California Authors


Abandoned Northern California

Joanna Kalafatis | Arcadia Publishing

Book Review by Craig MacDonald

Joanna Kalafatis likes performing as an actress under the bright lights of Hollywood but she's equally as happy heading off into California's dark and lonely back country, in search of unique abandoned buildings to photograph and write about.

Her latest Arcadia Book on the Golden State's forgotten spots is called "Abandoned Northern California." Like a sociologist, she's in search of clues as to why the crumbling buildings were built in the first place and why they were abandoned.

"The ruins reflect how people attempted to build their future...not unlike the innovative ways people still try to build their futures," Kalafatis said. "People forge ahead into the unknown."

She documents—through her photos and research—such ghostly places as abandoned military bases, amusement parks, gold mining towns and wineries.

"By exploring these captivating ruins, we can get a better sense of how Northern California became the puzzling collection of people from all walks of life," she writes.

"Northern California is a land of contradictions. Just a few miles from towering mountains and forests, you'll find arid deserts and marshes."

Readers will learn about J's Amusement Park, surrounded by forests outside Guerneville. Its rollercoaster, racetrack and House of Horrors have long been abandoned.

She offers stunning photos of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain Ghost Town of Bodie. As a state park, Bodies' buildings are preserved in "a condition of arrested decay," so we can admire, and better understand, the mining camps of yesteryear.

You'll see a hotel leaning towards collapse, the old jail, a church and a panorama of the town in the middle of nowhere.

Kalafatis also offers glimpses of Wingo, Sonoma's Ghost Town; the Marconi Hotel on the coast; author Jack London's Wolf House; the former Alameda Naval Base; the one-time Nevada County Hospital; the tunnels of Donner Pass, Battery Spencer (high up in the Marin Headlands); a decaying shipwreck at Point Reyes and more.

If you want to join Kalafatis and journey off the old beaten back country trails in search of abandoned buildings, you can hop onboard by getting her books on Abandoned Northern California and Abandoned Southern California.

(The reviewer wrote about California's intriguing ghost towns for Sierra Heritage and Desert Magazines.)

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