When you visit small Utah towns and enter abandoned buildings—places that are empty and decrepit, fragile shells of their former selves—you can’t help but wonder about their histories.
These Forgotten Places are where people once lived proudly and furnished with love. These are the factories, workshops, and hospitals where people toiled diligently and spent much of their waking lives, or these are buildings where they played and maybe even had their first kiss. Today, however, these places have been forgotten, abandoned, and left to ruin.
To walk into a room like the one above, with baskets eerily hanging from the ceiling, is at first unsettling. It was dark and cold, and my flashlight illuminated the room only a little bit at a time. However, I soon realized this was a locker room for the miners—sparse, yet functional. They used these baskets to store their clothes and belongings while on shift.
Coal was discovered in Hiawatha, Utah, in 1909, and by 1911, the Black Hawk mine was yielding more 3,000 tons of coal every eight hours. Production continued for nearly 100 years until 1991, when the mines were shut down because of poor quality coal. Today, most of the buildings have either been torn down or are in the process of being torn down for scrap.
When places are abandoned, they frequently become hangouts for wayward youths or the homeless. You will often see graffiti and tagging, discarded beer cans, and vandalism inside abandoned buildings. This room is dark with the soot of a fire and scarred by years of neglect. This was part of what became the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah. The school was originally the Bushnell Army Hospital, which was constructed for wounded soldiers after World War II and operated from 1942 to 1946.
After remodeling and additional construction, the Intermountain Indian School operated as a boarding school for Navajo children and taught elementary through high school students. By 1981, more than 5,000 students had graduated from the school. When it closed in 1984, the school was home to students of nearly 100 native tribe. Today, most of the buildings have been demolished, but a few were converted to condos and others were taken over by various businesses.
The Millard Academy in Hinckley, Utah, has been used for many purposes since it was built in 1909. It has been both a private and a public school, a disco (around 1978); it even had a swimming pool and waterside in the 1980s, and later became a haunted house. Today, its hallways and classrooms are cold and empty, and the paint is slowly peeling off the walls.
Industrial green paint is a common sight in many abandoned structures. I’m not sure why. The sunlight streaming into this room at the Sunnyside Coal Mine in Sunnyside, Utah, makes the room glow an almost toxic green—as if the room itself was radioactive. Similar to the photo taken in Hiawatha, this is another locker room where miners stored their clothes and belongings in the baskets pictured. I love the emptiness of this place. Although it was once used every day by coal miners getting ready for their shifts and then going home after a hard day's work, it is now quiet and empty.
Pictured here is a worn out office chair inside Baron Woolen Mills in Brigham City, Utah. The walls and floors are worn from many years of production, and the colors are just beautiful. Established in 1869 by Lorenzo Snow, who would later become president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the mill produced blankets, coats, and other items that were sold throughout the United States for more than 100 years. Because of economic problems, the owners of Baron Woolen Mills stopped major production in 1996.
One of the reasons I find abandoned buildings to be such compelling subjects is because of scenes like this one. The world isn’t always pristine, perfect, and new; scenes like this remind me that there is still beauty to be found in the old and worn out.
Floyd’s house in Richmond, Utah, was a surprise. On the door of this room hung was a sign that read, “Proffessor Floyd H. Danger” [sic] with two warnings, “DO NOT DESTURB” [sic] and “HIGH VOLTAGE KEEP OUT.” Floyd was either a mad scientist you’d be wise not to trifle with, or he just had a peculiar sense of humor.
My Grandma grew up in Panaca, Nev., and the home she lived in is now abandoned. The home and property were purchased by the local school district, who moved the home to an empty lot a few blocks away from its original location. My Grandma told me once that she wished someone would take a match to it and burn it down, because it makes her so sad to see it. It’s the house she grew up in, and she has many fond memories of living there. For her to see it now, abandoned and forgotten, is difficult.
Although this photograph, and the one above it, of an abandoned home in Leamington, Utah, aren’t my Grandma’s home, it reminds me of her sad home in Panaca.
There is a certain abstract beauty to the ruins of the Tintic Standard Reduction Mill in Goshen, Utah. The sizable foundations of the mill are all that remains, and its colors and shapes are unique and interesting. Graffiti artists have used them as large blank canvases for their own work. The Tintic Mill processed copper, gold, silver, and lead from nearby mines in Eureka, Utah, from 1921 to 1925, until its reducing process was replaced by newer methods.
Today, the ruins sit along a hillside, weathering, aging, and never to be used again. But it’s still a strong reminder of the rich mining history of the local area.
Sometimes, you find something interesting when exploring abandoned buildings, and other times, with some creativity, you can make a photograph come to life. This old rotary kiln at Delle Chemical Lime was used in the manufacturing of limestone for use in products like sheet rock and concrete. Although the building is no longer around, it was an great place to explore and photograph before it was demolished. This office and its steps aren’t very interesting in and of themselves, so we used a red road flare and some off-camera lighting to “paint” the scene and give it some greater interest and some mystery.
As a photographer, I love what you can find in abandoned places to photograph. The way the structures fall apart from neglect and exposure to the elements can create many areas of interest. I love photographing the spaces themselves, the darkness and light, the textures and colors, the objects and things left behind.
This is an old rotary at Delle Chemical Lime, which was used in the production of limestone for use in products like sheet rock and concrete. I love how something industrial can be so beautiful after so many years of use.
I've been making photographs since I was a kid. My first camera was an old Nikon 35mm SLR, which my Dad taught me how to use. Early on, photography was exciting and fun and I still feel that same way today. The world we live in is so incredibly rich and visually interesting. I feel that photography makes me a more thoughtful observer–seeing things I would otherwise miss. With my photography I try and share something about myself, the places I've traveled, and the things which interest me.
To see more of Sam's work, visit SamScholesPhoto.com.