Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Moribund Mansions in Maryland

Saturday was another day that sweltered from the temperatures of Hell, and not a day that we wanted to be spending much time outdoors. So Emily, Richard and I decided to check out an abandoned house that some of our urbexing buddies had already been to. An old house, shielded from the burning sun, would hopefully be cooler than a cycling or hiking expedition.
The outside looked promising, a large family home surrounded by huge established trees. Completely private with the dense vegetation almost completely blocking the sound of traffic, so it would be easy to believe we were in the countryside rather than suburban Maryland.
 There had once been some gaudy lighting outside. None now. Lamp posts with large white spherical shades were all laying on the ground, many of the actual posts completely covered by ground plants but the white shades were still visible about the front yard, looking like huge eggs about to hatch.
We entered through the back of the house and saw an empty indoor swimming pool, heavily graffitied with satanic scrawl, broken furniture and trash thrown about, and my thought was, "Oh no, another trashed house filled with junk and rubbish." It wasn't even old, none of the structure was architecturally photogenic, and I saddened at struggling to find something to photograph that I'd actually want to look at later.
But inside at the front of the house, my enthusiasm picked up when I saw these two chairs. Ignoring the violent red paint daubs on the walls and the vandalized fireplaces I concentrated on these, then slowly came around, managing to find other angles of interest.
It had been an Indian family living here, both husband and wife are doctors, still practicing, and their choice of wallpaper left much to be desired. Very vibrant, with lurid colors, different patterns screamed at each other from adjacent walls. And every wall had been papered. Elaborate coving competed with the wall decorations below and thankfully, the ceilings had been spared, otherwise this would have been a severe sensory perception overload. As I climbed the stairs and saw more gaudy, hideously decorated walls I wondered how they ever slept. Edges and corners were curling away from the walls as though the house was repelling the tacky trimming but despite the house having stood empty for a long time, that paper was well glued and sticking firmly.
The bedrooms looked as though only clothing and immediate personal items had been taken, the beds had been made, bedside cabinets and tables still adorned with knickknacks and lamps. Shoes stood at the bottom of closets and a few items of clothing clung to rusty hangers. Even paintings, that looked like vacation memories, were left hanging on walls.
But the most astounding feature were the cancelled checks. They were everywhere, across the floors, on the stairs, in drawers and even outside. So many financial documents and plans sat in folders inside cabinets or were thrown across the floor, I nearly balked at seeing them, but then after getting used to the quantity of paperwork strewn about, it became commonplace, and I started reading some of it. As well as being doctors, these folks were pursuing many other financial ventures, involving thousands of dollars. But why was all the evidence left here for anyone to see, especially when they were still close to the neighborhood. We had no answers.
We may never know the real reason why the house was vacated, but personally, I think it was the wallpaper...
We then drove on to explore another old house, one we hadn't seen for a few years. I wanted to check on the beautiful stained glass that had been in some of the windows, left to deteriorate by non interested owners in this slowly crumbling building.
It still stood, and I was relieved to not smell gas, a leak had been very apparent on our last visit, but thankfully had been resolved and hadn't resulted in the house's demise.
Inside though it was apparent that the building had been desecrated since we'd last visited, though thankfully not the glass. Obviously the vandals had some conscience and hadn't destroyed these objects of beauty, although I wondered how much longer they'd survive.
These were in the downstairs hallway and in one room next to the front door. The four seasons are depicted in the girl's outfits.
When we had last come here, the fireplaces had also been beautiful, with wood carvings and ornate hand painted tiles. Only a few of these remained, most had been pulled up and taken away. A beautiful stained glass window showing an angel had also been above a fireplace, but today I saw that had also disappeared, leaving blank glass behind it. There was no broken glass on the floor so I was a little glad that it had at least been removed in one piece and was being appreciated by somebody, even if it was stolen.
We went out on to the roof again, the fairytale turret still reaching up to the clouds, its colored slate clinging determinedly to the steep roof. The wood looked as though it was beyond restoration so I'm guessing it won't be long before this little tower collapses and all we're left with are our photos.
We didn't stay long. Apart from the gorgeous windows, there wasn't much to see, all remaining furniture had been destroyed or taken, dropped ceilings had collapsed or been pulled down, leaving the floor covered in broken pieces of polystyrene tiles. Graffiti had been sprayed on some of the walls and the place felt depressing. As we walked away I looked up at the turret one last time.
We polished off our day's exploring with a beer tasting at a local brewery, as much interested in their air conditioning as in their brews. We were exhausted from the heat and thirsty. We ordered a taste of all 10 beers on tap, but unfortunately, we were more impressed with the coolness of the temperature inside than we were with the ales. They weren't momentous but we dutifully polished them all off before heading home to cool off under shower heads.

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