New Year, Old South: Abandoned Houses in the Lowcountry

A short photographic look at the run-down and abandoned houses around the Charleston area with little notes of fondness from a Philadelphia native.


I have spent many afternoons walking the roads of Seabrook Island (and Kiawah once or twice), eyeballing the aesthetics of the posh houses and noble properties that saturate this portion of the Lowcountry. I’ve also spent many hours driving the long gauntlet of Main/Bohicket Road to commercial civilization one way, or gated communities the other. In between those two places, and juxtaposed to the lavish homesteads, are these small pieces of natural reclamation—abandoned or rundown buildings among the overgrowth.



Minutes before you reach Freshfields Village, you’ll see a half-made cinder block “building” waiting under some oaks. What it’s waiting for is a mystery because it has remained in that state for over a decade, I believe. I’ve always thought about how it’s an eyesore in comparison to the vacation homes and multi-million dollar estates, but my exposure over time has led me to learn its value.



These small gems line the roads splintering off into the distances outside of Charleston and even around the peninsula. My last visit up to Philadelphia came with witnessing a police drill at a house that had been deserted. You most likely wouldn’t be able to tell that it was unoccupied, as it fit right in with all the homes around it. Charleston’s abandoned buildings are different in that respect: like most of this town, they have character.



They encourage my mind to wander and go to reaches that no creator would have dreamed—or feared—for some of these places. I imagine and explore (within my legal rights) as much as possible, looking for some kind of truth that simply may not exist. But unlike a sad former home in the Philadelphia suburbs, there are worlds and stories attached to these dark facades that is expressed very easily in their natural-looking decay. 



There’s this mysterious isolation to them that either draws the eye in or repels it. They aren’t just buildings off the road anymore—they’re small aesthetic ghost stories echoing through the Southern flora that now consumes them. I’ve grown infatuated with these places and fear their remediation or destruction by man. I’d much rather watch history be absorbed into the earth where it once sprang, slowly but surely. 



My only point to this is to encourage you to spend a little time in your new year seeing some of the old that still lies here and maybe view it in a different light. Imagine it as the historic Charleston that isn't in the record books.