In 2014, on the one year anniversary of her sister’s sudden and tragic death, Michelle Bowers decided to honor her sister by doing something they once loved to do as children – explore old, abandoned homes and buildings. On that same day, Michelle also made a Facebook page by the name of
Abandoned Homes of North Carolina to showcase the beautifully decayed ruins she would discover across the state.
What started as a coping mechanism quickly became a hobby. But little did she know, or ever expect, that this hobby would gain her over 100k followers and national attention.
I’ve been following her page for quite some time and decided to reach out and ask a few questions about the homes she’s explored and the future of the page. Besides beautiful photography, she also has some really neat history and insight on each property.
1. What are your favorite locations and why?
"The Rockefeller mansion out at Spring Lake. I was told about this one from a follower of the page. She was texting me directions on how to get to it. These were very rudimentary directions. Turn right at the fork in the road, turn left at the fallen tree, take second right. We spent two hours in the woods on military property. Once we finally found it we pulled up to five military ATVs. But they couldn't have been nicer and even told us certain rooms we had to go check out. It was the Rockefeller's Thanksgiving retreat. It is currently owned by the Army.
When I am lucky my research skills come in handy and I can find old pictures from back in the homes' glory days. The black and white is from the mansion's good days. It was his Thanksgiving retreat. They had an indoor pool, tennis courts, basketball court, polo field, horse stables and a kennel that housed their fox hunting dogs."
"The Crudup house in Kittrell, NC. This is one of my favorites and another one where I could find an original picture of it.
Josiah Crudup was a very large plantation owner in the area at the time. His home was one of the first in the county to have not only indoor plumbing where water was drawn from the creek into the house, but it actually had an elevator at one point. A hand drawn elevator that his slaves used to pull him up and down as his health started failing. There is so much rich history attached to it. Whenever I go photograph it feels like I can hear the Crudups crying about the state of their home. They are buried out back in a small grove of trees in perfect view of their once revered home. I have tried to reach out to the current owner to inquire if she would be willing to sell it. She has not replied to me. It is disconcerting to me that a house on the National Register with an out of town owner is allowed to just sit and succumb to the elements."
"This house in Wake County was most interesting. First time ever I had seen a note left by a homeless person seeking shelter."
"On a whim I texted the number on the sign to see if he was okay. I got a reply! At the time the man had left the sign a year before I found it. He said he was down on his luck and sleeping on friends' couches. He saw the house and left the sign hoping he could live there and do work on it. I was the only person that contacted him. And he did say he was in a much better place and had a good job with his own apartment."
2. What do you think of the abandoned homes of North Carolina?
"I'm amazed at how many there are. Pick any back road and you will see some. I like them so much because not only do they have so much more character than the cookie cutter houses we have today, but it reminds me of such a simpler time.
Families spent their evenings on the front porch swings while the kids chased lightning bugs barefoot in the front yard. Now we are all so electronically connected and so hurried. My dream is to find a little cabin I could restore. It would be my weekend cabin. It would be a technology free zone!"
"This house in Wake County was one of the largest farms back in the day. It was just two weeks from being included on the National Register of Historic Places and it went up into flames. Arson is suspected."
"This picture is what is left."
3. Where do you plan to take the page?
"I'm the type of person that just goes with the flow. When I first started the page about a year and a half ago I expected maybe 100 page likes. Now 100,000 later it's very crazy, but it also gives me promise that I'm not that only one that wishes for a simpler time. "
"I have been very fortunate to meet some interesting people since I started the page. "
"I have two friends that work for Capital Area Preservation. They are a non profit and their work is amazing. I was very fortunate to be included in and document a recent house move they did to save a century old home in Apex. It was quite surreal to see a house move across an overpass of 540! "
4. What places would you like to see make a comeback?
One place would be the castle in Rougemont (Castle Mont Rouge). That house has some urban legends attached to it as to why it was abandoned. He stopped working on it due to the death of his wife? It was a foreclosure? It was tied up in divorce? I believe I know the truth, but let's leave it as a North Carolina legend.
It would be an interesting home if it is not too far gone. I was there a year ago and it was in bad shape. Last I heard some of the foundation was shifting, so doesn't sound too good. "
"The bigger the exploration to get to some of these places is what makes them fun for me. That's why there are times I take videos of the explorations so followers of the page can get a bit of a more personal feel of the exploration.
The castle was one of those trips where just getting there was equally as exciting! And also The Rockefeller mansion for sure! The Rockefellers were such an iconic American family and it saddens me to see it in the condition it is in right now."
Michelle frequently posts pictures of her explorations and you can even find a video interview with her
What do you think of this type of exploration? Do you have any questions for Michelle? Tell us in the comments!