We tried to find out what happened to farm houses as they were abandoned 100 years ago. The best source: Paul Corey's book "Three Square Miles," about a family on an 160 acre farm in Iowa between the years 1910-1916. Here's a great web page summarizing the book.
The family is torn between trying to make a living with a horse and plow on just 160 acres, and moving into town, giving the kids' a college education, and letting them make a better living in the factory.
You can feel the intensity of the uncontrollable dilemma and the inability to make a smooth transition, to do both, to have it both ways. Of the widow's plans for her children, Corey concludes "All this was beyond her control. Only time could tell how the plans for the farm would work out. She could but wait - - could but wait...."
The University of Iowa web page on the book notes that the family farm continued to be just 160 acres right up to 1930. So we can forecast that it will take the suburbs awhile to decline.
But they knew in 1908 the family farm was in trouble. In 1908 President Roosevelt appointed The Country Life Commission to propose solutions to enhance rural life in America. The Commission proposed greater use of technology ( ! ! ! ), cooperatives (never happened) and also more conveniences for farm wives (like indoor plumbing).
From Three Square Miles we can conclude:
1. It's hopeless. And the emotional and financial dilemma is extremely painful.
2. It will take awhile for suburbs to decline, maybe 20 years.
3. People and maybe governments will try to "save suburbia."
Photo: The actual Iowa family farm where author Paul Corey was born in 1903.