Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Short Drive North of the Cities

I few years ago, something struck us as we were headed either to, or from a weekend kayaking excursion. Despite the fact that we live in one of the most populated areas of the state, if you get onto the right road in the right direction, it is amazing sometimes how fast you can find yourself out in the country. This Sunday evening we were feeling a bit adventurous, not wanting the weekend to end -and likely in need of a vacation. On a total whim we decided to drive north on Central Avenue (Hwy 65) just to see where we ended up and what we might see along the way. After going through Ham Lake and East Bethel, the city gradually thinned out and we soon found ourselves somewhere around Isanti. A brown sign for a county park caught our attention so we headed west towards the town of Oak Grove. At this point we realized from a map that we were surrounded by small towns in almost every direction. We decided on a destination of the town of "Oxlip" probably just because of it's odd name, and headed further west past Hwy 47 (or University Ave in the city). We found Oxlip to consist of pretty much just a few houses and a very large Evangelical Church. Just a 1/2 mile or so east was a nice old abandoned house. Unfortunately many old houses like this often sit on property located right next to a newer, occupied house, making me leery of stopping for a photo. This was not all the case, with no other houses for miles and I had a chance to walk around the property for just a bit. On the other side, you could see where the original frame was added on to. There was curious looking, angled entry way that jutted out even further from the addition. This side actually had a fair amount of white paint still clinging to the wooden siding, another hint at the history of the house. There was one more smaller building on the property, a sort of shed with a rusted metal roof but surprisingly intact glass windows. In hind sight I really wish I would have peeked inside there before leaving. We then set our sights on the next closest small town -Bradford. There were actually a few businesses here, including a newly renovated bar and restaurant called "Ravens" that called to us for a quick beer. Before heading back, we stopped at another abandoned house on the west side of Hwy 47 just south of the bar. This was a much larger house than the other, built in an "L" shape, with at least one dormer window and an added front porch. There were also two chimneys, one of which had almost completely crumbled away. The yard here was so overgrown that I couldn't even get that that close. A grapevine had attacked an devoured almost the entire front porch. At the back of the house was a porch that seemed to be part of the original construction -especially obvious by the layers of different colored shingles showing. There were a few barrels, a grill and even a mailbox tucked away behind the porch. Though much larger, I'd guess that this house was older than the other, simply by it's state of disrepair. Though the backside showed some paint the front side was mostly gray, weathered wood. I sure like this house and I wonder about who lived there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Various Abandoned Farmsteads

The main content in this post was contributed from a viewer and fellow abandoned enthusiast. All are abandoned farmsteads within the southeastern corner of Minnesota -one of the best areas to encounter such sights. I've added a few comments of my own to some of the photos in addition to the descriptions "in quotes" provided to me by the photographer. "This was an abandoned farm stead near Lanesboro, MN. It is close to the Root River and Trout Run and looks to be a victim of frequent flooding. The house is deteriorating quickly along with the barn and several farm implements on the property." These pics brought back memories of a couple of trips to far southern Minnesota where I visited the towns of Lanesboro, Preston, Harmony, Canton and more. In fact, I have a lot of good photos from that area that I will likely use for future post. This next one I think is so picturesque and really captures the essence of a prairie home. What a fantastic old tree! "This was a small home near Zumbrota, MN. The tree in front was lovely. The home sits lonely by itself, with the grass neatly trimmed, windows boarded up." The following farm house looks quite old. Houses like this with absolutely no trace of paint on the outside are among my favorite kind to come across. To me it appears that the severely sagging portion was added later to the original structure. "This house was found near Grand Meadow, MN. Obviously abandoned for many years, it sits close to several large farms and a wind farm." Lastly, this cool photo was also taken near Grand Meadow. I couldn't decide between the two photos that were sent to me. One was further away and really showed how out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere it is. I decided to post the other however because the contrast of the modern day windmills behind it was so striking. "This old well sat by itself in the middle of a bean field outside of Grand Meadow. At one time there must've been a house there, but is since long gone. This is all that remains." Thanks very much to Derik ( for the wonderful photos and text! I'm now inspired again to go through some of my previous southern MN pics and see what I can find for the Blog.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bechyn, Minnesota

During a visit to Redwood Falls, MN way back in 2006, my better half pointed to a (really) small dot on the map and said "we should go here." We've both always been fascinated by small or old towns, but I would say this was our first successful venture off the beaten path with the sole intention of visiting one. I look back on this later and consider Bechyn to be the town that officially kicked off tons of other journeys -and hundreds of extra miles for us- every time we're on vacation. The closer we got to Bechyn, the more remote it seemed. After driving on mostly unmarked gravel roads for a ways, we finally saw a clue that we were getting closer. This sign near a 4-way intersection might just as well have read "MIDDLE OF NOWHERE." Honestly, neither of us could imagine a town being anywhere out here, where all you could see in every direction was more cornfields. After following the sign, the strangest thing happened to the road; it became paved! We both thought this was hilarious and it was obvious that we'd reached our destination. This town was literally surrounded by tall cornfields on all four sides, making it almost hidden from passersby only a mile away. The town itself was not abandoned in any way. In fact there were people milling about -especially near a big old church labeled St. Mary's. Right away though we spotted some old and abandoned buildings. This 2 story, paint-less structure had every indication of an old general store or some sort of business. Like other buildings, it showed signs of newer renovation by way of two overhead garage doors installed right into it's side. Across the street was another old building with that familiar tall, flat-front of an old business. This building though actually appeared to have been converted into a private residence indicated by curtains and knick-knacks in the windows. We were both amazed that a little tiny town (if you could even call it that) like this could exist out here among miles of cornfields. It was pretty apparent that the church was really the center of town and probably responsible for keeping the town alive. There were people living in the town but it couldn't have been more than about 10. We never did see any sort of population sign so who knows. Only recently I learned from the internet that the town of Bechyn has a rich Czechoslovakian heritage and is named after Bechyne in Czechoslovakia. Every August the town hosts an annual "Czechfest" celebration which brings in a lot of visitors.