A Tale of Two Ghost Towns

Today the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about Drawbridge, the ghost town in southern San Francisco Bay that I blogged about last month. Author Carolyn Jones reports that Drawbridge, which is off-limits to the public, is slowly sliding down into the mud. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers Drawbridge as part of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, is neither promoting nor preventing decay: they’re simply letting Nature take its course. However, I have no doubt that vibrations from the frequent rail traffic—a dozen or more Amtrak trains zip past every day—hasten the deterioration of the buildings.

The Fish & Wildlife’s approach differs from that used at the famous Sierra Nevada ghost town of Bodie (also the subject of a recent article in the Chronicle), where the State Park Service is actively keeping the town in a state of “arrested decay”; that is, repairing the existing buildings with original materials, so that it continues to look the same year after year.

Today’s article also points out how we are creating modern ghost towns: empty office parks in Silicon Valley and half-built housing developments in the Central Valley, all victims of the recession. Somehow I doubt history will look back upon these with the same romanticism as Drawbridge and Bodie.