Most people have heard of the large headless (her roof is long-gone, after a blizzard caused it to collapse) school in Bagley, Iowa, Guthrie County. I drove up to the school in 2017, and the owner was doing repairs on the grounds. I approached him, and asked permission to photograph the outside of the school. He surprised me and offered to take me on a tour of the inside! The town has around 300 residents. The school has not had students since the 1960’s. In 2012, the roof collapsed after a major blizzard.
There was an addition added for elementary students. The owner converted it into a private residence.
He told me all of the town residents complained about the school, calling it an eye-sore. At one point they tried to make him cover the cost to tear it down, but he fought to keep it. He told me he really wanted to save it and preserve the history. He described his vision for the old building: a community center for everyone in town to enjoy. He wanted a safe place for kids to play, for the elderly to visit, and the town as a whole to come together. Unfortunately, after the roof caved in it became more and more difficult to repair.
The town now struggles with undrinkable water, dwindling residents, and no money to pay for the demolition of the school.
Upon the tour, he showed me the large bell that once rang out for all to hear. We walked through the lower level, half of which was in pitch black. We shined a flashlight on the ceiling, revealing sleeping bats! The dark parts reeked of musty mold and rot. On the upper level, the sun shined down on splintered wood, decaying textbooks. Crumbling bricks littered the ground.
We also drove by an abandoned farm near the school.
Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland was released on February 22, 2021. She is currently finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.