Why are so many church doors painted red?

There are many reasons that so many church doors are painted red.. For many churches, the color red symbolized the “blood of Christ” or has an inference to “Passover”. For others, it represented a color that denoted a place of sanctuary and refuge from outside evils. Purportedly, red doors of Episcopal churches denote that the mortgage has been fully paid.

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Liberty Hall School

Liberty Hall School is in the Lodi community of Washington County. Originally built as an all male academy in  a different location, the current structure was erected in 1915 and subsequently went abandoned in the early 1980's. There is a Facebook page for all Liberty Hall alumnus that offers firsthand stories of it's past, including listening to the announcement of President Kennedy's assassination on Mrs. Weaver's transistor radio, being frustrated with the manual keys in Miss Shields' typing class because they would get stuck and make it difficult to accomplish 65 words per minute, and playing Cowboys and Indians in the graveyard across the street, where soldiers from the Revolutionary War were buried. The school has since been purchased by a local farmer and is used to store hay. The upstairs auditorium has collapsed and the interior and exterior are decaying as quick as the memories that she offers. Here is the school months before she closed almost 40 years ago and an image of what she looks like today. Soon she will be gone. But now, never forgotten. 

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the origin of our shared fascination

People are obsessed with a sense of place. And for some reason, abandoned homes really seem to elicit the same emotional response amongst many who see them. We crave to know the back story. "What happened there?" "Who lived there?" "Why are they gone?". Then you throw in the taboo nature of not being able to see what's inside, and you have a recipe for extreme fascination. Despite this universally shared sentiment, we all seem to have different stories as to how it materialized.. For me, it was 2 different places my friends and i would visit as middle schoolers. These decrepit houses were deep in the woods in Loudoun County and both had adjacent gravestones nearby that dated back to the late 1800's. The places were spooky enough during the day that we wouldn't dare go at night, although we frequently talked about it. Of all of my thousands of memories as a youngster, the images of those 2 houses stuck with me the most - even to this day. I often wonder if they were the genesis of my adulthood fascination with abandonment. Who knows? I would love to hear your stories if you would be willing to share. Did you have a similar story? Please chime in in the comments section below or a quick e-mail to "john@johnplashalphoto.com". 


Dark Days

The creation of the Rosenwald schools and St. Francis de Sales by Julius Rosenwald/Booker T. Washington and Katherine Drexel, respectively, were admirable endeavors in Virginia history, relative to the creation of proper education for otherwise disadvantaged African American students. Not all stories were positive, however. Prince Edward County in Virginia was notorious for their significant resistance to racial integration. Rather than allowing African American students to eventually integrate into their public schools, they elected to close them altogether - for FIVE years. Most of the white students eventually went to newly created private academies, leaving the African American students to go live with relatives in adjacent counties or quit school altogether. I've recently interacted with a  Richmond resident who attended this school in Prince Edward County as a young lady. She has very fond memories of her experience there, including winning a hula hoop contest on this very stage, defeating 7th graders that were several years her senior. She also has a memory that wasn't so fond....I will share it with you verbatim....."the one thing I will never forget occurred on the last day of school prior to summer vacation. Late that night, my dad and other "white" dads boarded up my school. It was horrible. Especially as a child. We didn't understand..."

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"Plashal's World"

People often ask, "What is your favorite image"? Obviously, that constantly evolves. At first, it was a selfie I took under the Milky Way and aurora in Iceland. Then that was superseded by a haunting James River shot I took of Caroline in the fog at the Pony Pasture. Now, it is this shot. Not because this follows all the rules of photography, because it doesn't. I like it for multiple reasons. It has juxtaposition on multiple fronts, left to right and top to bottom Many encouraged me to crop out the cows. I felt that they should stay. The other reason I like this image is because it was terribly difficult to find, which makes the image that much more meaningful. I have yet to get a story on this place and may keep it that way. In some situations, I prefer not knowing the history of the place, including this one. It deserves to remain mysterious. It reminds many of Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" , minus the woman on the ground. I call this "Plashal's World"....and yes, I took a selfie of me crawling up that hill too. 


"sometimes I can't stand my Sadness"

The Dejarnette Center for Human Development was the sister asylum to Western State, which operated a few miles away in downtown Staunton, and catered to adolescents. In " A Beautifully Broken Virginia", I felt that the exterior of the asylum deserved to be captured in the cold and dark of the winter night. Given what occurred within it's walls, it just felt appropriate to shoot it in those conditions. I often get questions about the associated inscription in the book, "sometimes I can't stand my Sadness". As a commemoration to "The Briar Rose", the little girl that wrote it on her wall, I wanted to share with you the original image, captured at night and visible only by headlamp. It was a profound and emotionally powerful discovery. I often think about "The Briar Rose". Who was she? Why was she there? Is she still alive? One day it would be nice to find out. Here is her inscription......and yes....."S"adness deserved to be capitalized in the book.

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Source: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/dejarnette-sanitarium

Church Entrances

While recently exploring with my friend Dean, I came across a church with a unique exterior. It had 2 separate and identical door entrances. After doing some research on the internet, I found that churches used to be constructed this way to permit men and women to enter through separate entrances, thereby simplifying the separate seating they intended to achieve during worship. Here is something I found on the internet. 

"The practice of separate seating has nothing to do with culture and has everything to do with maintaining a practice that has been around since even before the early Church, irrespective of culture, meant to inhibit the natural tendency to be distracted around members of the opposite sex, so as to preserve modesty and attention during worship."

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