The Pull of Abandoned Places

This was a weekend of selling books, and what a good weekend it was. We went to two shows—the Summer Arts Festival in our own little town of Winthrop and the Sunday Indie Market at the Baxter Brewing Company’s Pub in Lewiston. The Summer Arts Festival was fun, and we sold lots of books. Other vendors did well, too, and as I’ve noted before, it means a lot to us when people come to these events and buy what we have created.

However, a big highlight of the weekend was the setting of the Sunday Indie Market in Lewiston, a huge mill complex that is slowly being renovated, where shabby is juxtaposed with new. Clif and I are both drawn to buildings that have been abandoned. Somehow, in their neglect, these buildings acquire a dignity that they often didn’t have when they were in better repair.

For many people, Maine is a state of quaint seaside villages that caters to those who are from away, as we say here. The coast is certainly one beautiful aspect of the state. However, Clif and I were born inland—in Bangor and Waterville—two communities that do not give Maine its quaint reputation. We are old enough to remember when these cities were filled with factories and were more than a little gritty. These places feel like home to us.

Once upon a time, Lewiston was also a city of mills and factory workers.

Here is the gate at the pub, where the Sunday Indie Market was held.

We set up a booth on one side of the walkway. Behind us were shinyΒ  new silos and old bricks.

Across from us, green growth reached up to cover neglect,

and water rushed by.

From afar, the walkway almost looks as though a mural has been painted on it. But here is one of Clif’s photo that takes a closer look and reveals peeling rather than painting.

Finally, old next to new.

While we love nature as much as the next Mainer, these half-abandoned places exert an almost gravitational pull on us, and we had mixed feelings when we heard that the rest of this mill complex was slated for renovation. I know. I know. We really don’t want these factories to fall to the ground, and we want them to be useful once more.

But gussied up, the buildings lose their striking visual appeal. Good for the community, perhaps, but not so good for photography.


42 thoughts on “The Pull of Abandoned Places”

    1. Yes! I was thinking of that, too, as I imagined the many feet that went across the walkway that is now a home for pigeons. A sort of “time-lapse” video from its heyday as a factory to now would be so cool.

  1. Those old buildings ooze character and I love the photographs, especially the one with the pigeon in the window πŸ’œ Great to hear you had such a good time at the shows too! πŸ€—πŸ’– xxx

    1. Thanks, Xenia. The one with the pigeon just might be turned into Christmas presents for family members who like birds and decaying buildings. Fortunately, we have a few of that type in our family.

  2. We live in a town with two block long mills, and we’re so grateful that they are occupied and functioning but still have the outside appeal and history. They have a draw that is hard to describe to someone ‘from away.’ So glad to hear that you had a really good weekend, and I had to smile when I read books and craft beer. Now, there’s a good combination. πŸ™‚

  3. Glad you guys had a productive and enjoyable weekend. That photo of the pigeon in the broken window makes me wonder what that place looks like on the inside. ***shivers***

  4. I am rather on the side of those who want to put old buildings to good use. Of course it would be better if they were put to productive rather than residential use but that seems too hard to manage.

    1. I really do agree about putting old buildings to good use. And Baxter Brewery is certainly productive. They make a lot of beer, which is canned and sold in local stores and farther afield. Still, can’t beat the looks of those decaying buildings. πŸ˜‰

  5. I really like the photo where the old building and the green growth are juxtaposed. The repurposing of old buildings pleases me more than simply knocking them down and erecting something new in their place. The “teardown/rebuild” is quite the thing here, and far too often only the wealthy can afford the new (in the urban core) or the new stands empty (suburban strip malls). But at least people are beginning to think about development in new ways — and it looks as though some good thought is being used in your area.

    1. So true about repurposing old buildings. If the structure is sound, there is no sense in knocking them down. Always terrible when only the wealthy can afford to live in places. As for those strip malls…not much beauty there, but in Maine, anyway, some of them are being reused. But not all.

  6. I can understand the attraction old shabby buildings have for you. There is so much history in those peeling walls and broken windows. Once smartened up these places often seem to lose their souls. However, with the right care they may rise again like phoenixes, embracing their pasts and looking forward to their future.
    We have just had a week away in a part of the country that is definitely post-industrial. There are still many buildings there that are uncared for and are being vandalised. But much of the landscape and buildings have been smartened-up and are being used by the local community as assets. The people are proud of their industrial past and love their towns and countryside and are embarking with enthusiasm on a new phase.
    I am pleased you had a successful and enjoyable weekend.

    1. Yes, yes! And despite the wistful tone of my post, I really don’t want those buildings to fall to the ground. Much better to fix them and use them. Still, from a photographic point of view…

  7. Love the distant photo of the ‘mural’.
    I think these sorts of old buildings, if renovated sympathetically, can retain their history whilst becoming useful again. It happens a lot in the U.K. but then there, of course, prices of property soar and the locals can’t afford to live there any more.
    Well done on selling lots of books – you must feel very encouraged.

    1. Yes, wonderful to sell so many books. And it is better to renovate old buildings rather than let them fall into pieces. But from a photography point of view, those old buildings can’t be beat.

  8. I haven’t been to Lewiston since I went 20+ years ago for a job interview at Bates–it was pretty gritty then! I can see what you mean about the appeal of the shabby, aesthetically, but the new life that is coming into the area is good for the town and its people.

    1. To be sure! A lot of artists are settling in Lewiston. Relatively inexpensive. And a creative spark is blowing into the city. I’m hoping it grows.

  9. The walkway does look like artwork viewed from a distance. I like to see the old buildings repurposed. My home town was a cotton / paper town and went through a time when many of the factories were abandoned.

  10. Congratulations on a great weekend selling books in an interesting atmosphere of the old and new! Love the photographs and there is something special about old buildings still trying to convey their history.πŸ™‚

  11. I love the photos and congratulations on selling more books!❀
    I too love old structures and renovation in this area takes away their soul by sanitizing them so they have that same mini mall look. Unfortunitly my city is beyond hope of any revival. All businesses are boarded up because we are still bankrupt. I cannot bear driving by the biggest and oldest park in the city because the trees are slowly dying from lack of water since the water bill is not being paid…

  12. I’ve just been telling Julia that old and decaying is aesthetically pleasing, and quoting you as my source. Of course, I wasn’t talking about buildings… πŸ™‚

  13. J & D > It may surprise you, Laurie, that in contrast to our choice to live in the very un-urban, un-industrialized Outer Hebrides, we miss exploring post-industrial landscapes and photographing their remains : that’s our kind of archaeology.

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