Last September, while driving back from a trip to the Finger Lakes district in upstate New York, I passed through a downtrodden, sad, little, one-street town called Lisle. It intrigued me in its utter forlornness—there was barely a building that didn't look as if it has weathered a hurricane and decades of neglect—so I stopped to take a few photos. I then posted an item titled "What Happened to Lisle?," because I was really curious as to what could bring a village to such a lowly state.
I had done some research, and found out a few things. Lisle boasted a population of 4,393 back in 1830, but a legislative enactment divided the town into four parts, each constituting a new township. After that, the residents number only 1,558. Still, much better than today's 286. In 1835, it possessed three grist mills, twenty saw mills, one oil cloth mill, three fulling mills, three carding mills, one trip hammer or forging mill, three tanneries and two places where potash was made. It even had its own newspaper, the wonderfully named Lisle Gleaner.
In the year or so since my post, I've received a surprising amount of responses on the matter, many of them so heartfelt that they nearly made me cry. Lisle had indeed had something happen to it. Many things, in fact. Wrote one reader, "This village used to be booming as was mentioned. The floods of 1935 and 1936 devastated it. We came back and Lisle was a beautiful village to travel through in the 50's and 60's until a blight destroyed the canopy of trees lining route 79. There are lot of reasons for the current decay and it is very sad to see Lisle continue to deteriorate."
Another said Lisle used to be a bedroom community for people who worked in bigger cities, but "As the big employers decided that doing business in NY was too restrictive and too expensive and moved south, so went the majority of higher-than-average income people who lived in Lisle. These were replaced by a group of families who live "on the dole" and have nothing extra to put back into the community. Small farms were abandoned. Houses and buildings were left to age and deteriorate and most of the little local businesses were closed, as they could not compete with the larger enterprises in Binghamton."
And yesterday I learned the sad news that what had been my favorite old building in Lisle, the Lisle Inn—which, despite its sad state, obviously dated back at least 100 years—had burned down this past week. Wrote the reader plaintively, "I've been trying to find a report of the fire in Binghamton, Ithaca, and any regional newspaper, but it seems that even a major fire and the destruction of a landmark tavern isn't news when it happens in Lisle."