Thursday favorites: Polygamist houses

The polygamist house has always fascinated me. It somehow has to hold multiple wives, a large number of children, and the husband that organizes them all. A few weeks ago, a friend and I spent a day in the polygamist community of Colorado City, Arizona taking pictures of houses. We had some pretty unreal experiences that I hope to write about another day, but in the meantime, here are my favorite houses we came across.

What you might not be able to notice from the pictures are the amount of houses that were either unfinished or just abandoned. These abandoned structures are scattered throughout the town. Were they left by the group who migrated to Eldarado, TX? Do these Mormons follow in a long tradition of leaving a newly built house to follow their current prophet? This was a truly bizarre experience from a truly bizarre city.

    23 responses to “Thursday favorites: Polygamist houses”

    1. Dave says:

      These are amazing.

      Everyone: Mr. Tan is trying out a new “gallery” feature which is a bit rough, but if you click on a photo and then click on it in the new post that opens up, you can see it at a much bigger size and appreciate the architectural details.

    2. Marleyfan says:

      This would be a perfect place for THEGREATWHATSIT Commune or Retreat Center

    3. Marleyfan says:

      I particularly like the mobile homes patched together.

    4. Dave says:

      That’s probably the most practical, right? Another wife, another double-wide.

    5. We had some pretty unreal experiences that I hope to write about another day

      Looking forward to this, very much. I’ve been pretty interested in Colorado City since I read Under the Banner of Heaven. Nice pix!

    6. TGW Lurker says:

      “Do these Mormons follow in a long tradition of leaving a newly built house to follow their current prophet? “

      I know many folks here are “former” Mormons, however to be technically correct, polygamists are not actually Mormons and haven’t been associated with the Mormon church for over 100 years….Just attemping to correct one of the many misconceptions associated with the strange folks in Colorado City.

    7. lane says:

      this is a great idea, you should apply for a grant, or get really serious about the photos.

      imagine these images nice big 3 by 4 foot prints.

    8. e. tan says:

      polygamists are not actually Mormons and haven’t been associated with the Mormon church for over 100 years

      you know, at one point during my trip i walked into a polygamist architecture firm in colorado city. on my right was a giant model of the salt lake city temple. hanging above it was a painting of joseph smith. i’m sorry, but no matter what version of mormon you are, you’re still mormon to me. of course the slc mormons don’t want to associate themselves with this community, but does it make the community any less mormon? it’s almost like a question of legitimacy… and who can answer that?? i’m mormon, no i am, no i am. blah.

      this was something i was thinking about when i went into the pizza shop pictured above. when i talked with the polygamist girl behind the counter, i could almost see myself in her — as someone who grew up in the mormon church, she represented some creepy past version of my religion, or at least the version that’s been in my head all of these years. i mean, even the cadence of her voice sounded like an intense testimony meeting from my childhood.

    9. Rogan says:

      6. Didn’t the ‘real mormons’ give up their right to the word back when their leaders declared that they would no longer want to be called ‘Mormons’ any longer?

    10. Tim says:

      I’m fascinated by the little girl in the last photo, along with the lack of people in the others. What is she doing? Is the town really so deserted?

      Cool pics! I look forward to hearing more about your experiences there.

    11. Tim says:

      Also, that one of the archway with castle turrets is just amazing. It captures so well the small backwater town in the American West: gorgeous hills and rock formations in the background, architectural atrocity in the foreground, and borderline poverty smack in the middle.

    12. lane says:

      “. . . my religion”

      it’s not your religion anymore.

    13. e. tan says:

      lol. thanks for the correction lane

    14. Guen says:

      As a Mormon, I tend to think of the FLDS /LDS distinction thusly: we LDS have about as much in common with FLDS as reform Jews have with Hasids, that is, an historical connection, an identity connection, but serious differences in theology, lifestyle and outlook. LDS are embarrassed/annoyed by FLDS the way that many Jews are embarrasses/annoyed by Hasids. In addition, Hasids and FLDS are led by charismatic leaders that sometimes turn in cult-of-personality scary figures. The LDS have problems, no doubt, but we aren’t afraid of red, don’t have those strange hairdos, and don’t practice polygamy. We have a lot more autonomy in our personal lives than do the FLDS, and we are free to leave the church without losing our property, or having the church tell our families not to contact us. There may be echoes of a shared historical past and a shared historical theology, but the LDS are very “normal” compared to FLDS.

    15. Guen says:

      I think of that scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen is meeting the girl’s grandparents, and they look at him, and they see a Hasidic Jew, with earlocks, a hat and so on. On the East Coast, I felt like I experienced the Mormon version of that a lot: someone looks at me in my Ann Taylor suit and Gilda Radner hair, but all they see is a prairie dress and a straight, long “updo.”

    16. lane says:

      are fundamentalist mormons really afraid of red . . .?!

    17. Kate the Great says:

      Do these Mormons follow in a long tradition of leaving a newly built house to follow their current prophet?

      Since Mormons and these guys share the same history, even though, as I agree with Guen, they emphatically do not share the same beliefs, the answer is yes. In fleeing violent, religiously-prejudice people, Mormons often left new houses, newly-purchased farms, thriving businesses, and just-dedicated temples. They left in New York, in Pennsylvania, in Illinois, and in other places. Ironic that in a place that was settled by people (okay, fanatics) seeking religious freedom and in a country that has religious freedom written into their laws does this sort of stuff happen.

    18. Guen says:

      The members of the FLDS are not allowed to wear red as per Warren Jeff’s statement that Jesus in the Second Coming will wear red, so no one else can. He’s a seriously bizarre leader.

      I will leave the topic of Mormon history for another day, but suffice it to say that I believe that the FLDS leadership is pathological in a way that Mormons have never experienced. The reason that the FLDS left is because Utah and Arizona [actually Mormon prosecutors] were preparing prosecutions based on the forced child-bride marriages that were occurring under Jeffs leadership. They thought they would be more under the radar in Texas.

    19. Guen says:

      Oh, and my comparison above is a bit problematic. I didn’t mean to suggest that Hasidic Jews have the kind of crazy leadership that the FLDS have. I just read an article in NY Magazine about a girl who was trying to escape a rigidly Hasidic community, and there were some parallels with the FLDS. I am fully aware of the historical development of Hasidism –and understand that they would be pretty offended at the comparison. I just think it is important to understand that as there are spectrums in other cultures, so there are in the Mormon culture, and Mormons are understandably annoyed at being mistaken for the FLDS. I say, if you are going to criticize Mormons, do it for their antagonism to gay civil rights, or any number of other issues, not for what they abandoned long ago.

    20. lane says:

      ” . . . not for what they abandoned long ago.”

      in practice, but not in principle.

      : – )

    21. Guen says:

      I wish I could disagree with you on that one, Lane.

    22. lane says:

      yep, better get ready for that afterlife!

      HBO’s Big Love might make a useful tutorial.

      Minus all that business about running a hardware store.

      Good Luck!

    23. lane says:

      ” . . . in a way that Mormons have never experienced.”

      Contemporary Mormons that is. Ole Brother Brigham . . . he was a bit of a loon.

      O.K. sorry, I’ll stop.