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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Van Wie

Legacies Lost To Time

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Northumberland, New Hampshire

Have you ever encountered an old house that looks abandoned?

You can't help but wonder who lived there, and what happened to them. Why is the house now standing empty, a legacy lost to time? What stories remain untold, about who built it? and who was born there, or died there?

How many generations called it home before something led to an unraveling of the legacy... an illness, a bankruptcy, a struggle through poverty, a rift in the family? Perhaps an elderly person without heirs could not maintain it; the roof leaked, the furnace failed, the bills and taxes went unpaid. Or maybe the last owner just up and left.

I've driven past a number of these houses many times, and each one raises an emotion I don't fully understand. I find a stark beauty in the architecture, the rural setting, and even the overgrowth and slow deterioration. Then I get a haunting feeling, not as if a ghost lives there (although one might), but more a foreboding sense of impermanence, even for something that stood strong against the New England winters for decades. It's a visible reminder of time passing, the prospect of slow oblivion. I suspect others have similar feelings.

For years, I've intended to photograph these houses to try to capture that feeling, and to give these structures a chance to make a final statement, even as they decline. This summer I pulled over and captured my first images. When I shared these photos with my friend, Phil Odence, he surprised me by sending me some images that he too had collected.

Click on the images in the galleries to enlarge. What stories do you see?

Here are Phil's photos:

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Philip Odence
Philip Odence
Dec 03, 2023

Good one, DVW, and nice addition from Bruce.


David A. Van Wie
David A. Van Wie
Dec 02, 2023

Hey, Bruce - yes, you nailed it. Your presumed stories are a bit more poetic than my own. While I lived in Maine for 30+ years, I haven't been back there enough lately to collect some good photos.

I'm glad you enjoy the blog. I haven't been as diligent at posting this past year or so. After wrapping up the fall semester teaching, I have promised myself I'll get back to it. Thanks for reading and sharing your own story. - DVW


Dec 01, 2023


I very much enjoy your blog and your fishing adventures. Your piece here reminded me of my thoughts on abandoned houses during my Route 1 trip through Maine a few years ago (and which I spoke briefly to you about beforehand). I'm including it here below, verbatim; I think you'll get a kick out of it.

"Through Presque Isle, and Caribou, and Houlton… The towns appear and recede quickly, and the empty stretches take over again. There is not much fat on the land here: nothing extra, no frills. I notice that, outside of the larger towns, commercial buildings are rarely branded by the products or services they sell. With a few exceptions such as the Dunkin Donuts a…

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