The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

MAY  2011






Ashley's Avenue

Finding Beauty in Ruin

by Ashley Murphy

I'm one of those people that love history. To an extent anyway. Not so much the history they teach you in school. That was kind of boring. I'm talking about the lost history. What's still here, but long ago forgotten. Or in many cases, neglected and left to ruin. I look at photographs of buildings, homes and even entire towns built as far back as the 1700s or 1800s that are now lost amongst the moss, mold, mildew and foliage that grow within them. It seems so surreal.

I can't help but think every time I see these photographs and see the magnificence of the buildings, how someone could let them fall into such disrepair. Many were left as if everyone picked up their belongings, walked out of the building and just never came back. Beds, chairs, dinnerware...all left lying around waiting for someone to come back and claim them.

While many find these buildings unsightly, inconvenient and "mar" on their town, others find beauty among the urban decay. I mean, once upon a time these buildings, homes and towns were beautiful beyond belief. They are what made the area beautiful. And now people believe it makes their area trashy and disgusting. If only those people could look past all of this. Look INTO the past.

People used to roam the halls or streets of these places. They made the space come to life. Made them "lived in." Cars used to park on the streets and parking lots and drive down the roadways. Rooms were once taken up by residents and kitchens were bustling daily with those cooking meals.

Homes are abandoned everyday. That doesn't surprise me so much. It still amazes me to look at them and picture in my mind how beautiful it was when someone actually took care of it. Before the abandonment. Before the cracks in the wall, the broken windows and crumbling ceilings. Before the ruin.

Ashley Murphy
People News Media Assistant

Do you have questions or comments? If so, e-mail Ashley at:

Towns are a different story. I don't understand how thousands of people could abandon an entire town. Pack up a few of your belongings, walk away and never look back. It's understandable in those places where lives are in danger and the town is uninhabitable. Take Centralia, PA for instance. An underground fire started in the 1950s is still burning to this day in the coal mining town. Fires and hot pockets of steam come up from underground and show themselves in holes. There are risks of the ground caving in. Roads have been destroyed by the steam and fire. Pennsylvania doesn't even acknowledge the zip code, has the street barricaded and warns of the dangers if you "trespass," even though a few people still risk it to live there.

Same goes for Chernobyl. Thousands abandoned it after a nuclear disaster in 1986. It's deemed unsafe for habitation because the radiation levels are so high, it could kill a person if they stayed long enough or touched enough of the surfaces. However, a couple of people have refused to leave here, as well.

It's those towns where it seems nothing but progress has turned people away from their once thriving city. Hashima Island in Japan is one example. A beautiful island that housed hundreds of thousands of people, now left to ruin. It was a coal mining town that began to see abandonment in the 1960s after petroleum hit the market. Once gorgeous buildings are now crumbling concrete slabs.

I'm not sure why, but old hospitals and penitentiaries always seem to get my attention. When looking through pictures, you never know what the photographer may have captured. I've come across many photos of institutions build in the 1800s for psychiatric purposes. You see old wheel chair contraptions and wonder what patient was forced to sit in such a horrific model. You ask yourself, "Was this really meant to help, or was there a sinister purpose for these things?"

I saw such "wheelchairs" in a supposed children's psychiatric hospital. And the chairs were tiny, made for someone who hadn't even yet reached their teenage years. Also, in this hospital, the photographer captured photos of various restraints, one being a Hannibal Lecter-type mask. It was small, made to fit a child's head and the only openings were at the mouth and eyes, just big enough to see and speak.

Other hospitals leave old journals and logs of patients daily activities and psychiatrist's notes. Many even showed records of doses of medicine administered daily to patients and you start to wonder how that person wasn't too incapacitated to speak or if it only furthered their "madness."

Everyone sees different things in their imagination and thinks along different waves. I find the beauty and wonder in these places and my heart actually aches for the structures they once were and the fascinating objects left behind to rot.

A site I have become addicted to:

It's a very interesting site. Just make sure you have the time, it's hard to look away.

Now, you can put your imagination to work and see if you find the beauty in ruin like I do....Enjoy!