The morning nothing went right

Today I decided to get out and do a little photography, and my target was the Frank Schott stone barn, about a half hour’s drive away from me, near Chokio, Minnesota. It’s an impressive construction — Schott went all out to build this rock solid cement and stone barn (and chicken coop!) back in the 1920s, finishing it in 1932. It was abandoned in the 1970s, and the wooden roof collapsed in the 1990s, but the structure itself is still standing. It’s an abandoned building that is so well built it feels totally safe to clamber around in it.

So we set off this morning. It looked easy to get to: a straight shot down highway 28 to county road 19, then left about 2 miles. No problem! Except there was no county road 19 that we could find, and we overshot and then backtracked and looked everywhere. Eventually, on pure dumb intuition — “this little gravel road feels like it’s about the right distance” — we found it.

I whipped out my nice camera, thinking the early morning light was perfect, and turned it on…nothing. What? Then I remembered — the night before, I’d prepared for the trip by getting the camera batteries charged up. The batteries were still sitting there at home, 100% charged. D’oh! At least I’d remembered the memory card.

I’d brought my drone along, too, but the wind was savage this morning, so nope, none of that, either.

I took a few photos with my cell phone. I should have taken a few selfies of myself kicking myself.

Maybe I’ll try again another day. It’s not that far away.


  1. brightmoon says

    Wow nice building! It’s a shame they let it die like that . Is it part of a ghost town?

  2. stroppy says

    Love the second one.

    Not sure about the first one. Beautiful light and engaging and interesting subject. Quibbles on composition: Attention to the edges relative to the subject and placement of the figure relative to the forward vertical edge of the building. Foot amputation…

  3. kestrel says

    That is really an impressive structure. Must have been an amazing barn back when it was being kept up and used.

  4. robro says

    I forget everything. Moments after I remember I need to do something, I forget it. I’m getting so old, I can’t remember when I lost my memory.

  5. komarov says

    Apart from the weathered wood it looks like there might be a construction crew showing up any moment to put the roof on and officially complete the structure. Certainly not the look I’d expected from an abandoned building.

    I’d also like to note that it looks like a great starting point for a secret spider breeding laboratory for the purposes of world domination and such. It looks also like there is plenty of room to add other stuff like fences, guard towers and henchmen barracks as you go along. The location also seems very convient as its close by (unlike the average volcano island), yet off the beaten track.

  6. PaulBC says

    stroppy@7 You’re right. The field probably made me think of Christina’s World and I couldn’t place it in my mind. American Gothic is by Grant Wood (as I’m sure you know) and I like his self-portrait better.

    Still, the Myers posing with a pitchfork between would be good (been done to death I know). The barn itself isn’t quite gothic either, but it’s impressively overbuilt for its purpose.

  7. gddiver says

    I’ve done the battery trick and the memory card trick but the really good one is to look through the view finder and realize the lens cap is still on. No problem except I’m 60 feet down and the camera is in a waterproof housing.

  8. says

    One of the reasons I’d hoped to use the drone is that no, it’s not part of a ghost town, or anything else. It’s a huge stone barn in the middle of great empty fields. A nice panaroma would have put the loneliness in context.

    Also, the interior is amazing. Stalls and feeding troughs are all an organic part of the structure, There are cement stairs built into the wall, leading to a large barren second floor with bits of the collapsed wooden roof there. I probably will have to make a second trip.

    The first picture was a very hasty shot, because normally Mary flees the frame if a camera is pointed in her direction.

  9. hillaryrettig says

    immediately brought to mind the bombed-out cathedral at Coventry, which also lost its roof

  10. René says

    Does anyone know what the four-hole structures on top of those six square columns are for?

  11. jrkrideau says

    This reminds me of my 10 days in Ireland having forgetten to put film in the camera. Great trip, including a grand pub crawl in Dublin with a Dublin friend but not a lot of photos.

  12. unclefrogy says

    sounds like the original farm was bought-out by a neighboring farm for the acreage and they just left the structures where they were seems a waist but from I can understand the thinking but still.
    I love all abandoned structures and places they have a profound beauty that is difficult to replicate on purpose by design.
    uncle frogy

  13. christoph says

    @ Rene, # 13: They could be what’s left of the cupolas-a design in old buildings, especially barns, to draw excess heat out of the building.

  14. superalias says

    How the Trump team hasn’t booked the place for a press conference yet, I don’t know.

  15. PaulBC says

    superalias@18 You kidding? They don’t have the class for it. They’d profane it by their presence.

  16. PaulBC says


    I love all abandoned structures and places they have a profound beauty that is difficult to replicate on purpose by design.

    I agree. For one thing, they weren’t built to be ruins. They had to earn such a venerated status. I suppose you could fake it, but that’s not the same. (Though even fake ruins could become real ruins one day.)

  17. PaulBC says

    I finally clicked on the link and read about the barn’s construction. It reminded me a little of Fonthill Castle, not too far from where I grew up but that I never saw until I had moved to California. It was built of reinforced concrete in the early 20th century by Henry Chapman Mercer, a tile maker associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. It doesn’t have much in common with the Schott barn, just that both are very idiosyncratic constructions. I was never inside Fonthill Castle, though I was in the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works on the same site, also made of reinforced concrete. I recommend visiting if you’re in the Philadelphia area.

  18. aziraphale says

    There was a brief period when I had 3 quite good cameras, all powered by 2 or 4 AA’s. Paradise! Recharge them if you remember, otherwise just pick up a handful of Duracells before a trip.