Ludlow Mercantile Building

Laura M. D'Amore's picture
 The attached image is of the old Ludlow Mercantile Building, in the Route 66 ghost town of Ludlow, CA. This town sits in the middle of the Mojave Desert, at the crossroads of historic Route 66 and I-40. Originally opened as a water stop for the Central Pacific Railroad in 1882, Ludlow also found prosperity at the end of the 19th century when gold was found nearby. It was a busy rest stop along the Mother Road, but, like so many towns on Route 66, died out when I-40 came through.

I took this photo on July 8, 2013.  Driving through the Mojave Desert on I-40, we had seen abandoned buildings dotting the landscape all day, but the cluster of them at Ludlow sparked our curiosity and we got off the road to drive through town.  There remains one service station and eating place open in Ludlow, but the rest of the town is long gone.  Standing on the street of this ghost town, I could feel the forgotten past.  The stark contrast of the buildings against the backdrop of the desert is aesthetically jarring— there is no pavement, just dirt, and no trees, just desert and distant hills.  How does a town simply disappear? What makes people simply walk away from a building?  What keeps us from tearing them down?  These buildings are dangerous, falling apart, but the state hasn't stepped in to raze them.  The town died and was forgotten, and now it is merely a curious spectacle for those who slow down enough to get off the interstate.  Route 66 is a central mythology of the American past, evoking memories of a unique consumer culture and the freedom of the road. But all that is left in Ludlow are whispers of that past, and unanswered questions about the present.

Laura Mattoon D'Amore

American Studies

Roger Williams University