Abandoned Washington

Forlorn Places and Things in Eastern Washington

Photos by Robert Ruth, (used with permission)

This is what the “Wild West” looked like in reality–people’s homes. In previous centuries, it was known as the Far West.

This photo by Robert Ruth enchants me. I love the limited color palette, the delicate pastels in the sky. The huge moon. And how soft the foliage looks; how it seems to be embracing and protecting the buildings.

Today I’m featuring the photographs of my friend, Robert Ruth. He and his wife, Joanne Perry Ruth, also a talented photographer, travel all over Washington taking amazing photos, many of which are of abandoned places and things in our state.

Robert’s photos captivated me because of the magic he does with light. He knows how to use it to bring inanimate objects to vivid life and give them personality. His work piques my imagination and prompts questions. 

Where did the people who left these places and objects behind go? Why did they abandon their homes and their dreams? Poor harvests? Illness or disability? The death of the main provider? Or did they move on to bigger and better things?

I’ve included Robert’s comments about his images. My comments are in italics.

On the last full moon, I photographed this old homestead in Grant County. I was truly surprised to see this meteor when I processed the image at home. Most of the time it is airplanes or satellites, nothing cool like an actual meteor. I try really hard to photograph abandoned places in unique and interesting ways…. a meteor is certainly an added bonus.

I’ve never before seen a house built into a hill. What do you suppose that pile of rocks is? A collapsed fireplace? I love the colors and texture of these old boards. The foliage seems to embrace and protect the house. I wonder what it was like living here?

This building was built into the hill behind it with a rock wall and had a rock partition along the side. A drone image from Grant County.

What a handsome old house. I love the bay window. It seems like it would have been a great place to live. The varigated colors of the board are beautiful, as are the soft colors of the grass.

All the best places Joanne and I find, we name. For example, we call this the Bay House. We have the Nut House, the Deer House, the Sage House and so many more. When I am talking to Joanne about a particular house and call it by its name she knows exactly what place I am talking about without me having to explain the trip and the location. Crazy I know but it works for us. The Bay House was photographed with a drone in Grant County.

If the people don’t want this house, we’ll move in.”

I had a pleasant surprise trying to photograph this eloquent old house. It was situated near a field of yellow, my plan was to capture the two together. As I focused the shot, two pigeons landed, one on the door.

I included this photo because I’ve been here, but not up on the flume. And because it shows the beauty of the landscape. I recognized it immediately from Robert’s photo, even though it’s ages since I’ve been there. I love Okanogan County and would gladly visit it again.

If you ever drive east from Loomis to Tonasket and look up at the southern ridge you’ll see this old water flume built in the early 1900s. Curious, I flew the drone up from the valley below. I can’t imagine what it took to build this irrigation system with picks, shovels, and dynamite. In doing research, I found a recounting by Harry A Sherling who actually worked on this very flume in 1916 at the age of 16.

“The Whitestone irrigation project had been started before 1916, as there was quite a long piece of weathered flume from Toats Coulee creek which we hooked onto. Entering Loomis from the east you see this flume winding its way around the rock cliff. Here is a feat I think is worthy of mention, the blasting out of a footing for this flume. Three men stood on a plank suspended about 8 or 10 feet from the rim of the cliff. On this narrow footing, they drilled (two striking and one turning the drill) and blasted out the footing for the flume. Though it was quite a drop into the sharp rocks below, they used no safety ropes, but insisted that I do so, as I worked behind them, boring out the loose rock after blasts.”

Robert says this is the base of an old stove. It might once have heated a house like one of the ones in the above photos. Is it any wonder so many people love antiques? Who can find this kind of craftsmanship today? And if you can, it’s rare and expensive. I even love the rust on this metal work. I can almost feel the texture of the floorboards.
Looks at what age and oxidation can do to an old car and its door handle. It takes and artist’s eye to recognize the beauty in something that’s seemingly worthless.

Car door handle: Rather than photographing the whole abandoned vehicle, sometimes individual parts can tell more of a story.

The photographer and his “awesome wife.” She’s a lucky woman and he’s pretty lucky too. I use quote not because she’s not awesome, but because I’m quoting Robert/

6 thoughts on “Abandoned Washington”

  1. Wonderful photos and narrative. The artistry is terrific. I too love abandoned old things and buildings. They’re intriguing and seem to offer stories for anyone who wants to spend some time “listening.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Judy. Robert has a great eye for beauty. I wish I could think of stories to go with each photo. Maybe I just haven’t taken the time to “listen.”


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