In "Burke, Idaho, a Modern Ghost Town and a Lesson in Economics Part 2", we left off at the point where some inhabited homes transitioned into totally abandoned buildings. As you can see from the closing photo in the previous blog posting, the left side of the street was largely "residential".
One of the physical challenges that the surrounding landscape posed for Burke's residents was that the floor of the canyon is only 300 feet across. Once that "flat" floor space was used up, people had to build on the side of the hills that create the canyon walls. Very few homes still remain on the hillsides. One such house stood out...a red house (located roughly 80 feet up from the floor of the canyon). As best I can tell (and I didn't climb the hill to get a closer look), this house has been abandoned for some time. Interestingly, it must have been constructed fairly well...to be standing as it does. This little house...has character. It seems to stand in stubborn defiance to the slow erosion of many of the other buildings. Note that the glass in the windows isn't broken. Pretty remarkable!
When I say that the little Red House appeared to be defiant...I should probably put this into context with the photo below:
What you are looking at in the photo shown above are empty lots (located immediately off "main street"... there are no cross-streets...there's merely one street)...with virtually no sign, aside from the little rock walls, to indicate that any buildings actually stood there.
Continuing down the left side of the street, you eventually run into the last 3 "standing" buildings that comprised what must have been Burke's commercial district.
As you can see in the photo shown above, all of the buildings are boarded up and have been for a long, long time. I'm actually not sure what businesses occupied the various buildings. I do know that the portion of the building that shows a garage door was an automotive repair shop. I would imagine that one of the buildings...probably the white one in the center...had been a restaurant. Perhaps the one to the left of the white one might have been a bar. It is likely that each of these buildings had different businesses at various points in Burke's existence.
The photo shown above was take from the front of the "auto repair" building. Standing on the sidewalk like this, I let my imagination run for a bit...allowing me to picture how busy the area must have been during the town's heyday. For some odd reason, looking at the bedraggled light located above the red entry door to "Gaost Town Auto" (look closely and you'll see that "ghost" is spelled with with an upside down "A" after the letter "g') fascinated me. Keep in mind that I've referred to Burke as a "Modern Ghost Town". If you look at the light fixture...and at the power meter located on the front of the building...you can understand why I've categorized Burke as I have. I imagine that the commercial buildings extended mostly down to the lone garage at the left side of the photo. At some point, I may do some serious work to dig up more specific history about what businesses existed in Burke, what they were, who owned them, when they closed...that kind of thing.
Remember that at one point, nearly two thousand people lived in Burke. Stare at the photos and try to imagine what that must have been like. Imagine people walking down the sidewalk...entering the various businesses, purchasing items...conducting everyday life. Imagine the glow on a little boy's face when his parents bought him some new toy. Or the sunshine in a little girl's smile as her mother bought her new ribbons. Imagine the happiness on people faces when winter finally released the area from it's cold grasp. I assure you that the faces of Burke's adults were filled with just as many hopes, dreams and struggles as we see amongst the people around us today. At one point, Burke was a positively THRIVING community! It was filled with excitement, enthusiasm, energy and vitality! Imagine that...and contrast it against what you see in the photos.
Of course, it has been many decades since Burke had what anyone would call "vitality". Still...consider this:
A) Burke came to be (at least in a "defined" sense) around 1888.
B) Here we are...June of 2012. The pictures that I've been showing you are roughly 124 years later. That may sound like a long time...but comparatively, it spans a mere blinking of history's eye. Think not? 1776. Only 236 years ago. The US is a very young country. A mere baby upon the earth. Doubt me? Certainly most of you know where Turkey (the country, not the bird) is located, right? Some of you may even have heard of a HUGE city called "Istanbul". It is the home to roughly 13 million people. What has Istanbul got to do with Burke? Why nothing of course! So why am I talking about it? Before Istanbul came to be, it was known as "Constantinople". How old is Istanbul/Constantinople? A couple thousand years...ish. So, you see...124 years is a very short window of time. As a semi-relevant point of contrast; Istanbul/Constantinople has grown to become one of the largest cities to ever exist on earth...while Burke...is vanishing. Wonder why? We'll get to that...eventually.
That's right...the proverbial "blink of an eye"...and an entire town...hundreds upon hundreds of lives. Gone. You can feel the emptiness in Burke; it's palpable. It touches you...profoundly. It alters how you feel...think...and see. While faint echoes of Burke's long lost "hope" fluttered through my mind...the area certainly displays a profound sadness. What happened to transform Burke from a thriving town of hope...into a Modern Ghost Town?
Stay tuned for the next blog posting on "Burke, Idaho, a Modern Ghost Town and a Lesson in Economics". And guess what? I originally thought that this would be a 4-part "series". Nope. It's likely to turn into a 6-part run (maybe even longer). Why? Well... several of you have written me, saying how you've enjoyed the positing. Truly, this is very pleasing to hear. Certainly...it is a sincere joy to be able to share such an interest. Thanks to your encouragement, I'll be posting many more photos of Burke...and sharing additional tidbits of it's history (largely as colored through my own bi-focaled eyes).
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