Kountry Korner Barn
Above: Barn at Kountry Korner,
Plein Air Watercolor

Paintings of the Lost Buildings of Isabella County

12 Paintings of the Lost Buildings of Isabella County

Paintings of the Lost Buildings of Isabella County


Painting and drawing outdoors, especially old buildings with character, is one of my visual passions. Although originally from the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I have come to love Isabella County’s old farms, houses, and other structures and the stories behind them. For 22 years I have been driving on most of Isabella County roads and while retracing previous adventures, am noticing many of these old structures are disappearing.

I wish to share with you some of my artwork of these beautiful old buildings of Mt. Pleasant and Isabella County, most painted on the spot. All images in this blog are buildings that no longer exist except in stories, art, and people’s memories. 

I’m not against progress, and I understand that not everything can be saved so this blog isn’t a criticism of decisions made by property owners and governments. However there is always some sadness in change, especially when each structure lost means that a bit of history has now faded away.

Mt. Pleasant Mill
Mt. Pleasant Mill, Digitally Manipulated Watercolor

Mt. Pleasant Mill

After moving to Mt. Pleasant in 1998, this mill located near downtown Mt. Pleasant was one of the first structures that caught my eye. My previous trips to Mt. Pleasant were restricted to the blandness of the Mission and Pickard business strips, so seeing the historical charm of the downtown district that included this mill made me happy. The mill reminded me of an ancient, weathered monolith with history.

Those of you who have lived in Mt. Pleasant for a while know this was torn down in the early 2000s in a quite dramatic fashion!

By the Borden Building

I always enjoyed the clean white walls and unique roof of this old structure that was located by the Borden Building, now used for city offices. While that re-modeling was going on, the city cut down a bunch of big cottonwoods and it looked like they were going to do something with this building. I liked the contrast of the gnarly old trunks with the white of the walls. I finished the logs but not the building. Next time I came back to finish the painting, only the front steps remained.

Painting titled "Forgotten Cabin in Mt. Pleasant"
Forgotten Cabin in Mt. Pleasant

Forgotten Cabin

This little cabin was tucked away in a busy intersection of Broadway and Isabella right within the Mt. Pleasant city limits. Now the cabin is gone and the property looks like any other busy intersection corner. 

End of Maple Street

I used to rent an apartment at the end of maple street in Mt. Pleasant. Between the apartment and railroad tracks, was this long structure obviously built for the railroad. It was condemned by the city and eventually torn down.

The painting gets its name from the political sign leaning against the building. This original watercolor is available in my online gallery

Davis for Sheriff is A reproduction of a watercolor painting of a railroad shed
Davis for Sherrif

Collapsing Farm Structure

Now we are heading out of Mt. Pleasant. This building is located on a Centennial farm just outside of the city on M-20.  I have heard that if the roof goes, the rest of the structure needs to be torn down so I painted this before it was totally destroyed. This painting is also available at my online shop

Vandecar Road Farm

I often drove up this hill to revel in observing the changing light and seasons at this farm. I have done many paintings of it as well as the spruce trees in front of the farmhouse. 

The stone farmhouse has been replaced by a modern structure built quite tastefully and compliments the light, spruce trees and barn that are still there.

To see a larger view, go to my online shop.

Horr General Store-
Before and After the Fire

During my many meanderings across the county, I discovered the delightful little hamlet of Horr, Michigan. The visitor immediately realizes that this place used to be much bigger and active than it is now. I was surprised to find an open general store so I pulled up alongside it and painted. 

As usual, a neighbor came out to inquire what I was doing. He was very old and after learning I was painting, began telling me stories of Horr, where he had lived all his life. He was a World War II veteran and what a priceless treasure this conversation was! 

Meeting people like him is an added bonus about painting in rural areas (on rare occasions it isn’t so nice but will save that for another blog).

The next time I drove through, I was shocked and saddened to see that the general store had burned down but I painted anyway. There were rumors that it may have been arson to collect the insurance, a story that I have heard before when businesses that are struggling in rural areas burn down.

I have been back to Horr a few more times and have done some nice photos, paintings and drawings of the old buildings that are still standing. 

A digitally created image of the Schofield School
Schofield School
an onsite drawing of the front portion of an old schoolhouse
Nottawa and Battle Schoolhouse

Schofield School

For the last stop in my tour is a building that I’m not sure if it is gone. The digital rendering of this school is based on a badly painted watercolor done shortly after I moved to Isabella County. Later I did the drawing. Afterwards,  I often drove out in the general area but never saw the school again. I assumed it was torn down. 

However, I came across a Flickr photo by Marty Hogan (see links), who photographs outstanding images of old structures all over Michigan. He gives a specific location so I’m looking forward to seeing if the building still exists. I kind of doubt it but will enjoy looking. 


a watercolor drawing of a rear view mirror
Pen, Ink, and Watercolor drawing while waiting for the rain to stop.

So this is the end of the tour of Isabella County buildings that are now gone. Over the past 22 years, I have painted, drawn, and photographed hundreds of farmhouses, shacks, barns, and industrial buildings that can be browsed on my Flickr page. (If you want to see them go to my page and type in “Isabella County” in the search field). There are more paintings of buildings that still exist on my website at artistnaturalist.com. However it seems like every time I go out, more have disappeared.

I have also written about the buildings of the former Mt. Pleasant Center, click here to view the paintings and photos. 

If you enjoyed this blog, and have some corrections, suggestions or information to add, I would greatly appreciate if you would leave a comment below. Thanks for visiting and come back soon for more art and photos of my meanderings around Isabella County and the state of Michigan. 

Painting of a Barn
December Rain on Lincoln Road


Schofield School by Marty Hogan

See the Blog Nailhead Staples for more information about the long gone buildings of downtown Mt. Pleasant

View the pdf Mount Pleasant Downtown Historic District-long but full of good information


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