The AMO Team
In my lifetime I can’t remember frequently seeing abandoned buildings, let alone know their history. I think this observation is what has led me to become so passionate about educating others on our disappearing history and making sure it’s documented thoroughly. One day in high school I stumbled across a then almost defunct website that is today Abandoned Oklahoma. Immediately I was fascinated, I scrolled for hours and hours finding post after post of a seemingly endless list of abandoned places that I had never known existed. My first abandoned building was the Skedee High School, I was shocked with the amount of stuff left in the building even though it had been abandoned for over 50 years. After seeing paper and books that had past students’ names written on them I was on a mission to find out more. Why and when did it close? Could I find anyone who used to go there? Were there any plans for the school?” That jump-started the hobby for me and instead of just going to cool places it became a sort of a historical conquest.
I was brought onto the Abandoned Atlas Team in December of 2019 with big dreams for the Foundation. Helping redesign all the websites, helping found two new divisions (Abandoned Kansas and Missouri) and now becoming the most published author on the websites with over 200+ articles written. Working with the Abandoned Atlas Foundation has been a dream come true and has given me many opportunities including being a two-time published author by the age of 21 with my two books Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World and Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State.
Michael Schwarz’s interest in film started at a young age when he first viewed the movie “Titanic” because of the emotions the movie evoked in him. He didn’t immediately start making movies but around the 8th grade, he started making short films for his school. By his senior year in high school, he was hooked and aspired to attain his degree in the film industry.
While making one of his short films, he was out scouting locations but was having difficulty obtaining permission to shoot on sites of currently active businesses. His friend told him about an abandoned circus (Gandini’s Circus) in Edmond, OK. Michael was intrigued and went to see the location for himself. With his camera in hand, he explored the location to see how to build a short film around this interesting site. After on-set difficulties, he realized another location was needed for his film. This time, he investigated the old El Reno, Oklahoma Rock Island Depot Railroad. It was perfect. This stirred Michael’s interest which lead him to other abandoned structures.
In January 2012, Michael saw a television newscast reporting an abandoned building that was on fire. This building, Dunjee High School, was a place Michael had visited before. That same day, he went to the school to photograph the remaining ruins of the building. There he met the widow of the former principal of the school. Her story evoked strong emotions in Michael because, through her tears, she revealed this building was the last tangible memory that remained of her husband. This story changed Michael’s perspective of abandoned buildings from this point forward. He realized they weren’t just buildings but places that hold history and valuable memories for many people.
By this point, Michael was already contributing to the website Abandoned Oklahoma. He has explored and documented over 100 locations in Oklahoma and continues this diary of bygone days to be preserved for generations to come.
At the heart of the Abandoned Missouri team is Billy Wade, 30 years old. Billy has contributed most of the locations on the website, taking a huge initiative in documenting history over the years. Billy has been photographing abandoned places for over 12 years realizing his fascination ran much deeper and became a love and admiration for them. Billy says, “Our past is a precious thing because if we lose it we won’t have it documented. I believe in photographing and sometimes filming these places to prevent them from being lost forever.” Billy has photographed roughly 2-3000 places across numerous states. They include homes, schools, churches, disappearing towns, hospitals, and so much more. You can reach out to Billy at BillyWadePhotography@gmail.com