In the southeast section of the city of Roanoke, Virginia, occupying nearly 50 acres between South Jefferson Street to the west and the Roanoke River to the east, and bisected by rail lines, lies the Roanoke River and Railroad Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
The district, and indeed the City itself, burgeoned in the late 19th century as a result of the rapid expansion of the railroads which fueled a period of tremendous growth. Industrial enterprises sprouted along the rail lines. Lumber mills, manufacturing interests, and other businesses appeared while Roanoke developed into a major shipping center for locally cultivated agricultural products.
By the middle of the 20th century some businesses in the district began to downscale, and other industries had ceased to operate in their original capacities, or had ceased to operate altogether.
Decades later these buildings occupy an in-between world of past and present, an eerie mix of what was: when the last person out turned the lock in door, and what is now: surreal scattered debris borne of unchecked entropic forces rampaging in the interim.
A haunting beauty pervades these scenes graced by time’s transformative influence. The images in this gallery capture the transitory state of ongoing decomposition. They speak to dilapidation’s unlikely allure- a building grows more complex, more intriguing as the natural processes of decay take over. Weather inexorably infiltrates, and a vicious cycle of unrepaired damage ensues. Water leaks in, wood and plaster erode, paint peels, steel rusts, fixtures topple. Other life forms move in exerting their influence in the adoption of new habitats.
On a promising note, the buildings in this district are slated for rehabilitation. The cycle of decay and neglect will be reversed as they are restored to new uses and new life. Preserved are not only the built historic resources but the heritage of the community they helped to create.
© Stray Gifts Photography