Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ruins of Hanover Hill Farm

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: When dairy was everywhere in this region, this valley could still be called a dairy center. The land supported large herds that required large barns. Most of the herds are gone and the hills are littered with husks like this. Well, not quite like this. From the road it always looked a bit more derelict than the others, almost haunted. Now, it's just a charred ruin.

I only once got this close. The man who lived in the last inhabited building on the site agreed to let me trespass, though he reserved the right to scowl about it afterward, and when I returned a second time, as was our understanding, he chased me down in his ATV before I could cross this field. He turned red like a blackberry and screamed about some lady who photographed the barns from the public road. I've rarely seen anyone so angry, and I left him on his smoking ATV and walked away to photograph up the road a bit, but he soon followed after and let me know the public road was his as well. My car was parked a short way off; I considered my tires and my paint. I left, and the bad karma kept me away for a long time.

I didn't mean to provoke him a third time. However, the barns still fascinated. Their gloom was unmatched. The black gambrel that burned was large and gothic, a full two-and-a-half stories of hay storage above the cow shed. If one knows where to look the barns are visible from a number of nearby hills, and I set out to discover them all. A few of the locations were useful, but the shots were all more distant than I wanted, though from one hill I could see small gambrel-roofed entrances with flaring skirts. I imagined the cathedral inside.

I finally got permission from the owner of the organic farm right across the street to climb his hills and photograph from his fields. Little did I know that the one with the view belonged to the abandoned farmstead, and the berry-tempered man was ever belligerent. Before I could set my tripod, I saw him two fields down and across the street on his ATV, already berrying rage and purple against the green field, this time with a friend on a second ATV.

Again, I apologized  and walked away with nothing usable, though he found it difficult to believe I wasn't trying to provoke him, and it kept him screaming after me for a long, long time. After that the karma was beyond me, and I didn't go back. Then in March someone told me the barns had burned. I had to drive by to convince myself it was true. All the buildings are empty now and the traces are faint of all the lives that have echoed here. I'm told some of the finest thoroughbred Holstein cows were bred in the burned-down barns.

Here are links to my photographs of Hanover Hill Farm before it burned: