Knox County Poorhouse - The Dainty Squid

Knox County Poorhouse

Monday, February 29, 2016

2016, after the fire

If you've been reading a while, you might recall how after I got my license I took a lot of little day trips to silly places as often as possible. The giant basket, and field of concrete corn cobs, Story Book Forest, numerous cemeteries, and more! After moving to Cleveland I kind of fell out of the habit. I've been missing it a lot lately. For 2016 I made two goals that would be accomplished by getting back into the habit of taking these trips; to explore Ohio, and be brave and be alone. You can read more about my goals here.

I spent last Sunday night researching places I might want to stop at. While browsing all my regular sites, hoping something would spark my interest, I thought of the Knox County Poorhouse. It's one of those buildings I had known about for a while but never made it a point to go and check out. On June 26, 2015 the poorhouse caught fire. I thought that I had missed my opportunity and that was a huge bummer. It was an insanely gorgeous building. I did a little research, and found some recent photos. It didn't burn down completely, it had caught fire. While the building was obviously in very rough shape, from what I could find online it still looked like it might be worth a visit. I decided I was going to make the drive, what was there to lose?


Built in 1875, The Knox County Poorhouse was a place for the poor, and indigent. The mentally ill were sometimes left there by families who could not afford the proper treatment. Many other residents were elderly who had no other place to go. It didn't take too long before rumors that something wasn't right began to swirl. Horrible conditions led to more than a few deaths over the years. Supposedly remains were even found in shallow unmarked graves in more recent years. Eventually, 1953, the building was found structurally unstable by a county engineer and subsequently closed but not for too long... The Knox County Poorhouse reopened as a bible college in 1957. It was open for 31 years before closing yet again in 1988. Finally, in it's last incarnation the poorhouse was used as a haunted house. In 2006 four of the floors collapsed. Since then it's sat completely abandoned.

abandoned, poorhouse, mt vernon
"Erected in 1875. 6 & 7"

Monday morning I hopped in the car, equipped with multiple cameras, and headed off with a few spots mapped out. The drive was beautiful. The further I got from home the foggier it got. I absolutely LOVE shooting photos in fog so I nixed my other stops and headed straight to the poorhouse. Much to my dismay around ten minutes before arriving the fog had lifted, I was disappointed to say the least. I turned down the road and there she was. After a long drive, the feeling of seeing what you came for off in the distance is incredibly satisfying. It no longer mattered that it wasn't foggy, I was just happy to be there. Even in the state the building was in, she was beautiful!! I couldn't wait to get out of my car and take pictures.

Then I spotted a truck... Seeing that the property is clearly marked "NO TRESPASSING!" there's no playing dumb and really the property isn't that large so sneaking around wasn't an option. Did I really just drive two hours only to see the building and leave with no photos?! I parked across the street, contemplated my options, did a bit of pouting then decided to put on my big girl pants and just go feel out whoever was parked over there. In case y'all need a reminder, I am insanely shy. Things like this, while no big deal to most people, are a huge deal to me. I rehearsed it a few times, "Hey, do you own this place? Would you mind if I took some photos?", before actually working up the nerve.

I drove over, rolled down my window, and took a deep breath. "Hey!" I blurted out. "Hey!" the man mimicked back in the same tone. I stuttered out my rehearsed speech and to my surprise, he said yes! We traded introductions, and spoke briefly about the building. His name was Larry, he and his wife purchased the poorhouse in September of 2015, shortly after it caught fire. They had plans to turn it into a banquet hall but soon realized it would cost a lot more money than they had anticipated. The city was pressuring them to do something with the building immediately due to the dangerous conditions. The day I showed up to photograph it? Demolition day! What are the chances?! I gathered all my equipment and started off to photograph what was left of this incredible building before it was gone forever.

I don't know about you but there are just some people I instantly feel at ease with and Larry was definitely one of those people. He joined me after my first lap of the property and together we walked around discussing the building's history and how sad we both were to see it go. Larry grabbed a flashlight from his vehicle and we both explored inside for the first time. "My wife wouldn't let me come inside" he joked. It was really special to be able to experience that with a stranger, especially one who is from a totally different generation. To be able to find common ground like that is really awesome. We poked around inside where it was possible, and peeked in all the windows to see the spots we couldn't otherwise access. My plans for the day were just to get some exterior photos so I definitely got more than I ever expected.

abandoned building, ohio, knox county
Larry searching for the perfect souvenir brick for me to keep.

I'm bummed I never got to see the poorhouse in all it's glory before it burnt down but I guess it's pretty darn cool to be able to say I was one of the very, very last people to explore and photograph it before it was torn down. I can't even begin to tell you how much of a success I consider that little day trip to be. I conquered a fear of mine and was repaid enormously with a personal tour of an incredible piece of history.
xoxo

A million thanks to Larry for being so kind as to let me photograph his building and giving me a tour. Words cannot express how thankful I am! Part of me couldn't imagine that it was actually being torn down that same day but a news report along with photos confirm the sad news, the poorhouse is gone forever.

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30 thoughts

  1. These are awesome photos. So neat that he let you in to take photos and that you got in before demolition!

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  2. It's so sad when buildings get torn down. If I had my way, I guess it would never happen, they'd just get overrun with nature and live forever till they collapsed. Lovely shots though, and how sweet is Larry. <3

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    1. Yeah, same here. I wish I could have seen this place in the spring or summer all overgrown. I saw a few pictures, it looked amazing.

      Everything has to be so "safe" though. It blows my mind that the main reason anyone would give a crap about someone trespassing in an abandoned building is that they might get hurt and sue. If only everyone just took responsibility for their own actions... Ugh.

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  3. Amazing luck that you were able to visit before it was torn down! Such a shame - I love looking at all your abandoned places photos, and this is by far one of my favorites!

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    1. Thanks, Heather! This is easily my new favorite. The building alone was amazing but the experience is what really seals the deal for me.

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  4. Beautiful pictures! And yes, what a beauty it must have been... You describe the feeling perfectly of arriving at a location you have researched on the internet for days and days, that gitty feeling you get in your stomach :)I have that too!
    And you were incredibly lucky you went there right on time, it was cool of Larry to let you explore the site!
    Awesome post!

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    1. Thank you so much! It was seriously the best day of 2016 so far. :D

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  5. Wow, that is a gorgeous building. I often say I wish I had someone to explore with but now I don't really have an excuse, seeing as how you did this all by yourself. Way to conquer your fears and speak to Larry! I'm happy that worked out for you :)

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    1. This is probably the one thing you should never do alone. Exploring is dangerous. You could easily fall through a floor, have something collapse on you, or just hurt yourself badly on a random object.

      Sorry to sound preachy, or annoying but I really really don't think anyone should go inside somewhere like this alone.

      But hey, if we ever come up to Portland (which we would LOVE to), you've got us! ;)

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    2. Oh yeah! I completely understand. If I ever had the guts to go find an abandoned building by myself, the most I could ever do would be to take pictures of the outside, haha.

      I hope you guys make it up to Portland! It would be so cool to explore with you!

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  6. Whoa, kudos to you for making the long trek! I would've just left instead of approaching the guy, but I'm glad that you did! You got such great photos, and it makes me think twice about automatically giving up.

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  7. Your abandoned places posts are always so interesting, but I REALLY loved reading about this one! The elementary school that I went to as a kid was the same building that my grandma went to, and when they tore it down I wasn't around to snag a piece. Larry picking out a brick for you reminded me of that :) What an incredible day you had!

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    1. Thank you so much, Mindi! This was definitely one of my favorites.

      Wow! That's pretty crazy you guys went to the same school. A couple years back my family and I took a trip and visited the now abandoned school that my grandpa had went to and it drives me nuts that I didn't get inside of it. I almost want to take a trip down there again just to get some photos for him if it's not gone already.

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  8. This was, by far, one of the best blog posts I've read in a long time. It was serendipity that you were meant to be there. Reading this, I could definitely feel the energy of the situation. So weird and incredibly cool and beautiful:)

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    1. Thanks so much, Laurali! :D

      PS. So nice to see you around these parts. Every once in a while I'll think of ya and go looking for your blog but always come up empty handed.

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    2. Hi Kaylah, thanks! Yeah, I don't blog anymore but now I channel all that writing into my Etsy Shop:)

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  9. That building is magnificent! It's ironic that you showed up on the day they were tearing it down. I just talked about coincidences in one of my English classes on Friday, so that would have been a funny story to tell. Also, I totally understand how you feel about being shy. I'm actually pretty impressed you still went up to the house. I think I would have just left!

    I've been searching Russia for a postcard to send and I finally found one when I went to a different city last week. I'm going to try to send it soon. Hopefully it makes it to you! Russian post is the worst. I still haven't gotten any of my mail that I was supposed to get in December.

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    1. Honestly, even after leaving I was like "There's no way they're actually tearing it down today! That'd be too crazy!" Then a few days later I found a handful of new articles with photos of the property sans building. It's still hard to believe.

      Oh no, that's a bummer! But I'm excited to get a postcard from you. I'll be sure to send you a little piece of home in return. :)

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  10. How cool is that! There's a huge, abandoned sugar mill in the town I grew up in. When I was about 16, a few of my friends and I decided to explore it, and it was the coolest experience ever. There were so many rooms that still had paperwork and old machinery! I've visited a few more times since then. :) I really like seeing your abandoned building photos because they remind me of that.

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  11. What a great post, Kaylah! Such a wonderful coincidence that you went there on that exact day. Beautiful photos and a lovely read as well.

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  12. these are incredible! and good timing on your part! :-) xx

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  13. Kaylah these are incredible, and what a wonderful story to go along with it. Good for you for conquering your fears and approaching this nice man, this is one area I too struggle with. But more often than not, saying f*** you to your fears almost always works out in your favour, in my experience ;) You've captured the energy of this place so completely I'm in awe. You're very talented at bringing life back into forgotten places, it's such a pleasure to experience them through your eyes.

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  14. I've been to this place multiple times, I go to college right down the road from it! My friends and I actually put that T.V. in that doorway, funny that you snapped such a good shot of it. I can't believe the place is actually gone. I climbed to the top of the fire escape stairs and took a piece of glass as my souvenir :) Glad you got to keep your own.

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  15. This is actually right down the street from my house! The night it caught on fire, I stood in the field across from it and watched it burn. It was such a sad moment. I'm so happy you got to capture a building that I grew up by my whole life before it was demolished!

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