Sunday, April 25, 2010

Photo Essay: The Abandoned Places of Empire

This "Photo Essay" is a companion piece to the sermon I delivered on April 25, 2010 at the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church.

On Saturday, April 24 I drove to three separate neighborhoods in the Kansas City metro area. I began in the Ivanhoe Neighborhood in KCMO. Our first picture is of a completely empty acre that has been fenced off at the corner of 39th and Prospect.

Nearby, at the corner of Troost and Linwood, is a boarded-up store.

And, here is a photo of the Horace Mann School. It has been closed since 1979, and has sat as a vacant eyesore for more than 30 years.

About this school, a member of the Neighborhood Association said, “Anytime you have a vacant building that used to be a thriving place, it leaves you with a sense of despair, hopelessness - particularly in this part of town, where we've lost so many residents and we have so many vacant buildings."

It is a twisted irony that the school was named for Horace Mann, an educator (and Unitarian) credited with the creation of public schools in the United States.

Behind the school, you find the ruins of a gas station that has become a dumping ground for trash.

Next, I decided to drive South about 50 blocks to the commercial ghost-town near the failed Bannister Mall. Here is a photo of an empty Super Wal-Mart.

And, here is another shuttered Wal-Mart.

I had no idea what this box building was until I saw the "labelscar." It is extremely faint, but you can just make out that this used to be a PetSmart.

Finally, I just had to snap a photo of "Golddiggers Restaurant & Ba"

There are just so many possible captions from which to choose.

Finally, I decided to drive over the area around our church. Here is the sleek looking Payday lender at 77th and Metcalf.

And, here is another predatory lender at 82nd and Metcalf.

A few blocks to the South, at 95th and Metcalf, you find the almost entirely vacant Metcalf South Mall.

Between the Sears at one end and the Macy's at the other, every store is closed. Walking around inside and taking pictures I encountered one other solitary being. He asked me why I was taking pictures. I told him I was taking pictures of abandoned places. He enthusiastically recommended that I check out this web site about the dead malls of America. Local contributors tell the stories of these dead malls. One sentence from the story of Metcalf South stood out. “Perhaps the saddest thing of all was seeing the sign that popped up a couple of holiday seasons ago that informed shoppers that Santa no longer visits Metcalf South.”

I want to conclude this "photo essay" with a word of hope. The neighborhood where I live is rather nice, and less than a block from my house I was delighted to discover that an abandoned lot has been converted into a community garden and rain garden and that fruit trees have been planted with an invitation for anyone walking by to pick their own fruit.

Here is a photo of the early harvest.