A Quick Update

Hello dear readers near and far. My apologies for the lack of attention I have given this blog over the past couple of years. I’m going to do my part to remedy that in the near future. Due to the current pandemic my travels and explorations have been very limited at best.


I did however make it out to one of my true loves, McDowell County, West Virginia a couple of weeks ago. Here are a few of the photos from that trip. I hope you enjoy these and I look forward to providing new quality content in the near future.

Stay Safe,



Rule High School — Knoxville, Tennessee

Rule High School -- Knoxville, TN Rule High School opened in 1927. It was named after Captain William Rule, a former Union Army captain who went on to be mayor of Knoxville and the editor of the Knoxville Journal. Rule High School -- Knoxville, TN
Rule High School -- Knoxville, TN//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Rule High School -- Knoxville, TN//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
The first addition was finished in 1949, and the second addition was completed in the 1970s.
Rule High School -- Knoxville, TN
However, the school closed in 1991 due to low enrollment numbers.

Grief Is the Price We Pay For Love


Today we had to put down Tom.

He was my almost 11-year-old short haired tabby and the most loyal companion I have ever had.

It seems trite to say that losing a pet is like losing a member of the family. The fact is, though, it’s actually a gross understatement. Pets are unique and hold a special place in our hearts.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that dogs or cats are more important or more valuable than other people in our lives. But they do trump humans in some ways.

For one thing, they love us unconditionally. And that’s more than I can say about many human companions.

Tom came into my life at a very tumultuous time.  At the time I adopted Tom, I was living in Pennington Gap.  I had just been hired at Elk Knob for my current job.   I came to Harlan on September 8, 2008 to pick him up from an old friend who had offered him to me.  I brought him home that night and within an hour I received the call that my best friend had been in a terrible accident and was being flown out to Holston Valley.  This started a very dark, sad and lonely stretch of my life.  My friend didnt make it.  I told Tom, who was just a baby kitten at that time that he could just be my new best friend…and he was.  He was always so content to just hang out with me.  Watch tv, watch me play video games, listen to music, it didnt matter, he was always just so happy, full of life and so much happiness that his eyes and soul emitted it.

That was the first of many life milestones Tom stood by me through.  We moved to Gate City a few weeks after Cecil passed and he was so little he would sit in the front seat of my Scion as I drove back and forth between Harlan and Gate City when we would visit on weekends. One night while we lived over there in the middle of the night I heard water running, I thought for sure I had a water leak somewhere.  It wasnt a water leak, it was Tom using the toilet!   He kept doing that until we moved back to Harlan in June of 2009.  He was always such a smart cat.

All through the work for my masters degree, Tom was right beside me.  All through the construction of my house, Tom was right there.  So many times in life, I couldnt count on a whole lot, but I always knew no matter what, that cat was going to be excited when I came home and he would want to hang out with me.

Tom comforted me when my Granny Opal passed away, when my uncle Stevie passed away and most recently the hardest one, when my dad passed away.   The day that my dad passed away, I had been strong all day.  I hadnt shown a lot of emotion, but as soon as I got home I collapsed onto my bed sobbing.  It wasnt a minute until Tom was by my side loving me, I wasnt petting him.  He was literally petting me.   I use to get so excited for Christmas break because that meant we could hang out all day.  We could watch tv, and just be pals.  He was my sidekick.

Over the past several weeks Tom had lost all mobility.  He could barely roll over.  In the end I am shocked that I was strong enoughto accept the fact that he was in pain, he wasnt going to get better and I was being selfish and to do the humane thing and have him put down.  Ive cried all evening and my house seems so empty (even though I have 3 other cats) .

I hope what I do on Earth pleases God and I am allowed into Heaven and assuming I do, I hope that my Tom is there with me.   He is the most pure, perfect soul I have ever met on this Earth.  The pain of losing a pet is worth the decade or more of love, memories and companionship they give you.  You left little paw prints on my heart Tom.  Thank you.

Monday morning I was able to take a few minutes and finally stop by and explore a nearly vacant mall in Middletown, Ohio.
Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio I had passed by this mall many times but had never taken the time to actually go inside and experience it. I’m glad I did, because from the looks of things, this mall might not be around next holiday season. Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio
The Towne Mall Galleria is located on Towne Boulevard in the Warren County portion of Middletown, in the section of the city referred to as the Renaissance District near the Ohio 122-Interstate 75 interchange. The more than 465,000-square-foot mall first opened in 1977, although the malls earliest roots can be traced several years earlier.
Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio Burlington -- Middletown, Ohio
The first store to open on the property was, a 1-level (113,300 square foot), Cincinnati-based McAlpin’s. McAlpin’s opened for business on February 16, 1975. The remainder of the shopping hub was added to this freestanding anchor. The mall, and a 68,000 square foot Sears, opened February 9, 1977. Later that year the mall was complete when Elder-Beerman opened a 118,000 square foot opened on the mall’s west side.
Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio In August 1998, McAlpin’s became Dillard’s as part of a merger. Dillard’s would remain open here until June 2008, when they closed their doors. This, along with multiple failed renovation plans and rejuvination attempts by the mall’s owner CBL and Associates, lead to many smaller inline closings by the mid-2000s. Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio
In 2015 Burlington and Gabe’s opened in the former Dillard’s anchor spot, although they do not have direct access to the interior corridor.
Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio
Unfortunately, the grand openings of these stores was met with bad tidings. Elder-Beerman shuttered their 39-year-old store on January 31, 2017.
Former Elder-Beerman -- Middletown Sears, another charter 1977 tenant, went dark in September of the same year. Former Sears -- Middletown, Ohio
Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio If my calculations are correct, today there are less than 10 businesses open at the mall. Those include: –Burlington –Gabe’s –Roger’s Jewelers (Currently Closing) Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio
–Planet Fitness
— Cincinnati Nails
–My Salon
–Sell Gold
Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio As you can see the directory is terribly out of date. Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio
Towne Mall Galleria -- Middletown,  Ohio

Old Rosemont School — Bristol, Tennessee

This building served as the Rosemont Elementary on Bristol, Tennessee’s north side from 1930 until the early 1980s. The three story building was constructed in 1929 and consists of 32,640 square feet.
Former Rosemont Elementary - Bristol,  TN Once this building was replaced by the local school district it was sold to the Tri Cities Christian School which operated here from 1984 until 2009. Former Rosemont Elementary - Bristol,  TN
Since 2009 the building has sporadically served as a community center. More often though, the building has been the subject of vandals.
Former Rosemont Elementary - Bristol,  TN The building is currently for sale. Former Rosemont Elementary - Bristol,  TN

Knoxville College — Knoxville, Tennessee

This was a visit a long time in the making.  Longer than it should have taken.  I’ve been fascinated with this campus for a several years and finally took the time to visit several weeks ago.

Knoxville College roots can be traced to a mission school established in Knoxville in 1864 by R. J. Creswell of the United Presbyterian Church to educate the city’s free blacks and freed slaves.   This school initially met in the First Baptist Church building (which at the time was located on Gay Street) before moving to a permanent facility in East Knoxville in 1866.  In spite of general apathy from the city’s leaders and threats from poor whites, the school’s enrollment gradually grew to over 100.  In addition to black students, the school also had many white students until 1901, when Tennessee passed a law forcibly segregating all schools.  That same year Knoxville College finally received a charter from the State of Tennessee.  Six years later, the school established the Eliza B. Wallace Hospital, which served a dual purpose of training nurses and tending to the health needs of the local black community. This proved invaluable during the city’s Influenza outbreak of 1918.

In 1980, eight buildings on the Knoxville College campus were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district for their role in minority education. Many of the earliest buildings were constructed using student labor, student-made bricks, and lumber donated by alumni. The district includes the following buildings:

  • McKee Hall, the oldest building on campus, originally built in 1876, largely rebuilt in 1895 following a fire. The building is named for the Reverend O.S. McKee, who had established the first school for African-American children in Nashville in 1862. This building currently houses administration offices.
  • The President’s House, built in the late 1880s. The house was originally built of wood, but brick siding was added in 1905.
  • Wallace Hall, built in 1890 as an orphanage. This building is named for Eliza B. Wallace, the school’s principal of female students, 1877–1897.
  • Elnathan Hall, built in 1898 following the destruction by fire of the original Elnathan Hall, and altered in 1905 and 1971. This building has served variously as a women’s dorm, administration building, and classroom building.
  • Two Faculty cottages, 1005 and 1009 College Street, both built in the style in 1906.
  • McMillan Chapel, built in 1913, designed by Knoxville College alumnus, William Thomas Jones. Along with church services, the chapel served as the campus’s primary performance venue. Notable guests who have delivered speeches at the chapel include George Washington CarverCountee CullenW. E. B. Du BoisJesse OwensWilliam H. Hastie and Jackie Robinson.
  • Giffen Memorial Gymnasium, built in 1929.

In 2016, the preservationist group Knox Heritage placed the Knoxville College Historic District on its “Fragile Fifteen,” a list of endangered Knoxville-area historic properties.

Beginning in the 1970s, Knoxville College began to struggle financially, leading to a gradual decline. In 1997, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools withdrew Knoxville College’s accreditation. Enrollment dropped precipitously and the school’s financial situation became dire.  As enrollment plummeted, the school’s debt skyrocketed and it was soon unable to pay its faculty or electric bills. Throughout the rest of the 1990s, as enrollment plummeted, most campus buildings were shuttered and abandoned, and most degree programs were discontinued.  On June 9, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency seized control of the long-shuttered A.K. Stewart Science Hall to conduct an emergency clean-up of toxic chemicals that the college had improperly stored in laboratories;  In April 2015, the school announced it was suspending classes for the Fall 2015 term in hopes of reorganizing. Enrollment had dwindled to just 11 students, and the college was struggling to pay back a $4.5 million loan from 2003 and more than $425,000 to the federal government for the Stewart Science Hall cleanup.   In May 2015, the school announced classes would resume in the Fall 2016 term.  That never happened.

In September 2016, the City of Knoxville demanded that Knoxville College make repairs to fourteen of its buildings within 90 days or face condemnation. City crews subsequently boarded up the buildings. The Knoxville Fire Department responded to between four and five fires at abandoned buildings on campus in 2016, and estimated that since the buildings began falling into disuse after 1997, they had responded to twenty or thirty such fires there.

Knoxville College -- Knoxville, Tennessee  Today most of the campus sits abandoned, in an advanced state of disrepair. Most buildings are open to vagrants and vandals. This has caused severe damage to the buildings. The former college center has been set on fire twice. Since early 2018 The College administrative offices are back on campus again, occupying The college Annex which is next to McMillan Chapel. Plans have been made to renovate McMillan chapel and the Alumni Library. This is scheduled to take place in 2019.   Knoxville College -- Knoxville, Tennessee
Knoxville College -- Knoxville, Tennessee
Knoxville College -- Knoxville, Tennessee The Campus of Knoxville College
The Campus of Knoxville College The Campus of Knoxville College
The Campus of Knoxville College

On The 1st of July 2018 Knoxville College posted on its website that it is again enrolling students for its fall 2018 semester.   According to the school’s website that semester began on Tuesday September 4.    There is no information about classes offered, nor the process for admissions to the college, leading one to think the new semester never actually began.

Searching For Shadows: My Love Affair With McDowell County. RIP Welch Magic Mart

Back in the Spring of 2008 I had saw a news story on WCYB about the relocation of the entire town of Grundy, Virginia.  I hopped in my Celica and decided I had to see that project.  Somehow I ended up driving and driving and driving and ended up in Welch, West Virginia.  I fell in love, I guess its one of my quirks.  I truly love the off-beat places and McDowell County is at the top of that list.  Over the past 10 years I have explored, at last count 12 abandoned schools, most of which have been demolished. I was amazed.  There was abandoned greatness everywhere.  So much history was right there ready for me to discover.  I fell in love with Welch and McDowell County that day and that love affair is still going strong.  I remember in 2008 Welch, which is the county seat had a Big Lots store and a Magic Mart store. A few miles away there was a Walmart Super Center. In the 1950’s McDowell County had over 100,000 residents. Today, it sits at 18,546.

Over the last 10 years I have made at least 8 visits exploring and documenting.
I’ve even made a few friends from the area. Is it because I see commonalities between McDowell County and my own home town? Granted Harlan County hasnt seen the decline that McDowell has, we have still had our stumbles. A lot of my documentation has been sad happenings. From the old Iaeger High School demolition (which I still use to this day photos from as my cover photo on Facebook) To the fire at Big Creek High School, the closing of the Walmart store in Kimball, to the reworked riverfront in downtown Welch. Today another sad chapter has come to pass for the town and county.  The town’s Magic Mart closed it’s doors for the last time.
Magic Mart -- Welch, WV

Since my first visit in 2008 all of the mass merchandise discount stores (Big Lots, Walmart and now Magic Mart) have all closed their doors in McDowell County. There are parts of the county that are at least 40-50 miles away from their nearest get everything store I feel such sadness for this county and its people. At the same time I feel a weird sense of being grateful in that I found McDowell County and I have been able to document this area and its rich history.

Marianne Theater — Bellvue, Kentucky

The Marianne is a beautiful 1940s Art Deco, single-screen movie theater located in the Northern Kentucky Cincinnati suburb of Bellvue.
Marianne Theater -- Bellvue, Kentucky

The Marianne opened for business on March 1, 1942.  It has a seating capacity of 542.
Marianne Theater -- Bellvue, Kentucky By the mid 1990s the Marianne had began running second run movies and eventually closed for business. The last movie to play in the theater was the 1998 Tommy Lee Jones film “U.S. Marshals” Marianne Theater -- Bellvue, Kentucky
In February of 2018 developers announced that the theater would be restored and turned into an event center for live concerts and other performances.

Fairview School — Scott County, Virginia

Old Fairview School -- Scott County, Virginia The Fairview school is located in Scott County, Virginia about 9 miles south of Duffield on Fairview Road, (VA Route 623). Old Fairview School -- Scott County, Virginia
This school was constructed in 1953 and served students K-12 at that time. The school was closed at the end of the 1989-90 school year.
Fairview School -- Scott County, VA Luckily the school board returned the building to the county government and the building has been in use as a community center and also serves as an outpost for the Scott County Sheriff’s Department. Old Fairview School -- Scott County, Virginia

Fairview School -- Scott County, VA

Sadieville Elementary School — Scott County, Kentucky

Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky
Since starting this blog  in 2014, I have covered nearly 80 abandoned school buildings in 9 states stretching from Eastern North Carolina to the banks of the Mississippi River in Cairo, Illinois.  Today, while researching for my newest entry covering the Sadieville School in northern Scott County, (Kentucky), I came across something I had yet to find in the reason a school was closed.  Enrollment was getting too high.  90% of the schools I have visited have been closed due to the opposite, declining enrollment.

I always thought it was rather odd that a school in the fastest growing county in the entire state would be closed and abandoned.   In 1984-85 Sadieville was home to 150 students.  By 1988 that number had jumped to 245.

The Scott County School System decided to build a larger, more modern facility to serve northern Scott County located about 5 miles south of Sadieville.   Construction was swift and by March 5, 1990, Sadieville was closed and it’s students and staff had moved to their new school, Northern Elementary.
Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky The last 28 years have not been kind to the campus. The grounds are overgrown, the front of the building is almost covered by brush and trees that have popped up.  But considering the building is closing in on being 100 years old, its still standing and relatively structurally sound once you take out of consideration the roof and especially the gymnasium area.Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky The school has obviously been used as a storage building but has now fallen victim to faulty ceilings and vandalism. Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky
Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky
I dont know if there were any windows that were still fully intact.
Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky
Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky Sadieville School -- Scott County, Kentucky