Farewell, Kentucky.

It’s always heartbreaking to leave the state you called home for your entire childhood, but when a new job awaits in another state, sometimes sacrifices and goodbyes must be made. For the month prior to my move to Cleveland, Ohio, I traveled the state extensively, capturing the state for Abandoned as I saw it.

Eastern Kentucky is where I grew up, and is where I started – with Nada Tunnel. The one-lane tunnel is located along Kentucky Route 77 in Clay County and is one of the best ways to enter the Red River Gorge Geological Area in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The 900-foot, one-lane tunnel was constructed from December 1910 to September 1911 for the Big Woods, Red River & Lombard narrow gauge railroad.


It lead to a visit to the Cannel City Union Church, a multi-denominational church constructed in 1905. The distinct structure was possibly constructed by the Kentucky Block Cannel Coal Company. After the mines closed, the town’s population decreased and without a sufficient and stable congregation, the Cannel City Union Church was vacated in 1961.

Nearby is the former Hazel Green Academy, a private school that was available to young men and women in the remote eastern mountains of the state. Hazel Green Academy closed in 1983 after encountering financial difficulties. While much of the campus has been reused, Pearre Hall has not. Constructed in 1901, it was used as a classroom building and then as a dormitory, kitchen and dining hall. It was last used as private apartments but has suffered from extensive water damage that is undermining the structural stability of the building. Wooden floors are rapidly decaying under water intrusion and exterior brick walls are bulging from improper drainage.

On another occasion, I visited the former Old Louis Hunter Distillery, located along the banks of the South Fork Licking River. The distillery operated from around 1850 until 1974. This was the first attempt at photographing the newer distilling facility and power house, constructed just prior World War II.

The contrast between the original facility, built circa 1913 out of some steel and a lot of wood, and the addition, constructed of steel and concrete, was evident. While the original facility was in a state of collapse, the newer building was in much better condition – sans some minor vandalism and salvaging.

While my leave from the state I grew up in is bittersweet, I am reminded of the Stephen Foster song, My Old Kentucky Home. The sun will always shine bright in my old Kentucky home.

The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
‘Tis summer, the people are gay,
The corn top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy and bright:
By’n by Hard Times comes a knocking at the door,
Then my old Kentucky Home, good night!