Saturday, February 16, 2008

Vacant Houses [that I would've rather not have had to photograph]



With no tenants.

Vacant houses.

Houses that I would have rather not have had to photograph. Because these houses were once the homes of my neighbors. For close to 19 years, I was surrounded on both sides of my family's property by great neighbors who will be missed very much. Next to them; more vacant houses, that are also awaiting demolition. They were home to best friends, people I hardly knew, and people who gave out great Halloween candy growing up in the 90's.

An abandoned house is not a common thing to see in a rundown neighborhood undergoing re-development but it is quite an odd site to see in the city Fairfield, Ohio; one of the state's wealthiest and fastest growing communities.

- Cigarette butts and light bulbs are remnants of the former tenants and work crews who have been contracted to prepare the houses for demolition.

Fairfield is well known for its recent construction of it's Village Green. An area they describe as: "A prime example of what happens when business, citizens and government work together, Fairfield's Town Center and Village Green are inspired works of city planning and landscape architecture that are as beautiful as they are functional." Although they plan to demolish the vacant houses, why would a city like Fairfield that is known for its prosperity and new gorgeous buildings allow their neighborhoods to have vacant houses sitting for days, weeks, and in some cases; months?

- A shower head remains in a bathroom of one of the vacant houses. This house in particular sat wide open for a week before being demolished. In this picture you can see the damage done by scrappers who attempted to loot the house.

The reason is flooding. These houses border the Pleasant Run creek which eventually flows to Hamilton and into the Miami river. During a particularly heavy storm on Fathers Day 2003 man residents spent the evening watching the waters of the creek rise while the city worked quickly to provide residents with sandbags. Unfortunately the sandbags could not do enough to keep the rising water out of the "tri-level" homes. Once the waters receded, the damage was realized and the residents had, had enough of the cities failure to do protect them from the flood waters of the creek. For years residents complained that the 1960's era houses should not have been permitted to be built on a flood plane and that they had not been properly warned when purchasing their homes. The city opened up its doors and pulpits to the citizens and reminded them of their past attempts to curb the flooding:
-Widening sections of the creek in the 1980's.
-Construction of a pump house directly behind the abandoned properties to curb flood waters in the late 90's.
-Construction of a new golf course that would also serve as a basin to collect flood water to keep it from massing in the creek.
All these efforts failed during the damage of the Father's Day Flood, the government along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decided upon a plan: FEMA would grant the city of Fairfield enough money to offer residents Fair Market Value for their homes then the city would demolish the homes and in turn agree to never build structures on the flood plane again. Residents that refused to sell to the city held out until the city threatened eminent domain. By summer 2005 nearly a dozen houses on Banker Dr. had been abandoned and bulldozed. In fall of 2007 the city decided it wanted to acquire and demolish 5 more tri-levels on nearby Crystal Dr. and those house are the ones you now see in this article.

- This house once belonged the man who gave me my first job and an outstanding citizen who ran for city council on a platform of reforming the city governments responsibility for flood control. She is still a great voice for the community today.

By February 2008 the 5 Crystal Dr. houses had been acquired and the tenants had relocated. Since these pictures were taken one house has been completely demolished but the other 4 still remain.

- The soap still remained in the bathroom of this house.

- Remnants of the former tenants.

- This was probably the first time I stood on this deck since 1995. This house had belonged to my best friend growing up but until this day had not been inside it for years.

- This house also had the most possessions left behind by it's former occupants

- Underwear, aluminum foil, and a mattress tag are just a few of the things left behind.

In the coming weeks these tri-levels will disappear from the neighborhood landscape leaving. Since they are all located on the same side of the street they have left a few houses isolated and scattered among the street surrounded by empty fields and dirt, the residents of the still-standing houses worry that their property value has been signifigantly reduced by the lack of neighboring houses. The city claims to have a plan in place to create a park and increase the property value but the details of these plans have yet to be seen. There have also been vicious rumors that more houses may be coming and more residents may be getting part of a new FEMA grant in exchange for leaving. Only time will tell if more houses will come down, if the new grand recreational park will finally come, or if the city will continue to slowly give answers.

Update | Sept. 21, 2017:
  • A park did eventually come, but it could hardly be called a "recreational facility." It features a dirt path with no physical structures that could be harmed by flooding. Most of this land is now vacant. In fact, the house my family was still living in at the time was eventually bought out and demolished after a lengthy fight in the ensuing years. Just over four years after this piece was published, our house was demolished.


  1. Wow. I grew up over on Morningside, and I've lived up at the top half of this area for years now on Winchester. I took alot of photos when they took down the first batch of houses on Banker.

  2. I remember this neighborhood. My very first friend moved here in the late 70's. I remember their house being flooded twice while they lived there. I have a vague memory of the docile stream that flowed in their back yard. My friend's mother described one flood as a large wall of water that came over the stream and immediately flooded their house.

  3. I live in the upper portion of this neighborhood and have for the last 15 years. I would drive by this every single day and when they began the demolitions it was eerie to see and it still is sad to see nothing in that space where these houses once were. But the flood in 2003 was devastating and it happened so fast and the houses were a mess.