These abandoned properties are a goldmine for photographer Ben Marcin, whose eye was drawn to the lonely row homes that have been left standing sans neighbours.
“To me [the houses] first appeared as graveyard monuments,” Marcin told Business Insider.
But as he began photographing more and more solo townhomes, he realised that some weren’t entirely empty. A run-in with one resident completely changed Marcin’s perspective on the neighbourhoods and the houses that remain there.
“The solo row houses became more than monuments to dying neighbourhoods; they had become an act of defiance,” he said.
Ahead, 15 images of the homes he captured in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Camden, New Jersey.
Marcin started his project, 'Last House Standing', in 2010, after he began biking through West Baltimore on his lunch breaks and noticed the large numbers of abandoned homes in the area.
'The first solo row house that I photographed was in the Shipley Hill section of West Baltimore,' he said. 'This is a neighbourhood where the poverty level is close to 50%.'
Studies have shown that people living in parts of Baltimore with a high percentage of vacated buildings tend to have a low life expectancy compared to people living in other parts of the city.
'Crime, poverty, and entrenched drug trade and general neglect have taken its toll on houses that were built to last forever in the nineteenth century,' Marcin said.
Vacant homes are especially susceptible to fires, which pose a safety issue to neighbours and cost the city considerable amounts of money to prevent and put out.
'Officially, the abandoned house tally for Baltimore stands at around 16,000, but I suspect that this is a very conservative estimate,' Marcin said.
'An older gentleman popped out of what I thought was an abandoned solo row house,' Marcin said. 'He had on a pair of jeans, a dirty t-shirt, and a bathrobe. He was not at all pleased to see me.'
'A rapid-fire series of questions and answers ensued. It was obvious that he had at one time strongly resisted any official attempt to remove him from his house, and the city probably decided it was in their interest to leave him alone,' he said.
Although they were more rare, Marcin began seeking out the single row homes that were still inhabited.
He then decided to venture outside of Baltimore. 'Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey (are) two cities that have also had more than their share of social turmoil over the years,' he said.
Solutions to the vacant home issue aren't as simple as restoring them. As Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, told The Washington Post, 'Solving vacant houses won't fix the problems that created them in the first place.' The state of Maryland plans to tear down thousands of vacant homes to make room for more development in Baltimore.
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