Part 2 is Available Here: http://bit.ly/Abandoned-Mansion-Part-2
How Do Mansions & Estates Become Abandoned?
I’ve pondered about this for years because this is not a new phenomenon. Many years back my brother was working on family history and found out that once upon a time our ancestors owned a mansion in New Jersey, a house with the curious name “Heimat des Genies”. We later found out that the name is German and loosely translates to “The Home of the Genius”
Anyhow, the mansion was abandoned over a century ago. We have my grandfather’s letters describing his visits to it in the 1930s; at some point in this time, it was left to ruin (this was largely due to the great depression). My Grandfather did not and could not try to restore it. He had no use for it, it was very costly to maintain, and was already being overgrown. He decided to let the land go rather than pay the overdue taxes.
One of my brothers found just where the place was and we visited it in the 1990s. We discovered the State of New Jersey didn’t have any use for it, either. What was once a stately manner is now in a deep forest. There’s a cellar hole where the icehouse was, a half-mile from the estate. The rest of the estate is over a mile from the nearest road and the family burying ground is barely visible. One of the men buried there was a Revolutionary War soldier, so the American Legion comes through the woods once a year on Memorial Day, clears out the brush and overgrowth from the little cemetery, and puts flowers and a flag on only his grave. I guess the rest of my family isn’t worthy of their time? Since it is only five graves, we have begun slogging out; the week of memorial day, in order to pay proper respect to the entire family.
We haven’t had the heart to the tell them that according to my grandfather’s letters they have the wrong grave; they’re putting the flowers on Ichabod Sensenbaugh’s grave, but our soldier was named Ernst Sensenbaugh (and is two grave over). I suppose the 13-star flag on Ichabod’s headstone threw them off. There is one with no name on the gravestone, except “Vater”(please let me know if you have more details). None of the graves have dates. My ancestors apparently didn’t think long-term and just assumed everyone remembers who is who.
Anyhow, we do not know too much more at this time. The soil in New Jersey is sandy and not very fertile, and couldn’t compete with the rich soil of the West, so once the U.S. had expanded west of the Mississippi large parts of inland New Jersey were abandoned and left to ruin. Heimat des Genies was one such estate. There was just no economic or emotional reason to stay there. One branch of the family moved to Chicago, Illinois (where yet another Sensenbaugh later became an award-winning engineer and you can visit his house, which is now a museum) My branch of the family moved to New York, where my great-great-grandfather co-founded an engineering firm (long since bought out by other, larger firms) and a railroad (which went bankrupt in the late 1860s). And needless to say, none of us were willing to pay the taxes or maintenance costs for Heimat des Genies or any of the other estates. The sad part is only one of many mansions now stand. This is primarily how mansions become abandoned. The inability to pass wealth to the next generation makes it so they can no longer maintain the hallmarks of their family legacy. I am not bitter, just stating the facts.
At one point in time, Kmart was bigger than Walmart. Yes, that's right! For a long time, it knew exactly what middle-class consumers wanted and needed. So, why is it almost out of business today?
Similar to Sears, K-mart took its size and prominence for granted. They assumed that K-mart had solved the riddle of the middle-class culture when in reality, their tastes and expectations evolved. Kmart was not a perpetually innovative company. In fact, most of us over 30 can remember when Walmart was a crappy little store. Walmart recognized that merely selling cheap crap wasn't enough, and has continually improved its stores. It now is able to sell a handful of quality brands at average prices. Walmart recognized that middle-class consumers are aspirational and don't want to settle for only cheap goods, whereas K-mart is stuck in the past.
K-mart placed large bets on the future of “big box” stores. Both its own stores and other retailers that K-mart acquired in the early 90s. Unfortunately, this was also the time where the internet began welcoming e-commerce customers and sales. Sites like Amazon and eBay were in their infancy, but they were an early harbinger of what was to come.
K-Mart merged with Sears a few years later. This move was like two rocks holding each other tight in the hope they don't sink. Both companies wracked up large debts in the early 21st century. Which made it impossible for both companies to compete on price and bring their stores up to modern prices.
Arguably the biggest contributor to the downfall of K-Mart was, Walmart. Walmart is a despicable competitor that has always had a heartless eye on closing down its competition. Even Amazon tried to expand its scope by poaching Walmart marketing talent and trying to learn how Walmart uses logistics to its advantage. If K-mart is going to compete with Walmart, they will need an A+ management team, a ton of money to burn, and they'll need to get aggressive online. Lets hope K-Mart is up for the fight...
Photos from the day:
Music from the video:
This is a collection of media from lost and abandoned corners of the world.