In the 1920’s, Villa Epecuén and its delightful salt lake were a popular tourist retreat for Buenos Aires vacationers.
Arriving by train, as many as 5,000 visitors at a time could relax in lavish quarters after taking advantage of the therapeutic waters of Lago Epecuén.
The mountain lake was usual in that its waters were saltier than any ocean—in fact, it was second only to the Dead Sea in salt content, and people suffering from depression, diabetes, and everything in-between came to soak in its healing waters—the very waters that would eventually harbor the village’s ruin.
In what can only be described as a freak occurrence, a rare weather pattern developed over Villa Epecuen in 1985, causing a seiche in the lake.
The seiche broke a dam, and then shoved its way through the dike. While the devastation was slow, it was thorough—the inevitable flood gradually devoured the entire village, submerging it under more than 30 ft. of briny waters. 280 businesses and countless personal dwellings disappeared under the surface like a modern-day Atlantis.
It wasn’t until 2009 that drier weather allowed the waters to retreat enough for the town to reemerge.
The damage total, the village was deemed a disaster area offering no incentive to rebuild.
What remains now is an eerie ghost town with rows and rows of dead, naked trees, decrepit buildings, and an entire landscape seemingly bleached out and stripped to bone by the once-healing salt waters that ravaged everything in sight.
Now a humble parking lot, the Washington Coliseum has seen a lot in its days. Malcolm X once spoke there, circus lions jumped through hoops there — and on 11 February, 1964, The Beatles played their first-ever U.S. concert there.
Photographer Mike Mitchell was photographing that day.
He was 18 years old, he recalls in an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon, and couldn’t afford a flash for his camera.
He took concert photos using only the available light.
“I had to take my cues from what the light was doing,” Mitchell said. “And the light was very kind.”In the 50 years since that day, a lot has changed.
The building fell into disrepair after being sold, and for 10 years was a transfer station for Waste Management”.
The Coliseum for a very long time was a vacant shambles compared to its former glory. (NPR).
Still, on any given day, beautiful shafts of light can been seen spilling through the circular windows in the vaulted ceilings onto the abandoned clusters of stadium seating lurking in dark corners along the walls.