Interior of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo and story credit: Johnny Joo,

Maybe old buildings are in my blood. For forty years, my dad worked as a draftsman and designer for structural engineering firms, drawing up plans by hand. On trips into Cleveland for the art museum or bagels, Dad would point out the buildings he’d had a hand in. His job: ensuring they would stay standing.

So, it feels like a personal affront to watch buildings–especially beautiful historic places–go to ruin, abandoned.

I’ve talked on the blog before about “Ruin Porn,” a type of photography that glorifies falling-down structures, often in post-industrial places, like my native Cleveland. I’ve said before, that to me Ruin Porn looks like the American Dream on its knees with no dreamer in the scene. (I wrote a three-part essay you can read here, here, and here.) So, what do we do? How to salvage falling-down places?

We do what we writers always do. We tell their stories. And this is where Johnny Joo at Architectural Afterlife, sets himself, and his art, apart.

Preserving history through imagery, Cleveland, Ohio-based photojournalist Johnny Joo documents the history of decaying, forgotten places across the US.

I’m very pleased to re-blog my fellow Northeast Ohio native’s post. (If you’re on WordPress, you may have noticed this piece was a recent Discover feature–congrats, Johhny!) I hope you’ll click through to discover the many forgotten, falling-down places Johnny raises up (if only figuratively) by telling their stories.

The photo-story of a Slovak Roman Catholic Church, “This Cleveland Church has Sat Abandoned for 27 Years,” by Johnny Joo at Architectural Afterlife.

From Alabama to West Virginia, from an abandoned asylum to an old bowling alley and from falling-down churches to mansions and more–Johnny’s work captures “a specialized cycle of abandonment, destruction, and nature’s reclamation of countless structures.” Find Johnny Joo at Architectural Afterlife and all over social media from here.

Photography is one of my favorite sources of inspiration for writing. How about you? Maybe you’re a photographer, yourself? Click-and-shooter or pro, if you’re capturing images of Rust Belt places, I’d love to see them, and maybe feature them right here on the blog. Let me know in the comments! ~ Rebecca

27 thoughts on “From Architectural Afterlife: “This Cleveland Church has Sat Abandoned for 27 Years”

    1. Thank you, Johnny! Not being able to take a decent photo to save my life means I’m so grateful to be able to showcase great photographers like you! Your new site design looks good too, btw. Looking forward to what comes next…


  1. An excellent post, Rebecca! I’d never heard the term “Ruin Porn” but, yes, that’s such an apt term, and what a fascinating idea that RP glorifies falling down structures (I wholeheartedly agree). Such a beautiful church. I’ve only been to Cleveland once or twice, but this place would be gorgeous to see. And … Jonny Joo’s art is amazing! Deb

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    1. Cleveland is a city with so many churches. Many have been closed within the last couple decades, and some efforts are made to shuttle around their sacred artwork, etc., to open churches. But, yes, astounding that such structures just sit there! Thanks for visiting, Eilene!

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  2. I appreciate the artistic choice to bring the problem of abandoned buildings to raise awareness about, and how sad seeing such a beautiful church (which reminds me a lot those stunning churches we have in Italy) going forgotten!

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  3. My wife is from Cleveland, and there is nothing worse than returning to visit and seeing vacant and abandoned sites, especially one as gorgeous as this. In Los Angeles, there is a “Million Dollar Theater” downtown that is boarded up, but inside is incredible architecture…I also just posted on my blog the story of Hungarian “Ruin Bars” – entrepreneurs in Budapest is turning abandoned building in the old Jewish Quarter into bars and pop-in restaurants, and they are so much fun!

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    1. Ah, fascinating–your “Ruin Bars.” I need to check that out! Funny, how many old ruins my husband and I crawled through on our trip to Ireland. My guess is that we Americans are a little more safety conscious, so I wonder if ruin locales could become a thing here. Some of these old edifices seem to be just too big and old to warrant saving (to those who would foot the bill). Maybe that’s the case with your theatre in L.A. Such a shame. For some of it, I blame the 1950s and 60s architects and builders wanting new construction in the burbs!

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      1. That’s a great point! We would legislate it to death here in the US! And our affinity for suburban sprawl has left too many city centers to rot, although we are seeing some cities enticing people back!

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    1. Right!? Johnny Joo’s photography is pretty amazing. I especially like the shots where nature is “reclaiming” the architectural ruins, for instance trees growing through floors and ceilings! Thanks for stopping by–checked out your blog, which is great. I’m following!

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      1. I love the idea of nature reclaiming the architecture. It gives you an idea of what the cities will look like when humans are gone…
        Anyway, thank you for checking out my blog, I appreciate it 🙂

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  4. I’m smitten with the charm of rustic as well. I wish I had more options for those where I live. Johnny’s photos are exceptional, that’s for sure! I’d be lost without the inspiration photos provide for me as I write. Your writing always touches me, thank you for sharing your inspirational words of wisdom!

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