Geauga Lake image_Johnny Joo
This and all images in this post are by Johnny Joo at architecturalafterlife.com.

Go ahead and call it nostalgia. Or rose-colored glasses, cockeyed Midwestern optimism, or plain delusion. (Or, as snow remains in the forecast well into April here in my adopted southern home, call it willful reversion.) Whatever.

I dream of childhood summers in Ohio.

Summer, especially, felt like a gift from the heavens after enduring a frigid (Daily Prompt) winter in the Snowbelt and a five-minute spring that brought little more than a white Easter, a lackluster Maple Festival, and mud.

Summer, glorious, oblivious 1980s summer brought us SeaWorld.

Yep, that SeaWorld–not in California or Florida but in Ohio. No joke. The smallest of the SeaWorld parks, at 50 acres, SeaWorld Ohio opened in 1970 and was located on Geauga Lake, where 1950s-esque good-guy-gets-the-girl acts were performed atop pyramids of water-skiers. (How I wanted to be one of those girls!) Then there were the animals: the sea lions show, the jumping dolphins, the otters who were made to “talk” with piped-in chipmunk voices. The shark and penguin encounters. And, of course, the stars: Shamu and Mamu, the killer whales.

This was long before your average theme park attendee called them orcas or gave a thought to the health and socialization of large animals in captivity. Zoos still thrived; the circus hadn’t died.

By 2004, SeaWorld Ohio was basically abandoned. You can view eerie before and after photos taken by former SeaWorld Ohio animal trainer Nico Maragos.

More of a thrill-seeker? Geauga Lake amusement park was right across the lake from SeaWorld’s water-ski shows and called to us with her skyline of roller coasters. Ohio-based photographer Johnny Joo has captured stunning images of the theme park (like the one at the top of this post), which closed in 2007.

Here’s a couple more:

See them all via The Abandoned Geauga Lake pre-demolition

I’ve included Rust Belt photography on my blog before, but Joo covers not only abandoned places of work but of play.

I’ve also railed against abandonment photography, sometimes called ruin porn, for forgetting the people the places left behind. (Of course many of us did leave these places behind, in droves, often for warmer climes.) Still, Joo’s mission is exactly the opposite for his blog Architectural Afterlife: Preserving History Through Imagery. I hope you’ll check it out.

Are you a Rust Belt photographer with images to share? Let me know! Just summer-dreaming?

Post a comment here or on my FB page.

13 thoughts on “Revisiting summers past through the abandonment photography of Johnny Joo

  1. That is really tragic that such cool places fall victim to changing lifestyle. Too bad really – but, there are places I visited when I was young that are no longer there or are abandoned. Guess it’s just part of life – new becomes old, old dies off to make way for the new again. Nice post

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for checking out my post. It’s amazing to me now to think that these two amusement parks–albeit different–grew up across a lake from one another and far enough from Cleveland that there wasn’t a dense population to draw visitors from. It was a special place to grow up; of course we didn’t appreciate it then!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful pictures. I recently went to the abandoned quarantine ward at Ellis Island, and an artist has installed blown-up photographs of people who actually passed through there, decades ago. It was a cool way to reinstall the people of a place into an abandoned space, long after they are gone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am fascinated by abandoned places. I would love to be an urban explorer and search out some of these deteriorating gems. Really great photos and memories!

    Liked by 1 person

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