Glen Jean, West Virginia
Glen Jean, West Virginia
Fayette County, West Virginia
I first stumbled upon this massive industrial site late in the summer of 2016. I didn’t have my camera with me nor had any idea what it’s former function was at the time. So I snapped a few shots with my phone and jotted down the location as a reminder to return. It was the first of October before I made it back. I wandered around the site snapping photos and drinking cans of beer I had stuffed in my camera bag. It was late in the afternoon, the sun began to set and the wind began to chill. I must say it was one of the most relaxing evenings ever. I still have some research to do along with processing quite a few photos from various visits over the past few months. All I know as of now is that it was a sawmill that possibly shut down around 2012-2013, but why it shut down is the mystery to me. This particular company appears to still be operational and successful with other mills all across West Virginia, so I’m wondering why this one location went under?
It’s not odd at all to have a connection with a home, a place where bits of your life happened. But what about a home that you have no personal connection to other than noticing it’s sheer beauty peering out from amongst a thick blanket of trees? I cannot even begin to explain the flood of excitement and admiration that washed over me the first time I spotted the house I will from here on out refer to as Margaret. Like with most places I find, I was out on a random weekend drive. While speeding down Route 2 in Mason County, West Virginia toward Point Pleasant, a road I’ve been down countless times, something in the distance caught my eye that I had never noticed. I quickly turned around and headed off the main road, dropped my car into 2nd gear and began to slowly ascend up a narrow one lane back road. As I grew closer and the trees parted, I simply could not believe what laid upon my gaze. How could something so beautiful and majestic just be sitting here all alone? Needless to say I immediately fell in love with this antebellum gem. Dozens of questions about this place flooded my curious mind as I drove up the muddy and narrow driveway. That was in December 2015.
Over the past year or so I’ve been periodically making the 45 minute drive to shoot photos of Margaret. No matter what my mood she always made me feel better. I don’t know why I immediately felt such a strong connection with a home that I’ve never lived in. Perhaps she knew I would be coming along one day and admire her how someone once had. I sure as hell can’t fathom why someone would leave her behind. Sadly while on a recent visit, that same moment of laying eyes on her as the trees parted that made me fall in love, this time made my heart fall to the pit of my stomach. At first glance at a distance I thought maybe someone was demolishing the home. As I drove closer I realized that it was far worse. Margaret had been torched. I looked at my girlfriend and just kept saying “No! No! No!” as we drove closer. How!? Why?! I had just visited a few weeks prior and everything was fine. Judging by what’s left (or rather lack there of) it appears she burned for a while. Who the hell would do something like this? One thing is for certain, I will miss Margaret dearly.
in rust I trust
Recently I took a sunday afternoon drive to Clendenin, West Virginia. Clendenin is a town in Kanawha County that was one of many areas that were affected by the flooding that occurred last summer when around 10 inches of rain fell in a 12 hour period. When it was all said and done 23 people lost their lives, 6 of those being in Kanawha County. It was one of the worst floods in West Virginia history and the deadliest flash flood in the US since the 2010 flooding in Tennessee. The destruction was so severe and widespread that the governor declared a state of emergency for 44 of the 55 counties in West Virginia.
Flooding in Appalachia is a subject that hits deep with me. The summer before my senior year of high school a flash flood hit southern West Virginia where I lived in Wyoming County. I wasn’t home at the time but the way my mother tells it the flooding only lasted about 20 minutes. That’s all it took. 20 Minutes for 4 feet of muddy water from the overflowing Guyandotte River to rush through our house and destroy everything we had. The river was at the end of our dead end street and normally didn’t have a depth of more than a few feet, but that day it had crested at 18-20 feet in places. During the actual flooding I was a few miles outside of town riding an atv through the mountains with a friend. Up until that point in my 17 years on this planet I had never been on an atv and I was having the time of my life speeding through the southern West Virginia landscape. To this day the irony kills me that while I was off enjoying myself, everything I had acquired in life was being destroyed.
When I arrived in Clendenin I was shocked to see it still in the shape that it was in. The flood happened in June of 2016, here it was January 2017 and it appeared as if the river had just ran through a couple of weeks ago. Piles of people’s belongings stacked in front of ruined homes, trash carried by the river hanging from tree limbs, rows of closed businesses, and that stench of dampness and mold. All the terrible memories I had from the flood of 2001 came crashing back. It really makes me sick to think of all the money that is spent on something like a presidential campaign, where one person is basically just saying “look how much of an asshole my opponent is”, when that same amount of money could easily be put to an area such as this and help people rebuild their lives.
god is a place you will wait for the rest of your life.
kanawha county, west virginia 2017
I started to get serious about photography around ten years ago, it was around that same time I also became obsessed with the architecture in the town that I resided in. Huntington, West Virginia is not by any means a huge city or anything but in the early 1900’s was certainly somewhere to be. The advancement of the railroad and shipping along the Ohio River made Huntington grow at a rapid pace. One property in particular always caught my eye, instantly hypnotizing me with it’s beauty.
In 1911 an Adirondack log cabin style house called Yellowwood was built on the southern side of the city by Mr. and Mrs. S.P. Hager. The original purpose was for it to be used as a hunting lodge, but three years later as Huntington continued to grow they decided to convert the structure into a home adding an English Tudor section in 1914. Yellowwood covers 6,000 square feet (not including the basement and secret passageways) and sits on two acres of land. An eclectic mix of woods including pine, oak, chestnut, hickory, and poplar were used in construction. The majority of the raw materials used in the build were from the surrounding land including the cobblestones that make up the bordering wall and chimney. In it’s prime the house was surrounded by gardens, wildflowers, and a dry lily pond but as it sit’s now overgrown weeds and fallen tree limbs are all that remain.
Over the years I’ve taken numerous photos of this house, constantly day dreaming about it in it’s glory and especially if it were mine. While photographing it last summer a neighbor and his friendly yellow lab approached me to inquire what I was doing. During our brief conversation we compared a few notes on it’s history as I inquired about the plaque with the names on the rear patio. It was then that he informed me of the previous owners and part of the sad story that had left the house in it’s current state. Dr. Constance Hayden was a psychiatrist and her husband Dr. Richard Ansinelli was a cardiologist both in Huntington. The home had actually been in Dr. Hayden’s family for quite a while. Her parent’s rented the garage apartment from the second owner, Mr. Jameson, in the early 1960’s before acquiring the home in 1962. It was in 1988 that Dr. Hayden and her husband purchased the property from Hayden’s mother before restoring the home. I’ve seen a few photos of the house after the restoration and it was everything and more than I imagined while day dreaming all those times. The interior was filled with books, art, and antiques from around the world as well as from right here in West Virginia. Amongst these exquisite items was a handcrafted grand piano matching the wood of the house that Mr. Jameson had commissioned for his son, a concert pianist at Carnegie Hall. According to a 1992 local magazine article, it was the setting for quite a few Hallmark Christmas card photos as well.
From what I could gather about Dr. Hayden, she was a former US Army psychiatrist who did consulting and research in Washington, DC along with having a private practice in Huntington that doubled as a research center. Among her list of accomplishments she helped develop a drug for bipolar disorder. Her practice in Huntington primarily focused on chronic pain management and sleep disorders. In the late 90’s a divorce left Dr. Hayden with control of the home but her declining mental state left her incapable of maintaining it. In 1997 she was involved in a high speed police chase originating in Lawrence County, Ohio and ending across the bridge in Huntington. Charges were dropped after the court believed she was incompetent to stand trial. The following year as a result of the police chase the WV Board of Osteopathy placed her medical license on restricted status. In 2003 she published a book titled “The True Art of Survival” on which the cover photo of her was taken at Yellowwood.
This is where the story gets a bit fuzzy. The last listed owner is a woman named Erin Hutchinson from eastern Kentucky. Upon trying to find out who this was I discovered that she was the wife of Chris Hutchinson, a man who allegedly coerced Dr. Hayden, in her unstable mental state, into selling him the house for cheap. Sadly Dr. Hayden did not have the ability, even after a lengthy court battle, to reclaim the property from him. According to neighbors, Hutchinson lived there for a brief time but was booted for whatever reason from the home. I’m not sure if this had anything to do with the court battles involving Dr. Hayden or the mortgage company. Shortly after his departure, “vandals” broke in and completely trashed the place. Go figure. Chris Hutchinson had owned and operated at least ten different electrical and security businesses between 1990 and 2012. In October of 2013 he pleaded guilty to tax fraud for failing to pay $250,000 in employment taxes and was sentenced to a federal prison.
According to the neighbor with the friendly lab, the bank who mortgaged the property occasionally sends someone there to secure it and mow the lawn but it’s future at this point is unknown. He was just as interested in the property as I, telling me about how he used to go to the courthouse to follow the case before it went cold. I don’t think whomever controls it now have been able to resell the property because of the ongoing lawsuits. A few years ago during a massive storm a tree fell on the front of the house knocking a hole in the slate roof. There has been talk of it being demolished because of the insanely high cost needed to restore the home but I honestly do not see how someone could even fathom the idea of doing so.
roadside attractions – huntington, wv
in wind burnt homes sighing rays from a sunset