Off the Beaten Path

When Dan and I travel, we rarely take the direct route.  Venturing off the beaten path is where the fun is.  On this particular trip, the end goal was Pipestone, MN which is located at the very Southwestern corner of MN.  There were many towns along the way that we made a mental note to stop back and explore further at a later date and time.  A few mentionable towns we decided, for some reason or another, to stop in were Gibbon and Walnut Grove MN.

To Pipestone we go

As we traveled through Gibbon, MN a few of the business caught our eye and seemed to bring us back to another point in time. Gibbon Village Hall is an extremely interesting building;  the unusual building was built in 1895 with medieval-themed Romanesque Revival architecture.  We also took some time out of our travels to walk into Bad Dog Antiques and Other Attractions and were pleasantly surprised.  What a very interesting and unique store… I am still kicking myself for not purchasing the complete antique set of alphabet wooden blocks!  If ever in the area, stop in and chat with the friendly staff. To see more images from Gibbon, MN take the time to view Dan’s blog, “Gibbon, MN/MN South Central”.

Located in the Southwest corner of Redwood County, Lies a small town called Walnut Grove.  Walnut Grove is known nationwide today as the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Every year, the town holds a Wilder Pageant which is an outdoor drama based of the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Although there are no pictures of the historical site in this blog, I remember visiting the banks of Plum creek often as a child since my grandmother lived and taught school in a small town located east of this area in Lamberton.

The Horse Knows the Way

The beautiful rolling hills and bluffs that overlook the Wisconsin River Valley are breath-taking.  Dan and I started and ended a weekend photographing Southeastern MN and Southwestern WI and experiencing the artist community in and around Spring Green, WI. This land is part of the Driftless area, which was left untouched by the glaciers of the Ice Age millions of years ago.

Driftless area

Driving the backroads and taking in the country air will forever be a favorite of mine.  With every turn of the road, you may find an old barn, an abandoned farmstead, the Amish towns, interesting livestock, wildlife galore, or River valleys with breath-taking views…  Wonders for a photographer’s eye.

Some of the main attractions of this area today include Taliesin, which after 1937, was the estate of architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and House on the Rock.  We did not make it to Taliesin but we did visit House of the Rock.  As a child, I remember walking these halls and seeing the many collections that reside here.  As an adult, I was astonished and amazed that one man had this eccentric vision to create what we see today… The world’s most bizarre and immense collection of stuff.

The Duluth, Missabe, and Iron Range Railway

Composite by Sometimes Interesting

Dan and I did not know the complete history behind the Duluth, Missabe, Iron Range Railway – until now.  In 2013, Dan and I came across an extensive abandoned building while in Two Harbors, MN; our hearts raced as we arrived on the site.  We were lucky enough to be able to photograph this location in all of its splendid decay. This building will be forever imprinted in our minds as it was our very first urban/industrial abandoned site.  We have mostly explored abandoned homes/farmsteads in the countrysides of Minnesota, Wisconsin, North & South Dakota.

A very talented writer and fellow blogger whose posts can be viewed at Sometimes Interesting, wrote an extensive piece on the Duluth, Missabe, Iron Range Railway; he has restored old life into these more recent photographs as seen below within the gallery and in Dan’s original post: [ Dan Traun’s original post from 2013-07-22].  We are deeply appreciative of the time and effort that Sometimes Interesting put into Ghosts of the Duluth, Missabe, and Iron Range Railway.

For fifty years the depot and roundhouse in Two Harbors sat abandoned, reminding of an era driven by coal and iron. The site was eventually razed, but not before photographers Dan & Cynthia Traun were able to visit and capture the buildings as they appeared in their final days.  Source: Sometimes Interesting

Sometimes Interesting is all about uncovering the history of the abandoned, forgotten, and unexplained.  Spend some time delving into this site; you will be absolutely captivated by the research performed and his writing talent.

Composite by Sometimes Interesting

The vibrations from the ghost machinery, the history that trickled from the deteriorating walls, the past whispers heard from the employees who worked in this magnificent historical building, have forever been silenced as these buildings are no longer standing.  All that will remain are the memories, photographs, and stories told through the many people who have been touched by its presence. Please enjoy my photographs taken from the exploration of this site below, stop and take a peek the images my husband, Dan Traun, had captured in  Dan Traun’s original post from 2013-07-22, then read the extensive history behind this magnificent building by visiting the site of Somtimes Interesting- Ghosts of the Duluth, Missabe, and Iron Range Railway.

Enjoy!

Chicagoland and the Hiawatha Cedar Rapids

According to Wikipedia –

On August 12, 1833, the Town of Chicago was organized with a population of around 200.  Within seven years it would grow to a population of over 4,000. The City of Chicago was incorporated on Saturday, March 4, 1837 and went on to become the fastest growing city in the world for several decades.  Today, Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the US and is home to 9.5 million people.

We were fotunate to be included on a once in a life time trip while we photographed the Kremer family as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  The Kremer family had rented a restored 1940’s train car, the Hiawatha Cedar Rapids, and traveled the railways from Minnesota to Illinois.  The “Cedar Rapids” features a unique Skytop end, providing passengers a unique view of the country as they head down the railroad. We were honored to be included on this special occasion, what an experience (thanks again for the opportunity)!  Included in this post are a few images from the train itself and images from in and around Chicagoland.

Chicago is rich in the arts and architecture; we did not spend much time in the city during this trip, but we plan on returning someday!

A Grandmother and the Peacock.

This post is dedicated to my grandmother who left this world back in 2013, her smile and knowledge is missed to this day.

I have always admired my grandmother who raised 3 children on her own after losing her husband back in 1963.  A strong, intelligent woman who pushed through thick and thin with her head held high.

I remember the “candy drawer” and the excitement of pulling the drawer open the moment we would arrive at Grandmother’s house.   I remember the games played, the stories told, her quilting, and the smile she had on her face whenever family was around.  I do wish that I had learned the art of hand sewn quilting from the master 🙂

Her knowledge and support throughout my childhood will remain part of me until the end of time.

It was a beautiful winter day, cold, but not too cold, and the sun was shining bright causing a vivid blue sky.  Dan was by my side as we made our way down to Lamberton, in the southwestern portion of Minnesota.  A drive that I had not made since my grandmother moved closer to my mother in early 2003.

We stopped in New Ulm, and toured the August Schell Brewing Company, a place full of history and beautiful old buildings; I would imagine that we will head back that way in the near future. We were surprised to see peacocks roaming the grounds and managed to photograph them.  I have always been drawn to the jewel toned colors that these amazing birds display.

Only after working through this album, and researching this magnificent bird, did I learn of the symbolism it represents.  I was shocked to find that in many cultures, this bird has played a significant role. I found this symbolism fitting not only for the situation, but also as a reminder of who my grandmother was.

  • In Christianity, the peacock represents resurrection, renewal, and immortality within its teachings.
  • In Buddhism they symbolize wisdom.
  • In Hinduism, the peacock is associated with Lakshmi who represents patience, kindness, and luck.

The following legend struck a cord was one of my favorites:
The peacock has been linked to Kuan Yin and it is this deity that is supposedly the creator of the beautiful colors of the peacock’s signature tail feathers.  The myth tells us Kuan Yin could have been immortal but stayed because she wished to aid humanity in their spiritual evolution.  Kuan Yin taught people, through her own compassionate spirit, to lie together as friends.  When she decided to go to the heavens, she appointed a guardian to keep the earth peaceful.  She called a bird, with dull brown feathers to her.  She rubbed her face and brushed her hands down the length of its feathers, which created a kaleidoscope of colors and beautiful eyes on the end of each long feather.  Therefore, the Peacock’s feathers remind us that Kuan Yin is compassionately watching over us.

I would like to thank my husband, Dan, for standing by my side. For the support (and the Kleenex) you gave me each time I needed it…  I love you dearly.


 In Memory of

Esther M Redman
Redman


Esther Marie (Lee) Redman was born on August 15, 1917 in Emmet County, Iowa. She was the daughter of George and Dena Lee. She graduated from Sanborn High School in 1937. She was united in marriage to Willis G. Redman on July 25, 1942 in Sanborn, MN. Esther attended and graduated from Mankato State University with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Elementary Education. She taught in one room country schools until 1960 when she began teaching in Lamberton and was employed there until her retirement in 1980. She was a member of the United Methodist Church in Lamberton, MN.

Esther died on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at Farmstead (Presbyterian Homes) in Andover, MN at the age of 95 years.
We miss you and know you are there still watching over us.

Please enjoy the images from that trip.

 

A State of Existing, North Dakota

“Ghost towns stud North Dakota, and this empty house is just one bone in a giant skeleton of abandoned human desire.”

A quote from a perfectly written article for National Geographic about North Dakota titled,
The Emptied Prairie” By Charles Bowden

I remember, as a little child, walking hand in hand with my father across fields of long prairie grass.  I was amazed by the dance created by the wind as it touched each blade of grass.  To this day, I can close my eyes and visualize the sight seen as we walked closer to an abandoned farmstead and the excitement noticed in my father’s eyes and heard in his voice. I learned from him that these abandoned properties are not a place of destruction, but a story of endless outcomes.

The trip to North Dakota was an incredible journey, one that I am happy to say, was shared with an amazing man.  Dan and I enjoyed the migrating birds that this pothole region attracts and the vibrant colors a North Dakota landscape can provide.  Visit North Dakota as seen in some of my previous posts:

North Dakota Ghosts- The old school in Forbes, North Dakota
Abandoned Outside Forbes, ND
Following the rails of North Dakota
North Dakota Shines

This trip included some of my favorite abandoned properties to date. As I am writing this post, I can still see the texture of the peeling paint on the rickety walls or see the layers of personal material left behind on the floor.  Two different properties that told two different stories.  The old farmhouse with the herd of cattle watching us explore was full of color and texture – a feast for a photographers eyes.  I could only imagine the grandeur of this home when she was alive with activity.  The other property included in this post was just as incredible, but for a different reason. My grandfather was a talented violin maker and carpenter.  Watching him play the instrument as a child, taught me the wonders of music.  Violin, piano, and cello are three of my favorite instruments that can send a shiver right through me whenever heard.  Now imagine mixing the two…  an abandoned property with musical ties- WOWZA!  The music sheets were strewn throughout the home, and a shell of a guitar was left behind in an empty room.  I can almost hear the music that played within those walls.

This concludes the series on North Dakota.  Where will our next journey take us?  For now, take a walk with Dan and I as we tour some of the most intriguing abandoned farmstead that we have had the privilege to photograph.

Abandoned outside of Forbes, North Dakota

The only song we heard walking through fields of tall grass as we approached this abandoned farmstead, was the North Dakota wind as it howled through the branches of the old Maple trees.  The excitement grew as we came closer to the house.  The wonder of what you may find as the old rickety door is pushed open, is like reading the first pages of a novel.  Sometimes it grabs you and pulls you in, other times it just holds your attention.  There wasn’t much left as the plaster of the walls started disintegrating long, long ago.  The trusty Hoover is still waiting to clean up the mess time has left behind.

Each of these properties hide a plot line (with or without clues) and the fun part for me is to create the characters and scenario played out in times past.

Dells Mill and Museum, Augusta Wisconson

Dan and I awoke this particular morning with the intention of visiting Dells Mill and Museum in Augusta, Wisconsin.  We had just returned from a recent trip to that area when we learned that one of the few remaining gristmills was just a hop, skip, and a jump to where we were photographing.  After visiting Pickwick Mill and Schech’s Mill in South Eastern Minnesota, we were excited to visit another historic mill and mark that one off of our list of places to photograph near home.

The day was bright and shinny and full of photographic opportunities.  Once inside, we were taken back by the monumental size of this mill and were able to soak in some of its history.

I would highly recommend a stop at this historical site; 2014 will mark its 150th year anniversary.  Take in the sites and the sounds of this old mill and if you are lucky enough, Gus Clark will play a tune for you.  Gus was not only talented, but he was the friendliest museum proprietor and guide around!  Thanks Gus for the knowledge and the wonderful song- I only wish we would have had video rolling.

From the Wisconsin Historical Marker Plaque at the Wisconsin Dells Mill in Augusta Wisconsin

The Dells Mill

Water-Powered grist mills ground the wheat that dominated Wisconsin’s Civil War-era economy. Built in 1864, the mill was one of the server serving area farmers. After wheat production moved westward, owners adapted the building to mill flour and grind feed.

A trip to the Dells mill could be an all-day family affair. Farmers often fished the millpond to pass the time. The millpond also provided a source for the winter ice harvest. A store, hotel, and school grew up nearby to serve the growing community

Creating a mill pond required the building of a dam to flood upstream land. The Wisconsin Territorial Legislature enacted legislation enabling dam construction in 1840.

Built along the dells of Bridge Creek, the base of the mill was carved into the sandstone bedrock. massive hand-hewn timbers secured with wooden pegs make up the structure of the Mill. Water turbines powered the milling process. A concrete dam replaced the original log structure in 1919. Dells Mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, operated continuously until 1968

Dells Mill and Museum map

The Dells Mill Museum is open May through October 10 am to 5 pm
The Dells Mill Museum and Historic Properties
E18855 County Road V Augusta, WI 54722
715-286-2714

The Amish of Augusta, Wisconsin

A world without automobiles, telephones, and computers?  I could not imagine life without all the accommodations.  However, Amish communities thrive without today’s technology and the headaches that come along with it.  From sunrise to sunset, they are a hard working group.  They use the land and all it has to offer without the machinery that we see today.

According to Wikipedia:

“Amish lifestyle is dictated by the Ordnung (German, meaning: order), which differs slightly from community to community, and, within a community, from district to district. What is acceptable in one community may not be acceptable in another. No summary of Amish lifestyle and culture can be totally adequate, because there are few generalities that are true for all Amish. Groups may separate over matters such as the width of a hat-brim, the color of buggies, or other issues

Bearing children, raising them, and socializing with neighbors and relatives are the greatest functions of the Amish family.  All Amish believe large families are a blessing from God.”

This particular Amish settlement in Augusta, Wisconsin was founded over 30 years ago and is 6 church districts in size.  Roughly ¾ of Wisconsin’s forty or so Amish settlements consist of just 1-2 church districts. Wisconsin has been experiencing high levels of in-migration as nearly 30 Amish settlements have been founded over the past two decades.

The Amish are known for their beautiful handmade quilts, baskets, furniture, and many other items. In their communities you will often find bakeries, furniture or cabinet making shops, quilt shops, as well as general stores with unique items.

If you are ever in the area, the Woodshed, in Augusta, Wisconsin specializes in Amish antiques and woodworks and offers tours through a nearby Amish settlement. Visitors can savor mouthwatering homemade candy and baked goods, watch furniture makers and visit the Amish sawmills in this area. This tour also offers the chance to visit horse breeders and harness makers.

Augusta, Wisconsin

On this particular morning, Dan and I had discussed traveling to the area of Augusta, WI.  The sun was shining and the weather was perfect for a photography outing, so we packed up the car with photography gear (and the girls) and headed on our merry way.

Augusta WI map

Augusta, Wisconsin is a small community situated between rolling valleys in central Wisconsin and is part of a region known as Chippewa Valley.  The area is beautiful, full of river valleys and streams, rolling hills, marshes, forests, and bountiful farmland.  We were also drawn to this area due to its Amish settlement and Dells Mill (both of which will be mentioned in later posts).

On this day, we were lucky enough to spy not only one, but two, abandoned farmsteads, a thriving Amish community, and a new industry popping up in this area.  The outcome was a fun filled day of a variety of photography, a realization of the impact of man’s consumer needs, and two very tired pups.  Please enjoy the first of three posts regarding this area.  This post will focus on the two abandoned farmsteads we just happened to stumble upon this day.

ATTRACTIONS IN THE AREA INCLUDE:

Amish Tours at The Wood Shed 
(715) 286-5404, 105 West Lincoln Street (Hwy 12 East), Augusta, WI 54722

Dells Mill Tour – Water Powered Museum Tour
(715) 286-2714, Museum is 5 miles North on County Road V, Augusta, WI 54722