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.
Again, a house where you can feel that the former owners took pride in their little home. Even under the many layers of red and black graffiti the place endured in its two years of vacancy, the house still resonated with that once-loved feel. Kids were raised here. Gardens were planted here. Dreams were born here. One day, the neighbors left, and they were alone. Then came their turn. They said their sad goodbyes and went off to someplace where someone said they should try and make a new life, even though they were really comfortable here. This is the feeling I always got from being around this little house. It now only stands as a city of charred 2″x4″s rising haphazardly out of the ground with the roof burned either away or partially collapsed. Its very peculiar how the drywall and carpet completely burned away, but the wood frame remains, in some places still clean and tan with no burn marks at all.
4111 Weskan was a gray and red-brick house with a wonderfully cute custom made kids’ playhouse in backyard. This house was occupied when I first was photographing, but they vacated some time before the ‘free stuff’ family in the yellow Weskan house nearby (early 2007?). This house sat relatively untouched for a long, long time. No graffiti, just broken windows and busted walls. Besides the glass shards, and busted doors and walls, someone threw a small bicycle on the roof of the house. Other than that, not much else out of the ordinary for here has happened to this house. There was lots of custom woodwork in this place, and I would guess that the person who did the fluting of the trim above the kitchen area also built the adorable playhouse. I don’t know of any little girl who wouldn’t love to have their own sturdy little playhouse with a real roof and window. Again, here was another home where the people who lived here raised a family in and took pride in. When Carrollton was in its prime, what better place would there be to raise a family?
Going on this tangent for a moment, I want to mention how ‘Zach’ left some really great comments on the information page of this site. It brought up some questions about the kids who grew up here in the mid 1990s to 2000s, watching their friends move far away all the time, asking their parents why everyone has to leave. What happened to the kids who still lived here when Carrollton Elementary closed? Sure they all went to Drummond Elementary 4 miles away, but how did they have fun in a neighborhood amongst squatters and drug dealers? What did they do when the pool closed and the parks are no longer were safe? What did they think about as their eyes watched their friends houses get ripped apart each day, knowing that their own place would be next? How do you grow up in a home knowing that it will disappear? Although I grew up with rumors of Lambert’s plans, being a kid in the late 80s-early 90s, I had two advantages over the younger generations. The first was the advantage of age- I left home right when most of the work started. Therefore, I didn’t have to witness the awful bulk of the destruction. Second, I had the advantage of hope- our generation believed that somehow there will be some preservation of our neighborhood. I couldn’t imagine what life was like here for the younger generation of kids who were still here after I left home in 1995. The psychological damage these kids endured while their parents waited for the lagging airport to buy their home is troubling to me. In a little over a decade, Carrollton went from the best place to raise a family to the absolute worst place for children.
This house was also burned to nothing when I found it. There is nothing more of 4111 Weskan than a small amount of brickwork left rising from the ground.
12736 Woodford Way was abandoned a very, very long time ago. I do not remember any hint of occupation since 2006 of this one-story white ranch. This house was the first house with a collapsed front roof which ran the length of the front walkway. The roof collapsed some time in the early spring of 2007 and it hid the entire front of the house from view for the rest of its existence. I only have a small handful of photos of this home that shows its full facade with cone-shaped bushes outlined with little wire archway fencing. It was a cute house that only really became something special to me once its roof cave way. It had some kind of decorative posts which held this roof easement up. My theory is that someone decided to take the posts for their own home remodeling project or for scrap since this roof fell before the houses where posts were pulled with the intention of knocking down the place. People would take all kinds of parts from the Carrollton houses for their own homes, sometimes making the mistake of wrenching something off an occupied house. Posts, especially wrought-iron posts were particually vulnerable.
One of my favorite photographs from Carrollton is from this house. I came across a teddy bear draped over the ledge of a broken garage door window with the fallen roof awning in the background. I took a number of shots in many formats, but a black and white photo I have yet to scan has become one of my favorites. Sure its cliche, but I find that sometimes a familiar cliche works best to make an illustration clear.
12736 Woodford was badly damaged in a windstorm this past spring. The remaining roof blew nearly entirely off, leaving giant gaping holes to expose the interior to even more of the elements than just the open frame where a glass patio door once was. The house was taped off for, at this point, it was extremely unstructurally safe (because all the other houses, with their broken glass, mold, asbestos, broken floorboards, wild animals, and whatever else lurking inside are perfectly fine and don’t need public closure!). It didn’t keep people from burning it down, however. It too was burned to the ground, leaving absolutely nothing standing.
Finally, as as side note, some people are already asking what’s next when I finish the Carrollton project. As it seems as the neighborhood is self-destructing faster than Lambert can do anything about it, I guess its time to start putting the wraps on things. First, I would like to extend an invitation to contact me if you would like to contribute any of your own Carrollton memories of photographs to the final book. Contact me here. I will be doing the final writing portion of this project this winter and into next spring, given Lambert has everything demolished and finally decides to tell us all what the fate of the land will be.
After Carrollton, who knows. I have always loved abandoned places, and I guess it was natural that I document the abandoned town I once called home. For me, abandoned places cross the barrier of time as a linear concept to being something physical. Stepping into a place that humankind has vacated for a long period of time gives the illusion that one can sense and feel time as a physical element. The sensation of being able to feel time, and that time, as a sensation apart from being an abstract idea, is something that is very exciting to me and one that I have been exploring in my own art. So now that I have started researching other places, I easily jumped to wanting to visit the big one- the former town of Pripyat in the Ukraine. Pripyat was the town which housed the workers of Chernobyl and was completely abandoned within three days in April of 1986. To feel the emptiness left by thousands while every building is almost perfectly intact to me would be the most beautiful, most eerie, yet most exciting place in this world. Pripyat is the mecca of abandoned places. Believe it or not, there are some private tours that go into the exclusion zone. I have some fear of the radiation, but with a personal geiger counter and no desire to visit or go near the Chernobyl facility itself (yes, they offer tours where you can even go into the Reactor 4 control room where the infamous tests which lead to the disaster took place). So there’s the ‘what’s next.’ Pripyat, Ukraine, in about two-three years. : )