Abandoned bowling alleys

My friend Noel Kerns likes to crawl around in abandoned buildings, light them up and photograph them. (I've written about him on Boing Boing, here.) The results are lovely, and the dereliction of the buildings always tugs at my heart a little -- all that promise, all that future, all used up. But the emotional punch of photographs like these is a little glancing, it seems to me. You can imagine the buildings when they were shiny and new and invested with the owners' hopes and dreams, and probably invested with their actual money too. But you rarely get to see them in that early, optimistic phase. That's why I was so excited when these pictures of derelict bowling alleys popped up at WebUrbanist.

bowling_alleys_2a.jpg (Photos by cityeyesphoto)

These gorgeous, empty images are the end result of an entropic process whose hopeful beginnings were documented in this spectacular 1960 promotional film for the Brunswick company. (It was, like most films of its kind, rescued from obscurity by master archivist Rick Prelinger.) From this to that, in just 50 years.


  1. Wow. Does anybody get the same eerie Silent Hill feeling I did when looking at the Gary, Indiana photos?

    I kind of expect Laura to pop up or to turn around and find Eddie standing behind me when I look at them.

  2. man, those bowling machines are GORGEOUS. i’d go bowling tonight if i could go to a place that had those and looked that cool. but jeez louise, was that video full of a lot of marketing hooey!

  3. Not “entropic process” but eutrophication —the turning of swamps into meadows then forests, naturally, via a secession of communities that each help the next to grow.

    And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway. –TD

  4. I wish I could have bowled at one of those Brunswick lanes when they were first built. I have bowled at a couple in Chicago, but they were quite run down. Can you be nostalgic for a time before you were born?

    1. I don’t know, but I can ask someone at the Society for Creative Anachronism meeting I go to tonight.

  5. Can anyone tell me about the one in Berlin? The pictures certainly aren’t from the alley inside TCA, does anyone recall if there was a bowling alley in or near Clay barracks or Marienfelde?

  6. Boba Fett Diop@4 – keep in mind that was a _commercial_, not real life. That’s called being nostalgic for a time that never was, aka The Republican Party. :)

    1. I’m aware of that, but the alleys must have looked pretty good when they first went up. The one’s I’ve been to tend to feature warped lanes, cigarette burns as a motif, and smell like mentholated death.

  7. Ack! That Brunswick promotional film was sampled heavily for the Church of the Subgenius movie Arise! Praise “Bob” for his slackful gifts!

  8. This would sadden Mr Lebowski. However, it is comforting to know that somewhere in LA, the Dude still abides.

  9. Now, look at those chairs. Just look at them.

    The most intact element in the room.

    They just need a good cleaning and maybe polish the legs.

    I’ve played that exact setup they show in the promo film, that was in the mid-90s. I think they upgraded to video scoring since then.

    Let’s see how that video scoring holds up for 30 years..

  10. All seating arrangements are now provided with backs! Maximum comfort, even for scoring!

    The comedy cannot be improved on those lines.

  11. I’m the photographer of these bowling photos and I couldn’t be happier that you guys enjoyed them. Seriously.

    Knoxblox, I totally know what you mean. A lot of the places I go totally remind me of Silent Hill. The decay, desolation, and emptiness of these places that used to be so full of life is just mindblowing. Honestly, a large portion of the city of Gary is just packed with this sort of stuff.

    Also, that video is phenomenal. Thanks for sharing!

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