Saint Sialia Church

A year and a half ago, on a previous visit to Philadelphia, we tried and failed to get into this church. Our consolation prize would be the rectory, in which fire extinguisher hanky-panky would leave one of our party down and out for the night, a victim of suggestive pantomime gone terribly wrong. (She was … Continue reading Saint Sialia Church

Vandalia State Hospital

The largest psychiatric hospital in the world once operated in a small, nondescript southern town. From its founding in the early nineteenth century, it steadily grew as the decades passed and as the treatments it offered evolved from the primitive to the merely misguided. Ultimately, the idea of keeping the mentally ill locked away en … Continue reading Vandalia State Hospital

The Great Outdoors

Every time I’ve returned to Gary the last few years, it’s with a feeling that I’m coming to flog a dead horse. After all, I’ve been visiting this city for going on fifteen years, and it always seems there isn’t much left to see. But each time, the horse is still floggable. Or alive. Or … Continue reading The Great Outdoors

Tennessee Gothic

A mansion tucked away in the wilds of Tennessee stands empty. Its isolated location has no roads leading to it, and no signs of any infrastructure surrounding it. There isn’t even a visible driveway, any pavement having long reverted to dense grasses and underbrush. This would suggest that the house has been abandoned a long … Continue reading Tennessee Gothic

A School in the Hills

A prominent hill in a small rural town is the site of a former military academy turned private boarding school. As it is surrounded by a quiet subdivision, we decided to get there before sunrise. In the dishwater gray predawn light, we trudged along a sleeping lane until we reached a cul-de-sac, then pushed through … Continue reading A School in the Hills

American Palaces

Theater opulence reached its zenith in the early part of the last century. The boom in motion pictures, which quickly became the prime form of entertainment for the masses, coupled with the trend of studios owning their own theaters which they strove to make as lavish as possible in order to attract patrons, created this … Continue reading American Palaces

My Olde Pal Gary

Most people have heard of Gary, Indiana. The town had a mid-century burst of fame in “The Music Man” in which it features in an eponymous song. A few decades later it achieved notoriety for a very different reason, being the country’s murder capital for a while in the 80’s. It has been synonymous with … Continue reading My Olde Pal Gary

Crooked River County

American rust belt metropolises are urban nebulae of sorts. The city cores grew and expanded furiously in the 19th and early 20th centuries, fed by the heavy industries of the time. But just as stars run out of fuel, so too steel, mining, and manufacturing left these cities. In the span of a generation, population … Continue reading Crooked River County