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During my travels through the Palouse late last Spring, the entire journey was blessed with serendipity.  For example, one of the images I very much wanted to get was the Skeen School, pictured above.  It no longer serves as a school, and hasn’t for decades.  It’s currently used to store farm equipment, but perhaps not for much longer, because judging by the extreme lean of the structure, if the coming winter is a harsh one, it may spell the end of this cool old building.

In my search for the school, all I had to go on was an old photography book that stated that it was “…near “X” Road.”  It didn’t state the name of the road that the building was actually on!  And the image in the book, almost thirty years old, showed a very different looking building than what exists today.  Standing much straighter, and with its bell tower intact, the contrast of the book’s images and mine is a testament to how time and the elements can change the appearance of an unmaintained building in this unforgiving climate.

So imagine my delight when I was randomly meandering through the backroads of the Palouse and came upon this building.  I thought I recognized it immediately, but I pulled out the book to make sure.  The photo in the book showed two round holes in the wall to the left, almost even with the top of the window, near the front of the building.  This building had the same holes in the same locations.  To me this was as good as matching fingerprints…I had found it!

In the image above, you can see the patch in the roof where there once was a bell tower.  If you google “Skeen School images” you can see how the building looked with the bell tower intact.  Without the bell tower, it’s a lot less recognizable as an old schoolhouse.

It would’ve been easy to drive past this building and not recognize it for what it is.  There is farming paraphernalia–what some people would call “junk”–piled around all sides of this building.  In fact, because the building is on a rise above the road, a trick some photographers use is to cut off about the lower third of the building in order to hide all the stuff piled around it. That’s actually what the photographer in the book I had had done.  But to me, the surroundings of the building tell as story as much as the building itself.

This image above is how some photographers attempt to “improve” the appearance of this building:  hide some junk behind the road cut in the foreground, and crop out most of the rest of it.  The dry grass and dark clouds in this image combine to give it a very different feel than the one at the beginning of this post, where I was able to capture a rare few minutes of sunlight and blue sky during my mostly overcast and rainy journey.  Another bit of serendipity that blessed this shoot.

And yet, as you can see in the image below, it’s actually the “junk” around the building that’s kept it from collapsing years ago.  I can’t help but wonder how many more winters this building can endure.

I’ll be heading back to the Palouse this Fall, and will try to get a few more images of the Skeen School (now that I know where it is!) just in case it doesn’t make it through the winter of ’12-’13….




  1. Amazing photos!

  2. HOT! It looks like it waves with the wind! :O

    • JSUP,

      The wind does cool stuff with the wheat and other crops…

      RPRT Photo

  3. Great shot!

  4. Those are such cool pics!!! It is amazing that the building has lasted this long. As you point out, although people tend to “tidy it up” for photography, it is in fact the the “junk” around the building that’s kept it from collapsing years ago! 🙂

    Congrats on getting FP!

    • Thanks TYRAYGM,

      I’m amazed at how longs abandoned buildings survive in the Palouse (and elsewhere) before they finally collapse. Sometimes it seems to be nothing short of a miracle.

      RPRT Photo

  5. I love what you have captured here. All at once, our imaginations are transported to another time and place, then brought back to the reality that time has certainly passed, the world has certainly changed. Very excellent work! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Corey.

      One-room schoolhouses used to be the norm in our country, but now they’re the (very) rare exception. Some have been restored and repurposed, but many (most?) have been abandoned and lost.

      Sad to see a building disintegrating that was no doubt once the pride of the community.

      RPRT Photo

  6. wow! beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. The last picture really shows how it’s actually defying gravity. Amazing!

    • Thanks Deepali.

      I wonder how much longer this particular building will continue to defy gravity…

      RPRT Photo

  7. Hang in there.

  8. Great photos. It’s hard to believe anyone would think it a good idea to store things in a building that is leaning that much. I love the old school houses – I wish so many of them had not been torn down. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    • Thanks Donna.

      My guess is that most of the stuff that makes it into the building for “storage” rarely makes its way back out…kind of like my garage! 😉

      RPRT Photo

  9. I’m not sure whether that ladder is leaning on the building or supporting it!
    Amazing photos.

    • BBS:

      Thank you. I’m not entirely sure of the ladder’s role either…though I’m sure if it doesn’t yet have a supporting role, it will eventually!

      RPRT Photo

  10. SUPER cool…and here I thought you were doing tricks with the camera lens to make it appear to be swaying and tilting!


    • Thanks Mikalee.

      No camera lens tricks here–or image editing software magic like someone else assumed–this is a real, honest-to-goodness leaning building.

      RPRT Photo

      PS LOVE your writing (on your blog). Very fun!

  11. I feel like that old school house some mornings! Hahaha! Great story! Sometimes showing the ugliness brings out the beauty in a subject…
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Thanks, Susie.

      I look like that old school house some mornings! 😉

      RPRT Photo

  12. Whoa! It gives the Leaning Tower of Pisa some major competition!

    • Hi EEE,

      Indeed, though if I had to place bets on which would be more likely to fall first, I would say the schoolhouse.

      I’m flashing back on climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa in ’82, and I remember it being a nerve-wracking experience. The “downhill” side had nothing between you and the ground, and those marble steps were disturbingly slick from having had people clamber up and down them for several centuries. Despite my care, I slipped several times. I remember being astonished that tourists didn’t plummet to their deaths on a daily basis.

      I would climb to the roof of the schoolhouse with far less trepidation (although of course I wouldn’t for fear of damaging it further).

      RPRT Photo

      • It amazes me that the Pisa tower hasn’t collapsed under the weight of all those tourists! 😉 But I guess they’ve taken measures to ensure that the tower doesn’t tilt any further.

  13. Your photos are great! The things surrounding the leany building add just as much personality to it!

    • Thanks Brianna.

      The building is on a working farm. It’s used for storage, as is the land around it. But I can’t help wondering if the stuff piled around the building was put there deliberately to discourage frequent visits from photographers…

      RPRT Photo

  14. wow~! what an awesome delight of a surprise to have found it by chance on your trip! the “x” street would have been a huge downer for me and I would have gone to the publisher to try and find out exactly where it was. Sometimes the way we seek allows us to find what we need naturally! Kudos that this happened for you, and that the blue sky came out to play while you were taking these pictures. I was shocked to know this old building was leaning on purpose – I really thought that you had doctored the photo, and that itself was cool! To think that a treasure like this happens naturally!! Thanks for the pictures and the post!

    • Hi Chrissy,

      Thanks for all your comments. It was indeed serendipitous to find the building by meandering along the backroads of the Palouse for several days. And it was quite “an awesome delight of a surprise,” as you so well put it, and so was the momentary blue sky that appears in several of the images. It was all good!

      Interesting that you thought I doctored the photo, but as I said in yesterdays’s post, other than minor color corrections and contrast adjustments, I didn’t do any other image manipulation. The building is really crooked and twisted and listing as depicted. Which, as you said, is exactly what makes it so cool.

      Thanks again for your kind words,
      RPRT Photo

  15. That is one stubborn house.

    • I agree, Hannah.

      That must be what’s kept it standing all these years!

      RPRT Photo

  16. Great find!! would love to know the history of the building.

    • Hi Amber,

      Me too. I had hoped there would be more information online, but there isn’t much. I guess I’ll have to do some research in person. I’m returning to the Palouse in about a week and will see what I can find out.

      By the way, you are a kindred spirit. I checked out your blog and love your term “Documentation of American Rural Decay.” That is what I’ve been doing with many of my images. I’ll be posting some cool abandoned farmhouses shortly that I think you’ll enjoy.

      And of course Route 66 is a favorite place to shoot for me as well.

      Guarda la fe! (Keep the faith!)

      RPRT Photo

      • It can be difficult to find information of rural buildings on the net, especially when the nearest town barely has a footprint online. Try to speak with the local historian if you can find him/her. most counties will have at least one person who has a passion for collecting and archiving their local history.

        I will keep an eye out for the farmhouses! and thanks for checking out my blog. I have so much to post, and hopefully when work slows down a bit this season I can finish writing about my latest adventures. 🙂


  17. Impressive! Thank you for sharing!

  18. This is a really fascinating building. The piles of farm equipment really add to it. Makes you wonder why everything was just left there.

    • Hi L,

      The building sits on a working farm, but I can’t tell whether or not the stuff that’s piled around it ever gets used or not. I’ll have to compare my Spring and Fall images closely to try to tell if anything got moved or removed…

      RPRT Photo

  19. Couldn’t really make it to northwestern US till date.Looking forward to more pics of the school once u post them after this fall.Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Hi Sayori,

      Glad to report that the school is still standing. Check out Defying Gravity II from 09.30.12 for an update, and a different look to the land post-harvest…

      RPRT Photo

  20. Great photos. I am amazed it is still standing.

    • Thanks.

      I’m amazed as well. And happy… 🙂

      RPRT Photo

  21. I agree, it looks better with the ‘junk’ around it. Great photos and a fabulous building – I hope it stays standing but not entirely sure it will 😀

    • Thanks MSS,

      I like the junk, and I also like the images in which most of it is hidden. Interesting to google images of the building and see how different photographers have chosen to portray it…what they include, and what they exclude.

      Sadly, I think this building’s days are numbered, since it doesn’t appear that any effort has been made to preserve it, other than patching the hole in the roof, and placing some support against the leaning wall.

      RPRT Photo

    • Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:30
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Terrific blog the images are amazing and the words really compliment the images

    • Thanks James.

      I’m really glad you like the images AND the writing. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

      PS You’ve got some amazing images on your blog. I especially like the coastal ones!

  22. Fabulous, I have great affection for buildings such as this. It is particularly fascinating when you can compare the present state to past glories. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Thanks. I can’t help but think of the generations of kids that were taught in that one-room schoolhouse, and how proud the community must have been of their school when it was new and well-maintained…

      RPRT Photo

  23. I love old abandoned buildings, they make you wonder about their stories and the people who used to be there. Wonderful photographs!

    • Hi KINA,

      Thank you. 🙂

      I definitely also have a lot of curiosity about the old stuff I shoot, the buildings and the vehicles, who used them, and especially why they stopped getting used…

      RPRT Photo

      PS My cats are not amused by my artwork either, but they definitely like to hang out with me while I blog. Could have something to do with the fact that I usually blog in bed…

  24. For such an old and decrepit building, these are some beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Thanks Shel,

      The beauty is IN the decrepitness (I think). I’m glad you like the images.

      RPRT Photo

  25. Reblogged this on xoalybear's Blog and commented:
    This is amazing.

    • Thanks XB. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

      PS Are you still writing? I don’t see any recent posts…

  26. I think the last photo is the best: you just realise exactly how precarious it is.

    • Hi Random,

      You’re in good company. Several people have said that the last image is their favorite. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

      PS I checked out your blog, but only understood one post. You get my “Geekiest Reader” award. (BTW, that’s a compliment!) 🙂

  27. Wonderful photos. I like the way you mentioned framing the building in different ways to create a different feel. Great work.

    • Thanks Josh. 🙂

      I was up in the Cascades last month and that’s truly beautiful country. Enjoyed reading about some of your adventures…

      RPRT Photo

  28. I miss the palouse! The fields and old buildings there are amazing. Having grown up with an old barn that started to lean significantly over the years, the ladder is there to try and prevent it from leaning more. That is why it is braced so high at the top of the building and has such a wide base. Nothing beats old wood buildings from around the turn of the century!

    • Hi ATW Doc,

      Arizona’s a long way from the Palouse, and SO different, but also very beautiful.

      The “ladder” gizmo actually appears to be a piece of old farm machinery. Don’t suppose you know what it might have been?

      Indeed it does appear to be helping to hold the building up…I think they may need a couple more supports soon…

      RPRT Photo

      PS Have you been to Jerome? It’s one of my favorite places to shoot in AZ…

      • I have been through Jerome once and it was beautiful but I was headed to the race track in Prescott and had a bunch of work to do so I didnt really take the time to enjoy it!! the road between it and Prescott is horrendous if one is in a hurry 🙂

        My family has an old barn in Idaho Falls that was built the turn of the century and we had to pour cement into the sheep chute on one side of it for the wall to come out on and rest upon. But it is still standing! It makes me sad to think that when the city over takes it as it grows that direction that the old barn will be torn down and all the history gone 😦

      • I can imagine 89-A is not a highway to hurry on, as I recall photo ops on almost every turn, and taking advantage of a number of pullouts. I had the luxury of spending three days in the Jerome area, and used the Jerome Grand Hotel as a home base for exploring parts of the Sedona region the last time I was there, since I love the area around Sedona, but don’t care for the town itself.

        Jerome, on the other hand, is cool and worth lingering in and walking around and exploring at a leisurely pace.

        Being a back road junkie, I also enjoyed Perkinsville Road, but that’s also not a road to hurry on.

        Glad to hear that the old barn is still standing in Idaho Falls, and I hope it remains as long as possible.

        RPRT Photo

      • I would think that the piece holding the barn up is the underparts of some sort of horse drawn farm equipment. On our old farm that I grew up on we had all sorts of old horse drawn stuff laying around. it was great fun to play on 🙂

      • Can’t even begin to guess at the vintage of the equipment in that image, so I’ll go with your suggestion. 🙂

        I would think it would’ve been fun playing on all the old equipment, especially when you’re far away from a playground or a jungle gym growing up on a farm.

        RPRT Photo

  29. I love this. The more rundown and rustic the better.

    • I’m with you, Allan! Rustic (and rusty!) and rundown and neglected and weathered and leaning…

      It’s ALL good! 🙂

      RPRT Photo

  30. Great photos it is a shame old building get torn down some have too because they will collapse but most dont need to

    • Hi Jim,

      I agree, it’s a bummer when old buildings are either torn down or allowed to collapse. I can’t help feeling that most could be saved, but that’s probably not realistic…

      RPRT Photo

  31. impressed that u found the “X” road.. u r one determined person

    • Thanks Anise.

      I was pleased that I found this building and that it was such a serendipitous occurrence.

      For better or worse, I am indeed determined…some might say stubborn. It’s both a blessing and a curse! 😉

      RPRT Photo

      • dont matter as they are cursing you because you found it before they did…

  32. i love it; it’s beautiful! i love old barns – or things that look like old barns!

    • Hi Vanessa,

      I love old barns (obviously!) and houses and cabins and such. Not really into old castles and mansions. Prefer to see how the “common folk” lived. When I visit historic mansions, I spend most of my time exploring and photographing the servants’ quarters!

      Glad you enjoyed this post. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

  33. amazing photos.. i wonder how the inside looks like.. thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Elizabeth.

      I think the inside of the building is just used for storage…kind of like the outside! 😉

      RPRT Photo

  34. Congratulations on being freshly pressed! Haven’t seen anything leaning like that since my last trip to Pisa!

    • Hi MD,

      Yes, a couple of other readers made the Pisa comparison as well. What is it about leaning buildings that makes them so intriguing to us?

      Perhaps the fact that they are leaning but haven’t fallen over (yet)?

      RPRT Photo

  35. Nice blog. I love the photos and the way you have written the article.

    • Thank you, Magdalene. I’m glad you like the images AND the writing. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

  36. ..dont you just love old buildings! i do…

    • Well, fc999, I love just about old anything, but buildings are fun to shoot, and it’s always a challenge to try to capture their three-dimensional character in a two-dimension image. When it works, I’m delighted. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

  37. really cool stuff, great photos! thanks for sharing! x

    • Merci beaucoup, LCB. Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

      RPRT Photo

  38. I’ve driven through that general area before but missed this gem! The shot I love best is the one from the front where you can really see the lean best. Nice narrative, too! I felt like I was there with you!

    • Hi Denise,

      Thanks for the nice comments on the images AND the writing. It’s good feedback to hear which image people like the best. People who’ve mentioned a favorite seem to prefer the same image you mention, so you’re in good company. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

      PS Nice riding suit. 1st Gear?

      • Wow! You do notice the details! Yes, it is 1st Gear! 😉

      • Hey Denise,

        Photographers do have an eye for details…at least good photographers do. I like to think that sometimes I fall in that category…

        But to be fair, I should also fess up that I’m a fellow biker (fellow Honda rider for that matter) and also a fellow 1st Gear wearer (of both jacket AND pants)! I find their riding clothes are comfortable AND keep me dry in the rain.

        So I must commend you for being a smartly dressed rider, “smartly” referring not just to your sense of style (the blue compliments your “Summer” coloring) but also to the fact that you’re fairly well protected in that getup.

        Here’s to us keeping the rubber side down! 😉

        RPRT Photo

  39. Great photos. I especially like the last one where it appears as though that ladder is really holding up the whole building.

    • Thanks, iRiB.

      Not sure what’s really holding up that building, other than termites holding hands… 😉

      BTW, the gizmo that looks very much like a ladder is, in fact, part of some type of farming machinery. But exactly what, I couldn’t even venture a guess. Anyone?

      RPRT Photo

      • I’d like to see a photo of termites holding hands.

        Given that the ladder-ish thing is actually part of farming machinery makes a very good mystery. Yes, if anyone could solve that, I’d be interested to know!

      • Hi iRiB,

        I’d like to see an image of termites holding hands myself. Especially since they have six legs! So would we assume the superior pair of legs to be their “arms” and the distal ends of those arm/legs the “hands?”

        I did have one reader identify some images of antique farm machinery, so I’m sure there’s someone out there who knows what the building’s support used to be.

        RPRT Photo

  40. so when I saw the title of your post I definitely started singing the Defying Gravity song from the Wicked musical. Please tell me you were thinking the same when you created it and im not just some musical loving nerd lol.

    great pics of this structure! Where is this place at?

    • Thanks for your comments, Rachel (and/or Tasha).

      I must admit I have yet to see Wicked, and until I read your comments, I had no idea that there was a song called “Defying Gravity.” I have a bad habit of falling asleep at live performances–yes, even when they’re really good and/or really loud–but now I feel like I’ve got to check this one out.

      So yes, you ARE a musical loving nerd, evidently, but there’s nothing wrong with that!

      Skeen School is in the Palouse region of Washington state, more specifically near Kamiak Butte, if that helps.

      RPRT Photo

    • visualpoetryphotography
    • Posted August 31, 2012 at 23:53
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    I love these!

  41. Such wonderful photos!
    I like this a lot.

    • Thanks, Melissa.

      BTW, great writing on your blog. I’m enjoying reading it. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

  42. I always enjoy finding those old buildings out in the middle of nowhere. They’re always glad to see you and have a lot of stories to tell if you’re patient and respect what they have to say.

    One of my favorites (explored decades ago) was the long-abandoned home of an immigrant logger. The bottom half of his log house had succumbed to slow rot, so it was very hard getting inside. Amazingly there were still several personal possessions left lying about in the rubble on the wood floor. Including a dusty pocket-sized personal bible with a leather cover, printed in a heavy German gothic typeface. His signature was inscribed inside the cover. Thanks for the memories, Rudolf Krump!

    • Hey Dr. E,

      So many people have written to say how much they love old buildings…seeing them, exploring them, photographing them. These buildings definitely have a pull that’s hard to resist (for many of us).

      I only explore when the entire property is clearly abandoned, as opposed to an abandoned building that’s obviously on a piece of inhabited property. I prefer to be the one doing the shooting (with my camera) as opposed to being the one shot at (with something else)!

      So many of my shots are exterior, but I’ll be posting several interior shots from several different buildings in the Palouse over the next few months, so stay tuned.

      Great story about the old logger. Rudolf Krump lives on!

      Thanks for sharing,
      RPRT Photo

  43. I have been guilty of avoiding the ‘junk’ when I try to compose shots. Your photos and your commentary have taught me to look at the whole. In the final shot, the junk proves to anchor the building and emphasize the lean. Thanks for that!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Martha. I tend to shoot both ways, leaving the “junk” in, and leaving it out. Later on the computer I decide which image I like better, and why.

      And while I tend to think of the “junk in” shots as the ugly ones and the “junk out” shots as the pretty ones, there can be quite a bit of overlap…and as you point out, the “junk” emphasizes the lean of the building in some of the images.

      I’m endlessly fascinated by how many different ways there are to “see” the same thing…

      RPRT Photo

  44. unbelievably beautiful & surreal! seems dream like! awesome captures, loved every pic here! 🙂

    • Thank you, Teju, for all of your kinds comments. 🙂

      RPRT Photo

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