Friday, August 15, 2014

Captured on Film, Part 2 -- Whitecap Mnts Manor

Perhaps a friend first pointed me in this direction, I don't rightly recall. Or maybe I got lucky, which can happen on rain days salvaged by wandering previously unexplored back roads just to see what's there.

At any rate I didn't used to wander Wisconsin much, yet in 2001 I came across this:

From 4x5 Transparency, circa 2001

It was a gloomy day. I've never been able to coax a great scan from my first image of this grand old Wisconsin dairy barn abandoned to Iron County wilderness, but by my next visit the inscription had faded. The above is the only capture I have of it, misspelling of any generally accepted abbreviation for mountains still largely intact.

Periodically, I returned to the site. In time, Whitecap Mountain Manor became one of my favorite places to shoot and I've a raft of images from it. This barn was built by hand to last, with materials mostly gathered from the magnificent landscape around it.

By any measure, a vintage American barn of authentic merit.

From 4x5 transparency, 2009

Off to the left of the barn stood an outbuilding that turned out to be nearly as enticing as the barn itself, what I came to call the Whitecap Mountain Manor Annex:

From 4x5 transparency, 2009

That's a potted marijuana plant basking in the sun at the upper window. I got close enough to know it, then discretely went about my business. That's the thing about working abandoned places -- you never can tell who or what you'll find. Prudence is frequently essential to the skillset.

At WCMM the next year, I captured one of my favorite images in my architectural portfolio on film. Sometimes, you can find stars out even during the day:

From 4x5 transparency, 2010

Then in 2011 at the beginning of this Odyssey I took the Linhof and new Mamiya to crawl around the place but good. By that time the barn was in some serious disrepair. I invited a friend to come along in both mutual interest and for safety's sake, since I intended to finally work where prudence suggested I oughtn't...

From 120mm transparency, 2011

...including somehow getting myself and the Linhof up to the 2nd story of the main structure:

From 4x5 transparency, 2011

What's a little tilted floor among friends, right?

Once up there it was plain to see where floorboards were cracked and even given full away beneath the weight of other wanderers before me. I stuck to the hand hewn support beams cut big around as my thigh in support of the outside edge, while my friend stood by below to catch the Linhof if I tumbled.

Again on safe ground, I figured that for the prize of the day. I was mistaken. From the upper window of the Annex, I later captured this with the Mamiya:

From 120mm transparency

In my portfolio there're many images of things that no longer exist. 

Somewhere along the way I figured out that those represent the most valuable aspect of the fieldwork. Even though each time I revisit a site only to find what I'm looking for is vanished, a little part of me vanishes too.

So it was last week with Heather on vacation, when with my spiffy new Nikon in tow we took a run down to Whitecap Mountain Manor for to see what the most brutal winter in years had done to the place and to continue my documentation of its long, slow slouch into terminal wreckage. This time I came armed with digital wizardry that had me very much looking forward to the interior shots a bit of HDR capture might earn me.

Except we found my favorite incredibly sturdy if well worn example of rustic Wisconsin dairy barns that'd long since become like an old, reliable friend was just gone:

Nikon 800e digital capture, August 2014

A Realtor owns the place. Fresh signage is up. You could buy it, if you chose. No doubt crumbling Whitecap Mountain Manor finally proved too much a burden to the land, at least for purposes of selling it.

Now all that remains to tell anyone that something proud ever stood there is a surprisingly small patch of brown dirt, laid flat by virtue of bulldozer.

And of course, there's my film of what was. Which is a big part of the reason I decided to continue the gig, even without there being any more film.


I've been unable to uncover the narrative of Whitecap Mountain Manor.  Being just another wreck in the woods, it never shared the architectural distinction of the Annala round barn and no one saved it.

But should anyone reading this know any part of the story of this farm, I invite you to please drop by and share it.

I'm gonna miss the place...

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