Here at Messy Nessy Chic, we love all things curious, nostalgic and with a touch of wonder to them. And what could be more intriguing than a ghost building…
A ‘ghost building’ isn’t a haunted mansion or a spooky house……in fact it isn’t a building at all! But rather, ghost buildings are the outlines of a demolished building that is no more, but you can still see their imprints preserved on a shared party wall.
When town houses, row homes, or old buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries are torn down, they often leave a striking remnant on the walls they used to share with their surviving neighbour. These ghostly outlines and relics of vanished buildings, sometime feature missing staircases, faded bedroom wallpaper, cracked bathroom tiles or the charred bricks of an old fireplace. Others are merely outlines of the house itself, pitched roof, old chimney stacks and all.
The lines left by the demolished floors divided the shared wall neatly, resembling an abstract architectural drawing.
Ghost buildings are a product of constant urban development and regeneration. They can be found throughout by cities and towns wherever old buildings are being torn down, and their modern replacements have yet to be built. These poignant relics of old homes are in always in plain sight, but are more often that not unnoticed by passers by. They’re found in open air carparks, abandoned building sights, or half way up modern adjoining structures.
“Urban environments are constantly in flux”, explains writer Allison C. Meier. “Ghost buildings are these scars from the past that remind us of those changes. And there’s something a bit haunting when you can detect the trace of a staircase, or a door, and start to imagine the lives lived in what is now emptiness.”
Often researching the former address of a now vacant lot throws up tales from the city that might otherwise been unremembered.
Take 78, Pearl Street in Manhattan’s Financial District. If you went on foot to go look for number 78, there’s nothing there anymore. The narrow gap in the busy New York street is fenced off, with rubble and weeds lying behind. But we can see what the building used to look like, as it lives on as a ghost building. For next door’s brick wall shows the shape, size and layout of its former neighbour, an imprint permanently etched on its shared wall, as clear as a draftsman’s blue print. Number 78 was a five story building built in 1900, but which was destroyed by a fire in 2004. The ground floor had once been home to Beckett’s, a bar much loved by Wall Street brokers and businessmen.
Further investigation unearthed a more intriguing tale, involving the building at number 76, whose shared wall also bears the scars and outline of its destroyed neighbour. For here, the tenants of the top floor apartment, Camden Sylvia and her partner Michael Sullivan, disappeared in November, 1997. They were seen to leave, going jogging along Pearl Street one evening, leaving behind wallets, passports and a rented movie, ‘Addicted To Love’, never to be seen again. Suspicion was thrown upon the landlord, with whom there had been disputes over the rent controlled apartment, but the missing couple were never found.
Ghost buildings differ from abandoned buildings, in that they barely exist as a physical places to explore. They endure in much the same world as ‘ghost signs’, the faded, painted old advertisements that can be sometimes be found hiding away on old brick walls. Both are the ghostly reminders of the life of a city that has long since passed; but for the keen urban explorer, they remain a poignant remnant of what once was there.