Archive for August, 2011

Last of the Summer Grime

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Concrete, Religious, Rochester, Underground

One more trip from the brief summer season of the Concrete Collective before all the students are back in town. We’d hoped for more, but real life got in the way, and I missed most of my own meetings thanks to Laura taking control over everything, and we lost our longer trips to Nate backing out at the worst possible moments. And that’s how we end up spending a Monday afternoon out exploring, the last day before the start of classes and the fall routine.

We didn’t have to go far to find our first location… Mt Hope chapel, which we just rode by on a whim, happens to be wide open!

There had been quite a bit of cleanup work going on here all summer; the city has been talking about eventual reuse as a mausoleum, like they did with the once-abandoned chapel at Holy Sepulchre. This was in the basement (empty, of course). Any idea what they would use an enormous wrought iron casket for?

Architectural details are left in piles around the chapel. It looks like crews have been doing some kind of salvage or simplification to prepare for the distant future

And that’s about all I got to see of the chapel, we were already late for the meet at the subway…
So… I *really* need a new lens!

I think this had a chance to be a great picture… even though it didn’t turn out that way


This is probably the most suggestive way I’ve ever seen to use a fire extinguisher…
Put out. Put it all out.

I didn’t get to see as much as I wanted to yesterday, so I tried again today at the chapel before class. There was supposed to be Nate and a few others meeting up with me but I spent over an hour wandering and waiting and didn’t see any sign of them. Again. At least I could get the shot I wanted of the organ…

In the morning light, there’s even sunlight down here on the casket lift.

I had a bad feeling about all this… it seemed only inevitable that I wouldn’t be exploring for quite some time after it! Here’s to hoping I’m wrong, but things aren’t looking good around here anymore.

This Is Ground Control

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Concrete, Industrial

And, when Nate finally showed up, it was time to make a run for it! There were some rumors of security on site, but a quick jog to the back of the building got us in, and immediately the pungent air inside slapped us in the face, and we scurried right back to the car for our masks.

On the second try, it was clear this place was special. Designed in the typical overbuilt, ostentatious style of early 20th century American industry, the architecture (no expense spared) survived the advancing decay.

This building, now over 100 years old, was the administrative office, control center and laboratory for Bethlehem Steel’s massive Erie-Lackawanna operation. Knowing this, at first I thought I had found the control room!
False alarm

Wow! A lonely chair! (Seriously, as much as these are overdone and memed beyond recognition, I’ve taken maybe ten lonely chair shots ever…)

And, right past that chair, the next room was just what I’d been waiting for: Mission Control itself. Designed in the 1940s to efficiently manage wartime levels of production, this room became a prime inspiration for NASA’s Houston control center, anticipating space age design by 15 years.
Ground Control

The system, powered by a monstrous vacuum tube IBM/GE computer, took up an entire room, and had arrays of meters and printers, and entire panels of classical Blinkenlights. Unlike NASA’s control centers, there were no monitors — dynamic digital displays with any sort of pixel addressing were decades into the future, only the most primitive television and radar even existed.

The back wall of the control center was an enormous schematic of the entire plant’s functions at its peak, with yet more meters and blinkenlights to process incoming telemetry

In a time before integrated circuits, the computer consisted of rack after rack of this, grids of wires mimicking what would now be nanometer-scale silicon traces.

And eventually I had to leave the control center; there was still most of a building left to see. People love to photograph this stairway for some reason.

Just some long-exposure fun in a workshop

And what was once a scale model of the whole plant, but was trashed by prior trespassers

How about just one obligatory clown vomit HDR? If anywhere deserves it, it’s this place…

Check out the rest of my photos here

Everything Rides Gravity

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Industrial, Niagara

I was supposed to be in the Catskills this weekend, exploring all the resorts, including at least six I hadn’t been to, if the hurricane didn’t hit. All week Irene was tracking up the coast toward New York, and Nate defiantly kept the trip on. By last night, the storm made landfall and 17 was flooded, and he still wanted to go, saying the weather would help with not getting caught. Not wanting to be stranded in the flood zone, I pushed to cancel the trip. Of course, even with all the roads closed, and my having a few ideas for a backup plan, I still got blamed for the whole mess, and Nate, in a huff, canceled the lot of it, making sure (or so he thought), I’d go nowhere. I still managed to meet up with Roger at least for the backup trip… although I still would rather have had more borscht.

Unlike many explorers, I have actually come to enjoy revisiting the same place repeatedly — every time, something at least changes, sometimes for the better, with a new area to access, more beautiful decay, or better weather and light for photography, and sometimes for the worse, ranging from minor annoyances like a few new boards, to catastrophic ones like the entire location being gone. So far, it seems like the Flintkote factory fits firmly in the first category: nature is going along so well in the process of reclaiming it, that every re-greening helps the place out.

I think I did something to my lens. From this picture on through the rest of the day the left side is blurry. Is this worth fixing or headed for the trash?
Factory Floor

And here it is in action again, another shot ruined…

Next up in Lockport was the motorcycle warehouse, which fit the second category perfectly. The notable, and incredible, thing about this place was all the rusted-out bikes from decades of hoarding and repair work. Somebody bought the bikes this summer for $8,000, hoping to sell them to collectors and restorers for a quarter million or more, which sounds ridiculous for such rustbuckets until you realize they managed to salvage over a thousand carcasses from world war 1 to the the 80s. This was what was left, for being either too dangerous to retrieve, or just too mangled to restore.

The floors aren’t the best in this place. These collapses though were about the only place left with bikes.

They were nice enough to leave one as a rem(a)inder of what this warehouse once meant.

Our time here ended abruptly with a call from Nate: Bethlehem Steel was open and he was on his way!

Theo’s Fates

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Industrial, Niagara

Five days late, Juraj and friends finally showed up to start the new year, and not a moment too soon while I’ve had it up to here and then some with Laura to the point that even she understood I could use a day doing what I want. I was supposed to help them out with a zombie movie for someone’s film study class, but with only a day free I only got to do the location scouting and run through a few of my favorite Buffalo sites.

I spent a lot of time waiting at the bottom of the grain elevators taking pictures of columns while everyone else climbed around the top, but I just didn’t feel good about the 39 missing steps.

So I went looking for even more columns, and heard a tremendous BOOM! and clatter from somewhere above. And went back to taking pictures of columns because it was all I could reach.
Columns 2

The source of the noise turned out to be another stair step falling, and Theo with it, somehow saving himself on a rickety railing. Just more proof I shouldn’t climb, I thought. Next up was the Hall of Machines, especially considering that we were a carload of engineers and Tesla geeks. So up we went again, straight to the top. Does this roof look safe to you?

No? Me either. Theo, of course, went out to test for himself. This roof had a weight capacity of about 0.8 Theos, a unit of mass roughly equivalent to a volumetric Smoot. Somehow, the pair of freshly created leg-holes happened to land right across an I-beam. Theo lived again. The hole still lives.
Holey Shit

And so we took in the hulks of rotting machinery, the behemoths that once powered a city of industry.

I’m not much of a climber but these at least were pretty manageable. And easily worth the view from the top.

The machines weren’t enough for Theo though… he disappeared again, and as we began to search, sure enough there was another enormous crash and clatter. And out of the ruckus, yet again, the legend appeared, scraped up, shaken and stirred.

Our third place, and only new one, was the Dunlop factory on Grand Island. The most notable thing about it was its featureless, flat Cleveland architecture.

Being one for completeness, Theo created yet another racket. At least he was only joking this time; nothing fell, he just started throwing bricks at the sheet metal in the windows, knocking out a perfect opening for the setting sun

True to form, we spent the rest of the night on the piss, going back to Iola with a handle of Jack and staying out well past the sunrise. Somehow, I lost my house key somewhere along the way, but… at least to me it was still so worth it!

Calm Before the Storm

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Institutional, Rochester

I should be used to it now — whenever anything is going well for me, it’s only setting up for the collapse later on. I’d only meant to go for a quick early Saturday morning explore with Ian while Nate finished some bullshit at work, and we’d go off to the Catskills for the weekend, and by the time I was back my friends would be here for the semester, and we’d go spend a few days with them exploring everything and getting the rave space up and running again. At least, that’s what I thought would happen. Of course Ian would wait until after I got up at sunrise:30 to meet him at Iola to let me know that a half hour there was all we would do this weekend, and he told Nate to cancel and not to explore this weekend. So I don’t see the year with them playing out too well. As if that wasn’t enough, on the bike ride back from Iola to campus it started hailing golf balls.

After a good pummelling from those, I got home to a text from Ryan that I still had a few days to wait for any of my friends to be back. Then overnight Laura ripped my world apart even more for telling it like it is and being too adventurous for my own good. Not even the kind where she’ll set me free, just the kind of fight where she dares me to set myself free. When I have nowhere to go and no one to go with, and she knows it. So I try to make the best of what I have, and it isn’t good. Instead of a week exploring places I’ve never seen, all I get is a Sunday spent editing the hell out of the few pictures I took, doing anything I can not to just get on the bike and hope for the best somewhere (that never worked for me before! why should it now).

So here’s the fruit of all this: HDRs I never meant to have. I don’t even like HDR. These are probably terrible. But they’re something, and at this rate they’ll be all I have for a while.






What do you think about these? Terrible, or something worth saving? I don’t feel like they’re my kind of photos at all…

Linear Cave

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Rochester, Underground

Finally getting back underground again after a shortened summer with the parents… not so much that they’re opposed to me exploring (they’re not), as that it’s just difficult to plan and do anything when I’m there. But I’m back at school for the fall now, and of course I’d make going on adventures a priority. Just about everything possible went wrong on this one – it was supposed to be one of many places I went with Nate, but I started out with bike trouble and missing the first few places, and finished up with camera trouble, as in the damn thing being bricked and not even turning on. Oh well at least I got a few pictures of Norton’s cave out of it.

This rather unassuming waterfall is the cave entrance, easily visible from a hiking trail in Seneca Park

The inside of the cave looks like this, basically the entire way. It’s all a straight line, mined right back into the rock to reach a natural spring. At some point in the early 19th century, the cave/mine provided building materials and drinking water to the village of Carthage, one of the predecessors of Irondequoit.

Looking back even a quarter mile into the cave, you can see the sunlight at the entrance staring back at you. It’s reassuring I guess but it really takes away from the cave-ness of the place.

Shitty HDR. Because I can.