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Archive for July, 2008

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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