Cloverleaf Earthworks; Hidden Remnants of the Civil War

Thousands of people drive within feet of this forgotten trace of history every day with no knowledge that it’s there. Not that most would give a flying fig. Nevertheless, this site’s very existence is a study in contrasts, an example of what happens when history and development intersect. Some might see this as an injustice. … Continue reading

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Prithee Go Not to the Abandoned Virginia Renaissance Faire

It’s a stretch to imagine that this country village was once animated with knights, maidens, minstrels and jesters. The music of penny whistles and steinfulls of ale made day and night merry. Now, fifteen years later, a ghost town is all that testifies to a short-lived effort to recreate Renaissance England in the Old Dominion. … Continue reading

Posted in Ghost towns, Legends | 25 Comments

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe and the United States Government; A Gesture Long Overdue

I’m departing this week from Abandoned Country‘s theme of disappearing history to comment on a significant event: the United States government has given preliminary approval for recognition of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe of Virginia. They’re the first indigenous nation in Virginia to receive that acknowledgement. That’s very big news, and a departure of sorts because the … Continue reading

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St. Mary’s College and Chapel, or, Hell House; The Wages of Time and Mischief

St. Mary’s College and Chapel had a good run but, in the end, never had a prayer. The imposing structures were too big to survive disuse, the old grounds too perfect a milieu for mischief. Now all that’s left are scattered remnants and living proof that nature reclaims even the sturdiest foundations we build on … Continue reading

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A Keeper of Shenandoah National Park’s Forgotten Memories

The wreckage of a remote plane crash. An old carbide gas reservoir. A vanished gristmill. And lots of forgotten family burial plots. These are a few traces Sue Eisenfeld has teased from the wilderness of Shenandoah National Park. The physical changes wrought by humans’ hands will soon vanish from the landscape of one of the … Continue reading

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Port Tobacco and the Silt that Suffocated Chesapeake Communities

The fields that line the Chesapeake Bay’s back roads make for pretty scenery. Full of fruit in summer, fallow in winter, the farmland has that rustic, rural charm that attracts so many people to the countryside. For all its appeal, though, that landscape comes at a steep price. It smothered the life out of Port … Continue reading

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Pilgrims to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Grave; The New Poe Toasters

Most folks figure that the Poe Toaster is stone, stone dead. It’s getting on three years now he’s been a no-show for the macabre middle-of-the-night tributes to Baltimore’s most famous decedent. If the idea toasting tortured authors is your thing, though, you can still find literary pilgrims making clandestine visits to an urban cemetery, leaving … Continue reading

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Dorchester’s Disappearing Middens; A Last Link to the Ancients

Firehawk sidles his kayak up to the reedy bank and hops out, shells crunching underfoot. I would’ve never found this spot hidden among endless flats of phragmites, but he knows exactly where it is. He comes here occasionally, paying a sort of tribute to a migration his ancestors made countless times. It’s their trash we’ve … Continue reading

Posted in Bay Islands, Earthworks, Food, Ghost towns, Indians | 1 Comment

The Forgotten Mass Grave at Harpers Ferry; A Strange Trip for Eight Raiders

Three feet down, the men struck something: a pine box. Waterlogged and rotting, yes, but a pine box nonetheless–exactly what they’d come looking for. They pried off the lid. A man’s spine was stuck to it. They closed the coffin, refilled the hole, placed a couple crude headstones, knowing all the while there’d soon be … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Cemeteries, Industry, Military | 2 Comments

The Goose Creek Canal; Craftsmanship that Outlived Failure

Tucked in the snaking suburban streets of Loudoun County, Virginia are the remnants of a construction project gone wrong. This isn’t some formerly up-and-coming neighborhood that fell victim to the housing bust. This failure is a hundred-fifty years old. Look deep into the heart of these ruins, though, and you can sense the pulse of … Continue reading

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The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike; A Road to Nowhere

In the mountains of southern Pennsylvania, there’s a 13-mile stretch of highway where the rules of the road don’t apply. You can change lanes without signaling. Heck, you can do it without even looking. Of course, you won’t be in an automobile, and neither will anyone else, because all will be on the Abandoned Pennsylvania … Continue reading

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Irene Morgan; A Daring Act, A Humble Life

The story is familiar. An African American woman boards a bus in the segregated South and sits in the back, as required by law. The bus fills and the driver demands that she give up her seat to white riders. The woman refuses—an audacious act, defying decades of Jim Crow customs—and for her insolence she … Continue reading

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The Elko Tract; A Lost City That’s Too Well-Known

In the dense woods east of Richmond, Virginia is a notorious ghost town–an empty grid of grown-over streets lined by sidewalks that sprout trees and sewers choked with decades of leaf litter. An idle and rust-crowned water tower looms high above. This is the fabled Lost City. Unfortunately, too many people have found this abandoned … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Ghost towns, Military | 7 Comments

Poplar Grove; Imagine There’s No Tide Mill

No telling what John Lennon thought when he hopped out of his Rolls Royce at Poplar Grove and saw the tide mill off in the distance. Perhaps the structure’s rustic charm inspired some nascent song lyrics or signaled the peace of mind Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono would invariably find at their country home. … Continue reading

Posted in Earthworks, Food, Ghost towns, Industry | 23 Comments

Valentine’s Meat Juice; An Odd Tonic Trusted the World Over

There’s nothing like those tried-and-true remedies when life throws an ailment your way: plenty of rest; chicken noodle soup; a tonic of meat juice in your rear end. Okay, maybe those first two have survived the ages, but that last one, believe it or not, was a recommended application of a product that was all … Continue reading

Posted in Industry, Legends | 1 Comment

Watts Island; A Hermit’s Paradise Lost

What could possibly compel you to live alone on a remote island for the better part of three decades? For Charles Hardenberg, it was the very water that is now washing the last traces of him into the Chesapeake Bay. Hardenberg was far from the stereotypical unsociable, cynical hermit. He was a Princeton-educated lawyer from … Continue reading

Posted in Bay Islands, Ghost towns | 5 Comments

Mockhorn Island and the Ruins of a Concrete Effort

I wasn’t sure what I’d find on Mockhorn Island. I knew there was a chance there would be odd artifacts since Mockhorn had once been the secluded retreat of the Cushman family, heirs to a New York bakery fortune, and later Yale University football coaching legend-turned-businessman T.A.D. Jones. Nevertheless, what greeted me when I first … Continue reading

Posted in Bay Islands, Ghost towns, Industry, Military | 20 Comments

Richard Baynham Garrett and the Unwanted Celebrity of an Assassin Come Calling

You’d not think to look for traces of John Wilkes Booth in Portsmouth, Virginia. Sure, the city has witnessed its share of extraordinary episodes, but the bustling port town is a long way from Washington D.C. and the quiet, rural community where the most famous manhunt in U.S. history came to a violent end. For … Continue reading

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Steamboat Wharves; The Vanished Lifeblood of Rural Communities

There were once hundreds of them, just about any spot a country road dead ended at tidewater. They were the lifeblood of communities, a portal to the world beyond. Folks once planned their days, their seasons around them. But now the rotten pilings that descend into murky water do little service to the long-lost importance … Continue reading

Posted in Bay Islands, Boat Graveyards, Ghost towns, Industry | 3 Comments

Slabtown; A Community that Gave Its Existence for the United States

It’s easy to appreciate sacrifice at Yorktown Battlefield, where Americans secured their independence. Visitors there find historic fortifications, artillery and cemeteries containing the remains of hundreds of soldiers who fought and died for a cause. But sometimes folks render service to their country in less visible ways, and in an out-of-the-way quarter of the battlefield, … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Cemeteries, Ghost towns, Military | 15 Comments