I have mentioned the 52 Frames Project a few times already, but in case you missed it, it is a worldwide community of photography enthusiasts who undertake a new photo challenge each week while working on improving their skills. You can join whenever you want throughout the year, but I decided to make it a year-long challenge for myself for 2018. Last week, the weekly challenge was “neglected.” This was considered a story challenge, where we were meant to create an emotional connection with our photo and have viewers interpret the story through the photo. For me, there were a few steps to getting to the photo that I ultimately submitted and the process was something I wanted to share here!
I knew right away that I wanted to try to photograph somewhere abandoned, so my first step was looking into finding an abandoned location. I chose one that I wanted to go to but I was nervous to go alone, so I asked Dave if he would go with me. The weeks of the challenges run from Monday to Sunday, so we would have to go on Sunday when he was not working. Then we decided to go out of town for the weekend, so I had to take the photos before we left. I asked a friend to go with me but she couldn’t, so I ended up alone.
The first place I tried to visit was the old Kuhlman Die Casting Factory in Stillwell, KS. It has been shut down for years and is not far off the road, but when I got there, I was nervous to leave my car parked by a no trespassing sign and there was really nowhere else nearby to park. I later realized that I could have approached from the other side, and there are even paths through the woods leading there, but they are located behind a public school and are not supposed to be used during school hours. I’m going to have to go back there another time – this is as far as I got:
The next day, I headed in the opposite direction to check out 4 abandoned places in Kansas City, MO. The first location I knew of from when I went on the Jewish history tour of Kansas City, as it was a previous location of the Jewish Community Center. Most recently, it housed a middle school. Supposedly, it is now slated to become a community center yet again.
Of course, I wasn’t brave enough to try to go inside – just the thought of going into an empty building creeps me out! But the parking lot itself was not so scary. So I’m thinking, okay, I can do this. Next stop!
I stumbled upon this one accidentally while trying to recover where this former JCC location was. While looking on Google maps at yet another former locations, I noticed something labeled “Walt Disney Studios.” In Kansas City?? Some research told me that this was the Laugh-O-Gram Studio, a short-lived film studio said to be the very place that provided Walt Disney with the inspiration to create Mickey Mouse. The studio went bankrupt and Disney moved on to Hollywood. The building was meant to be restored and turned into an educational center and animation museum, but it does not seem to have happened. It is still owned by a group called Thank You Walt Disney. Here’s what it looks like from the outside:
The neighborhood around this building is also in disarray, and I took these photos of a building close by:
The next location on my list was an abandoned concrete reservoir in the middle of a disc golf field. It has been abandoned since 1931 and is now very much overgrown and painted up with graffiti. The Kansas City Design Center developed a vision plan for the park and the reservoir that included ideas such as turning it into a splash park or an event space, but I don’t believe anything was every solidified. Meanwhile, there is obviously a way to enter the reservoir and there are stairs, but I was uncomfortable doing anything other than peeking through the fences!
Finally, my last stop and the one that I wanted to go to with Dave, was the site of the workhouse castle, originally a jail built in 1897. Since it closed in 1924, it was repurposed as a storage facility, a Marine training camp, and a dog euthanization center. In 2014, the location was used for a wedding and supposedly he hoped to turn it into an event space, community garden, or community work space. Like the reservoir though, it still remains to be seen if any updates to the building will occur. Again, I was not brave enough to go inside or to get closer to the building, but here’s what I saw from across the street!
I will post the photo that I submitted to the project later today on Instagram. Overall, I was proud of myself for overcoming a fear of checking out new places by myself! Also, it is sad that all of these places were meant to become something other than neglected and none of them have yet. Would you explore an abandoned building?