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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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