years ago.
The gravel road on the left (above) marks the county line between Rock and Brown Counties.
Below: This is where the railroad behind the drive-in used to be. It’s now a recreation route called the old Cowboy Trail.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media
Verdel, Nebraska is a tiny town in Knox County, in northeast Nebraska, with a population of 30 according to the 2010 Census.
It was founded in a different spot some miles away, but Verdel boomed in 1902 when the Chicago & North Western railroad reached this spot in the rolling green prairie carpet near the junction of the Niobrara and the Missouri.
Nanza (Ponca Fort), a fortified village built by the Ponca in 1700, is nearby.
This sewer opening was scary. Years of gutter runoff have widened the maw. A person could get swept right into this thing in a downpour if you lost your footing.
Shooting Verdel reminded us a little bit of another place… Kathryn, North Dakota.
We had only been in Verdel for a few minutes when a friendly lady stopped to see if we were looking for anything in particular. Terry told her we were just admiring some of the old buildings. She continued on to a home down the road and left us to our photos.
This church was the first thing we photographed when we arrived in Verdel. The only things as good as huge, majestic churches are these tiny little sanctuaries.
Like many midwestern towns, the Verdel area suffered through serious flooding in 2011.
These structures are all right along Highway 12, the main route through Verdel.
Verdel is just down the road from another very impressive near-ghost town, Monowi, Nebraska.
David R Morgan American Legion Post 223.
The old school waits on the hill.
Only the slab remains from some long gone structure.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Devils Nest abandoned ski resort is in northeast Nebraska, Knox County, not far from the recreation areas on Lewis and Clark Lake.
Devils Nest was part of a large luxury resort planned for this part of Nebraska, and this unlikely ski area actually operated for a few years in the early 70s. A 25-story hotel was planned and there were supposed to be luxury homes as well, but, according to the Sioux City Journal:
In 1974, the Nebraska Secretary of State dissolved the Devils Nest Development Co. for nonpayment of corporate occupation taxes. Banks foreclosed on the property the following year, and the property was sold at auction to satisfy judgments in 1977.
The current owner of Devils Nest bought it in 2008.
Terry and I had been traveling most of the morning through beautiful country and we were eager to get into Devils Nest to shoot. When we arrived, we found one of the roads into the site and we were somewhat surprised to see it was un-gated and not posted.
Update: Since we left, the property owner has contacted us and informed us the property is private. We’d like to add it’s private, even though there are some routes into the site that are not marked as such.
We began to drive down into the resort, but the road deteriorated quickly and we parked at the top of the hill, resigned to hike in. We heard a distant rumble of thunder as we started walking, each of us carrying a backpack with sixty pounds of gear. The hike was about three quarters of a mile, first down the steep, winding road shown above, then a short uphill climb.
As we approached the bottom we got our first glimpse of the lift machinery… this would have been the bottom of the run.
The first lift chair I saw when we arrived.
Terry going up to get a better look.
Devils Nest Development still exists, but today the focus is on luxury home lots overlooking Lewis & Clark Lake. Devils Nest ski resort is just a curiosity.
We had been searching for blue sky and white clouds most of the day, and we thought we might get lucky since the sun was shining as we approached Devils Nest, but no such luck.
Unpaid taxes notwithstanding, it was really the location that did Devils Nest in. Without any mountains, Nebraska is simply too warm to have a ski resort here. The snow making machines were constantly running and couldn’t keep up most of the time.
Devils Nest development once had a yacht club and a golf course too.
The former ski lodge.
Ski in, ski out.
Terry came out of the lodge and commented that he thought Devils Nest would be a perfect setting for an episode of The Walking Dead.
I was concentrating on photos and not paying any attention to the weather when Terry said, “Did you hear that thunder?” It sounded like it was getting closer.
We were right about here, debating whether to make the hike to the top of the run, when a cool breeze blew in. It alarmed me right away because it had been hot and humid all day. I looked back at Terry and said, “We gotta get out of here.” It didn’t hit me until right at that moment that our car was a half mile away, up a very steep hill.
We began walking as quickly as possible, shooting a few photos on the way out.
We wore ourselves out hiking back up the access road, hoping to make it to the car before the rain came, but we failed by about two minutes. The car was just in sight when it started to pour. We got soaked, but cameras survived. See the video of our exploration of Devils Nest.
Read more about Devils Nest: The Nebraska Resort That Almost Was.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2014 Sonic Tremor Media LLC
This is Klondike Bridge near Larchwood, Iowa. A bridge was first built at this spot in 1901, but it proved inadequate to handle the traffic that followed, so in 1913, Lyon County contracted Western Bridge and Construction Company of Omaha to build the Klondike. The bridge was constructed in 1914 and opened for full-use in January of 1915. It is closed to all but recreational traffic today, but it carried interstate traffic across the Big Sioux River between South Dakota and Iowa until 1977, when a new bridge was constructed to the north. …
This is the Stanley Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, just north of Nekoma, North Dakota. It is a unique place in the history of the US military’s anti-ballistic missile effort. A portion of the Wikipedia entry for this place:
The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard complex in Nekoma, North Dakota, with the separate long-range detection radar located further north near the town of Cavalier, North Dakota, was the only operational anti-ballistic missile system ever deployed by the United States. It defended Minuteman ICBM missile silos near the Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.
It had reinforced underground launchers for thirty Spartan and sixteen Sprint nuclear tipped missiles (an additional fifty or so Sprint missiles were deployed at four remote launch sites). The complex was deactivated during 1976 after being operational for less than four months, due to concerns over continuing an anti-missile-missile arms race, cost, effectiveness, and changing political rhetoric.
Today, the former launch complex is abandoned and rusting.
This complex was recently purchased by a local Hutterite colony, and they are farming the land surrounding this facility. We’re told the local historical society still holds out hope of preserving these structures, somehow.
Some of the housing and administration buildings on this base are still in very nice shape.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
Cardin, Oklahoma is a toxic twin to Picher, rendered uninhabitable by mining industry abuse. In a piece by Sheila Stogsdill in the Tulsa World, November 17, 2010, (the link is no longer active) the population of Cardin is listed as zero.
MJ said these photos “are from Cardin, the next town, which is basically right next to Picher, and is also part of the Tar Creek Superfund site. It also seemed totally abandoned.”
The Highway Tabernacle once served the hungry and welcomed weary travelers with the promise of peace. Today, traffic passes but doesn’t stop, and the local residents who once worshipped here are gone.
Looks like they just stepped out for some groceries.
Photos by MJ Masilko
Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC
This is Picher, Oklahoma, an American exclusion zone. An acquaintance with an enthusiastic political streak recently told me Picher, Oklahoma is a ghost town because of a tornado. It’s true, an F4 tornado did strike Picher in 2008 and damaged 150 homes, but it was merely the final straw. From 2000 to 2010, Picher’s population dropped from over 1,600 residents to twenty.
Picher is a town destroyed by industrial abuses, specifically, the mining industry. This former town near the Kansas border dis-incorporated in 2009 and has three real problems.
First, the mining industry disposed of their mine waste, known as “chat,” in huge mounds right on the ground, creating huge artificial hills. The chat is toxic, and the fine grains from the chat piles blow all over town, settle on everything and people breathe them in.
Second, when it rains, runoff from the chat piles gets into the local water supply, as does water from abandoned mineshafts where there are no longer any pumps to keep them from flooding, and the town water becomes hazardous to drink. The pollution of Picher caused a plethora of health problems for area residents.
Lastly, and most frightening if you ask me, is the undermining of the town. The lead and zinc mined in this area was gathered from huge caverns excavated underground by the miners. It was later found the mines had been excavated so close to the surface that tree roots could be seen on the roof of the caverns in some cases. Portions of Picher collapsed into massive holes which had compromised the ground. In 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers determined 86% of Picher’s buildings were dangerously undermined and subject to collapse.
Our friend MJ Masilko sent in these incredible photos she shot in Picher in 2010, saying “We were on our way to a wedding and only had about an hour to walk around, not even close to enough time!” Her comments accompany some of the photos below.
“A gas station a mile or so outside of Picher, on the Kansas/Oklahoma border.”
“The exclusion zone sign and the line of concrete pillars are also just outside of Picher. The concrete things are everywhere, parts of the old mines. And the taller concrete things, I’ve been led to believe, were smelters for the lead.”
“These are all from the town of Picher, I believe all from along the highway that runs through there. For such a deserted town, there’s a LOT of traffic through Picher. The only alternative highway to the turnpike between Joplin and Tulsa runs through the center of town. Also if you’re there taking pictures along the highway, everyone thinks it’s a good idea to roll down their window and yell at you. At least they do if you’re 5 months pregnant and dressed like you’re on your way to a wedding.”
“All photos were taken in October of 2010. There are some on here of Main Street, which is a block or two over from the highway where everyone drives through. Somewhere on or next to Main Street was where there was a collapse into a mine, which is what really got the ball rolling on buying out the town. I didn’t see where that hole was, but we only did about 4 or 5 blocks of Main Street, and it was off the side, so could have been by us and we didn’t see.”
“More of the buildings that remain along Main Street. We spent a lot of our time over there, because it was quiet and beautiful, exactly how a ghost town should be!”
Today, Picher is known as the Tar Creek Superfund site and is considered uninhabitable, although a few holdouts remain. It is one of, if not the worst, industrial environmental disaster in the United States, and one of very few industrial exclusion zones on the planet. Other notable examples are Fukushima and Pripyat/Chernobyl.
Even apartment buildings stand vacant in Picher. MJ told us she wasn’t aware of the risk of collapse until after she visited and shot these photos. Scary.
This one got hit by the tornado.
If you went to this church, would you stand for the mining industry piling toxic waste on the ground, right across the road?
In the forties and fifties when Picher was booming, it was a different time and people did not guard their treasures the way we do today.
Look closely at the photo below. To the left of the church, through the trees, a huge chat pile.
The chat piles look like the Badlands of the midwest. Unfortunately, these are now really bad lands and Picher, Oklahoma will revert back to nature in the coming century.
See also: Picher’s Toxic Twin, Cardin, Oklahoma.
Photos by MJ Masilko, Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media
This is Arena, North Dakota, a true ghost town, as photographed by our friend Maya Greywolf.
You can see a lot more from Maya’s explorations at her website: Imayagination
Photos by Maya Greywolf
Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC