Valencia Gardens

By Tom Erikson

In December of 2003, twenty years after my Valencia Gardens party, I was walking home when I noticed that the first steps of demolishing the projects had begun. The entire site was walled with high metal fencing and bulldozers had been pushing rubble and abandoned personal belongings of the last evicted tenants into huge piles in the courtyards. A large padlock had been left unfastened on a section of the chain link fence. I unthreaded the chain and lifted the fence back enough for me and my camera to squeeze through, entering The Gardens for a second time. For two hours, I roamed through every apartment of the old complex, documenting the last Sunday these buildings would stand. Murals and decorations and wallpaper had made a valiant yet futile attempt to cover the cold concrete. Grass was dying under piles of broken concrete roofing, already smashed by the wrecking ball. Several units were coated floor to ceiling with a fuzzy, thick, black mold. Telltale signs of the past still clung to the barren shells that had once been homes: a bag woven from yarn holding a crystal hanging from a pock-marked wall. A child’s school picture propped up in a dirty bathroom cabinet. A glow-in-the-dark star still stuck to a moldy ceiling.