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.
When I pulled up to this house on Saturday, the smoke was still rising up from the basement. The whole yard was charred black and the trees around it turned brown and wrinkled. The ashes, oddly, were not scattered around the yard as the other houses. When I walked up and peered down into the depths of the concrete basement, it was like a gray and black smoldering pool with the occasional flame popping up out of at least 5 separate smoky little spots. In fact, there was such a lack of evidence of water and scattered debris that I was not entirely sure the fire department ever came. However, considering the fact that the flames were minimal and all contained within the concrete, I didn’t bother the fire department.
I have since heard rumors that the Bridgeton police department are quite unhappy with the lack of protection from the Airport Police, whose jurisdiction the area is now under. One person was arrested for one of the recent fires (the one on Weskan?) using Moltov Cocktails. Some justice, yes. The best way of handing this situation, we all can agree on is to take out all of the houses in Ghost Town.
Arson is a crime and yes should be punished. However, I don’t think these same criminals are the type of people would set blazes to homes that are occupied, or near those which are. These fires did not happen when there were an abundance of residents around and when the residents were just a scattered few, so too were the fires. Now it seems that so many are fires are happening simply because these criminals believe they can get away with it. Unfortunately, it seems that many have. If the airport did its job and followed through with the demolitions, then we would not have to see this kind of criminal activity. How long is it going to be before one of these bored kids gets hurt is the next question. What is Lambert going to have to pay when someone goes drag racing through Carrollton’s dark streets and their car winds up at the bottom of a charred basement and its driver hurt or dead? What is the airport going to cut next when it its sued over the death of a teenager climbing around a burnt out house with an unsuspecting basement (such as on Lonsdale)? The houses are dangerous, there is no question to that. They are even more dangerous when they are burned out to where only blackened beams remain. Yes, trespassing is a crime. Its even more criminal, not to mention disgraceful, to leave these former homes in such ruins.
The cost of demolition is well over $10,000 for every house. If the house is subject to asbestos abatement (which nearly all of them have been), the crews told me that the cost goes up to almost $20,000. Perhaps this is why the airport only paid the residents barely market-cost for their homes while the industry itself was waning. Everyday we hear of more and more airline cuts and safety failures to where I am starting to think that it just might be safer to drive to destinations after all. The fact that 26 parcels of land, most of them now blackened to their foundations, have been waiting for minimum of a year is evident of how bad of shape the airline industry is in. For every house to be removed, permits need to be filed, inspectors brought in a number of times from water to electric, sewer, cable, etc., asbestos removal needs to be performed, contracted companies need to be contacted for removal of desired fixures, equipment must be brought in, dumpsters rented, drivers for dumpsters on stand-by, workers to be paid by contracted demo company. The removal takes 1-2 days, and in some cases 3, depending on how much concrete exists under the home. Landfills need to be contacted and space for all the 2x4s, drywall, concrete and bricks that was once our homes all needs to be paid for.
All for a new runway that is used 5% of the time for an airport that suspected it would lose its hub if TWA folded (as it did shortly after the project began). Hopefully we will learn that the costs of eminent domain are high indeed.