There is something about the remnants of a decaying structure struggling to hang onto the thread of modern life that attracts my avid interest. In this, I am not alone. Tourists the world over travel thousands of miles to wander amongst the ruins of past civilizations – be it in Italy, Egypt, China, or Peru.
On more than one occasion, I have been on the verge of actually purchasing a ruin for myself. For me, when a building reaches a certain level of decomposition it begins to become one with the nature around it; akin to a copse of trees or a rock outcropping. It is the perfect environment in which to counter-pose a starkly modern architectural interjection. (Reader beware . . . the archispeak is welling up within me – that’s always a dangerous sign.)
Along the countryside of the Garden State, there lies a ruin that I currently have my eye on. It sits abandoned at a crossroads, and every year Gabriela and I pass it on our way to Cape May. It whispers of a life long lost to time. What an amazing skeleton in which to design a wonderful new residence. I would love to relocate and renovate it before it decays beyond salvageability. Each time we greet it along our drive my mind conjures beautiful visions of what could be.
Of course, you don’t need to venture to New Jersey to discover a beautiful ruin. They are scattered across the landscape of Maryland and Virginia – and even within DC itself. One particularly enjoyable visit you can schedule is to the Clipper Mill ruin hidden away in the Baltimore neighborhood of Woodberry.
This is a perfect example of the life that can be fostered within the decayed framework of a historic structure. Within this renovated complex you will find everything from a residential condominium, to various offices, to craftsman workshops and showrooms – including glassblowing and metalwork – as well as one of the best restaurants in all of Baltimore.
In the case of this once fire-ravaged industrial complex, death was, most certainly, not the end.