Old School

My whole life, I've been fascinated by this old abandoned school building a couple of miles from where I grew up. The last class that went through it was in the mid-50s, and ever since it's been shut up, unloved except by hoardes of pigeons.

The building is an imposing one, with two turrets on either side, a brick and wooden Gothic masterpiece, hulking over the north road like a grouchy old woman. It was built in the 1890s. I always imagined what it must look like inside. So many relics of that time have been lost - this building survived two town fires, the destruction of a house next door, and several floods. It's seen a lot in its 120 or so years.

I knew a little about the school because of the local museum my dad used to run - I'd seen photos of the classes of young children sitting outside, but I'd never seen photos of the interior of the school. I had no idea what to expect.

I was finally given the rare and wonderful opportunity to visit the inside of this place for the first time last month, when my friend Anna and I were given permission by the owners to photograph inside the place for Anna's MFA project. It was everything I'd hoped and more. So many amazing things buried inside 50 years' worth of abandonment. Bird skeletons, complete and fragile; pigeons flying everywhere, ghostly visions of long-ago school days, children's handwriting still on the short blackboards from the day the school closed in the late 1950s. It was a real privilege to witness this. Thank you so much to the owners (whose names I won't disclose as they are in the process of renovating the place and asked not to reveal its location yet).