It was February 2014. Cold and brisk, but the weather was fine and it looked like a nice day to take an excursion. I decided to do something I had been hankering to do for quite a while, which was to return to Mud House Mansion. I had discovered this fascinating old building located a bit east of Lancaster only the month before, so the landscape (barren, winter) would look pretty much the same, but what I wanted to do was to get there very early in the morning and get some good pictures of the mansion during the pre-dawn and dawn minutes, the so-called “golden hour” of photography. Well, the plans of mice and men oft gang agley and my exquisite timing was ruined completely when a woman driving a jeep mounted with a battering ram rear-ended by Pilot in downtown Lancaster. She had a grill guard on the front of Jeep (designed to protect vehicles from deer and such hitting the front of the car), but it was one that protruded well in front of the vehicle and that steel frame ploughed into the back of my SUV, caving in the rear door and doing about $7,000 or so worth of damage. So much for golden hour.
[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image. Also, the EXIF data for each image contains GPS coordinates that you can use to locate the exact place where the photograph was taken.]
It takes a lot of effort—I mean, a lot—to get me to voluntarily get up hours earlier than normal on a weekend—and all this effort was now wasted. By the time I left Lancaster (luckily, the Pilot would still run), it was nearly mid-day and golden hour was long gone. Still, I resolved to proceed and get some pictures anyway, just to shake my fist at fate’s fickle finger, then continue my excursion into southern Ohio. The photographs in this particular part of the excursion are not, for the most part, among my favorites, but if you stick with them they get better in Parts 2 and 3.
The above photograph shows one of the approaches to Mud House Mansion (there are basically only two—coming up this road or going down it on the other side). Mud House Mansion (actually a cluster of buildings, with one prominent one) is fascinating but what is frustrating is that there are only a couple of spots from which you can take photographs of it (it is not possible to go on the property itself), so the angles are always going to look the same, unless you have a drone. It is the time of year and the time of day that will make one’s photographs different. In the summer, the view above, with the Mud buildings distant specks (though this was very wide angle lens), is not available, as growing or mature corn obscures this view. I can say, writing this a year later, that I have returned to Mud House Mansion at other times since these photographs were taken, and so will be able to post some much more verdant views.
This is the best vantage point from which to see the buildings as a cluster, but they certainly look barren in this shot. During the summer, the walls of some of the buildings will be crawling with foliage.
As you proceed up the road past the building, a low hill begins to obscure your view, though the “mansion” building’s highest floor peeks up over the crestline.
This is the other main vantage point from which to view the buildings. You can jockey back and forth a little bit to get slightly different views, but not too much. The other thing one can do for more variation is to process the photos differently—black and white, bleached, etc. I did that quite a bit with some of these photographs, trying to find different ways to squeeze more from them, but in the end I didn’t use most of them.
I do include one black and white shot here, above.
Recovering from my disappointment, I soldiered on in my injured motorcar, finding others outside in the cold as well as me. At least it was sunny.
My drive took me through the village of Bremen, which I have explored before. I did not stay, but chose to take one photograph of the side of this building, simply because no one seems to paint ads on the sides of buildings anymore. All the ones you see are half a century old, or even much older than that. But here is a throwback who still believes in the tactic.
Since this is southeastern Ohio, naturally there is oil. For more than a century before fracking, oil has been pumped out of these lands—with the result that the detritus of oil drilling can be found everywhere, as with this abandoned old pump rig.
Throughout rural Ohio one can find the remains of one-room schoolhouses dotting the countryside. Since there were at one point many hundreds of these in existence, even the fraction that have survived is a sizable number. Few are well kept-up, though some have been repurposed. This one is just slowly crumbling.
The patterns of wear and ruin on this particular schoolhouse are puzzling. Note that there seems to be some sort of water wear or run-off coming from the windows on the side of the building as well as the doodad at the top front. Was this at one point filled to the rafters with Liquid Paper or Miracle Whip to the point that the substance started oozing out of the building?
Here’s a quick shot of an icy forest brook.
One thing I learned driving around rural Ohio is that cows are far more curious than I had ever given them credit for. Horses may glance at you, then go back to sudoku or whatever it was they were doing before you showed up, but cows look at you more intently. I attribute it to the fact that cows have to worry about being eaten by us a lot more than horses. Am I just a fat bald guy taking pictures? Or am I a really really hungry fat bald guy?
Because Ohio has so little public land, unlike the western United States, private property is typically festooned with “No trespassing” and “No hunting” signs. But I am not sure how much hunting any interloper would be inclined to do in this abandoned livestock barn.
If you have cattle, you can pasture them, but they still have to have water. Some farmers create artificial ponds on their property and use run-off to fill them. Other farmers, much more rare, may use a windmill to draw up well water. I am not sure what the source of the water in this tank is;
About six miles southwest of Lexington, just within the Wayne National Forest, is this ruined, roofless building. I do not know what its original function was.
This old church was nearby. It seemed to have no markings.
Sadly, not too far from there is the paramilitary training camp for a right-wing militia group, the Ohio Defense Force, the longest-active militia group in Ohio.
Well, it was good of you to stick with this excursion this far. There are more interesting photographs in the subsequent installments, I promise.