Advertisement

Abandoned Iowa: One blogger’s search for the long-forgotten


Image caption --
River Road southeast of old Highway 92. — photo courtesy of Mitch Nicholson

Rural flight is defined as the movement of young people from rural areas to urban areas. This phenomenon has plagued small Iowa towns since the recession during the early 1980s, and it continues to affect small town economies across the state today. The effects of rural flight are widespread and have left rural Iowa with numerous abandoned towns and locations, all in various states of disrepair.

Documenting these locations before they fall down or disappear forever is a service that 24 year-old, Indianola resident Mitch Nicholson happily provides through his blog, Abandoned Iowa. Nicholson travels to towns across Iowa to photograph deserted buildings, mostly throughout central and eastern counties.

The project began in the fall of 2012 when Nicholson wanted a way to escape the hustle of dorm life. He says he began to drive around and noticed several abandoned buildings in rural Iowa towns in Marion county. He began to take his camera along on his leisurely drives and posting the photos of these abandoned buildings on Tumblr, and later a Facebook page. It wasn’t long before he gained a following on the social media sites.

“My audience is mostly in their 40’s or 50’s,” Nicholson said. “Many of them will tell me that they used to go to the abandoned school I took photos of, or they have memories at a particular location. They appreciate that I’m photographing these places how they are now.”

He attributes the success of the blog to his fans, stating that he probably would not be motivated to continue his efforts without the encouragement and support of so many people.

Image caption --
Nicholson also uses his blog to answer questions from Abandoned Iowa enthusiasts. — photo courtesy of Mitch Nicholson

Posts on Abandoned Iowa include several photographs of locations. A historical context to the photographs is usually also provided to educate the reader about a location’s history and significance to its community.

Nicholson is careful not to trespass on private property, though. Hey says he tends to photograph public places or old bridges that are on public land.

“Usually when people see me with a tripod and a camera, they leave me alone,” he said. “Most people don’t mind because I’m not disturbing anything and I’m not trespassing.”

He funds his ventures on his own, saving his money for gas and the occasional hotel when he’s not lodging with relatives in Iowa City. In the future, Nicholson also plans to publish a book with the same name, Abandoned Iowa, that explores the theme of place and how places impact people.

“I think it would be easy for me to create a coffee-table photo book,” Nicholson said. “I also enjoy writing, so I’d like to incorporate that interest as well. I hope to have it done by Christmas of next year.”


Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV » editor@littlevillagemag.com

Advertisement

Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.

Regular

$10/mo or $120/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.

Italic

$20/mo or $240/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.

Bold

$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
LittleVillageMag.com connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.

Coralville Public Library Online Summer Reading Programs

For ages 0-99+