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Coal Country

Coal Country

I'm a sucker for deserted places--old buildings, sometimes entire towns that were once bustling but have been left and forgotten. Hand me my camera and drop me by an empty factory or a house with trees growing through its roof; I'll be content for hours.

Part of the thrill for me is imagining these structures at their prime. I picture them on the day they were finished, when they are new and clean. I try to remember that someone was proud of each and every one of them, even the must utilitarian shed.

I try to figure out the original configuration of rooms and the ways they were used. A summer kitchen, for example, is the setting for a thousand meals, but it surely hosted as many conversations, some gossipy stories, maybe arguments or an unexpected kiss. At the very least, it must have heard someone unleash a string of curses, long ago, at badly burnt food.

I also see potential. As long as their foundations are strong, each building could be put to good use. They could be homes, shops, restaurants, mechanics' garages, offices, or banks. Any function that a new, prefab building could serve, I can't help but think that an old one could do better.

This series will explore some of Appalachia's most interesting deserted places. Some have been restored; others are in the last stages of decay. Some are deep in the woods; you could drive right up to others.

We'll start with lost buildings in coal country. Photographer Jim Lo Scalzo took his camera into hollers and up hillsides to uncover the remains of shuttered coal operations. In his introduction, he explains "in some cases the remains are barely noticeable: a concrete foundation, a larry car, a coal tipple. In other cases entire towns lay abandoned and overgrown."

Below is a video of what he found. During this series, it would also be great to hear about your discoveries. Maybe it's an old family house that has fallen into disrepair or a place you played as a kid. Where are your favorite abandoned buildings and forgotten structures?

Share your stories and post your photos as we explore deserted Appalachia.

Ghosts in the Hollow from Jim Lo Scalzo on Vimeo.