Photographers appreciate and preserve “Abandoned Kentucky”

Spirit of the Bluegrass

(WDKY-TV)– An abandoned house is like a beacon to Al Cox. He jumps out of his car every time he sees a deserted dwelling.

“You can’t drive down a road without finding one.” he said.

A dilapidated building gets his heart ticking and his camera clicking.

“It’s a rush.”

The Lincoln County man is just one of thousands of amateur and professional photographers who post their pictures on Abandoned Kentucky,  a Facebook group with more than 182,000 members.

The group was started by Steve McManus, who has always loved old things such as the rusty 1928 tractor in his driveway,  a lawn ornament that still works. He never dreamed so many people would want to see and share pictures of things being reclaimed by nature. He expected maybe a couple of dozen people would be interested.

“There’s a romance to it,” McManus said. “Some of these buildings are so beautiful and it’s just unbelievable that they’re abandoned, left to rot and decay. And I think there’s also this notion, the impossible dream, ‘wouldn’t I like to restore this?'”

But most of the sites are too far gone. or too expensive to save.

As Cox walked around a house built in the 1870s, he couldn’t help but wonder about how it fell into such disrepair.  “It’s sad. This was someone’s home, ” he said. “There were good times here.”

That’s why he and others try to preserve the homes the only way they know how– with pictures.

 “There’s something about it,” he said. ” It’s relaxing. I’ve been out in the rain, show, sleet. It doesn’t matter. It’s fun.”

The group has some rules:  Never go onto a property without permission; leave things as you found them,  and keep the locations secret. Members don’t want to encourage vandals or thieves.

Cox peered into a broken window of the 1870s house, noticing a bed, a TV, a dresser and vases on the mantle.  Clothes still hang in the closet. Family pictures hang on the walls.

“It looks like they were here one day and then all of a sudden, they were just gone,” he remarked.

McManus said often elderly people leave a home to go to a hospital and never make it back. Distant relatives may not be interested in taking the time and effort to clear out possessions or even put a house up for sale.

The Abandoned Kentucky also includes thousands of pictures of abandoned churches, schools, barns, bridges and tunnels– just about anything that can stir up nostalgia. The site is proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

“Everything has a story,” Cox said. “I guess I’m trying to bring the houses back to life with the pictures.”

You can see Cox’s work on his website,

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