Saturday, July 16, 2005


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Just a week ago this farmstead would have presented a beautiful image. Many times while passing by, I longed to take a photograph of the beautiful large white house and the barns and outbuildings. The roads are narrow and there is no shoulder and I would have had to pull into the driveway.

Although this property is in the general path of development, it wasn't clear whether it had been slated for destruction. The barns were in a state of disrepair, but that's the normal state in this area. The house was obviously well cared for having been freshly painted with a small garden of perennials planted on either side of the front door. From the road it's difficult to see the lower part of the drive and the garage, and although I never saw any activity, I assumed that the house was still occupied.

On Wednesday there was a truck parked in the middle of the yard - "T's Tree Service". On the following day every tree was gone. The house has been stripped of it's shade and protection from strong prairie winds. You see, just a week ago this lovely property was surrounded by a half a dozen trees of various types and sizes. Included was an awesome oak tree just to the right of the house. Hanging from one of it's strong branches, itself the size of a tree trunk, a tire swing moved hypnotically in the gentle morning breeze.

Every morning I watched the tire swing move, back and forth like a pendulum, changing at intervals to a circular arc. The house, the huge oak tree and the smaller handmaiden trees all combined to create a beautiful image that made sense. This image however is cruel and obscene. The house has been stripped of it's protection, standing naked on the prairie, out of context with it's surroundings. The trees have been cut, the larger logs stacked to the left, and the smaller trees ground into mountains of wood chips. The stumps have been ground out, the yard generally ripped up and the truck has left tracks across the space.

The fate has been sealed and intentions announced with stakes and brightly colored surveyors tape. The best scenario would involve converting the house into a sales office for the coming hordes of tract homes. More likely the house will be burned as practice for the local fire department, or simply dozed under and hauled away a truck at a time with the barn wood being sold off to antique dealers.

And now my wish is that I'd taken the moment and the chance of angering the farmer by pulling into his driveway to capture a shot of the beautiful old farmhouse, hugged tightly by the oaks and maples. The farmer would have understood, of that I'm sure. Hopefully they're far away and won't bear witness to the destruction of their home.


pablo said...

Out here in suburban Kansas City, there are many such former farm houses that have been absorbed into the housing sprawl. They are easy to distinguish from the cookie-cutter houses that surround them, but there is something extra graceful in seeing these old beauties surviving and still dominating their landscape.

In our area, when a developer first begins work on a piece of land, he hires a crew to strip off all of the topsoil. (Really!) This is then collected in a nearby field, and when the new homeowners want to lay sod or build gardens, they have the buy back the good topsoil that was formerly on their property. And no one seems to mind.

pilgrim said...

Cruel, but beautiful photo. The dark sky and the naked prairie give a weird feeling, but a kind of hope comes from the little blue flowers...Life goes on.

srp said...

The house is still beautiful. Why did this happen, have you any ideas? It is frightening because now in the "name" of development property can be taken away from private owners. I certainly hope that was not the case here.

Zanne said...

Well, "imminent domain" has always been in effect around here it seems. This property is prime in the swath of growth to the west of the city of Geneva. I'm sure the farmers were paid a pretty penny by developers and since alot of the farmers around here are older, they've probably taken the money and retired somewhere.

This kind of image is hard for me because I always get emotionally attached to my home, and I guess there are some who do not and can just walk away and take nothing but the memories with them. I find some comfort in being able to return and see my old haunt.

sugarcreekfarm said...

How sad :(

darrell said...

Normally, if you stop and ask most people will allow you to shoot pictures of their home. I've been in this situation before where the road had no shoulders to park. I just drive in and knock on the door and say hello like a long lost neighbor. :-) I find that people love talking about the history of their homes.

poopie said...

That is a haunting and beautiful photo, and a very tragic story. Urban sprawl just makes me want to weep.