Archive for 2014

Anything Goes

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

It seems like I have the most exploring success when I try the least. Right as I was ready to stop putting any effort into it at least until after Christmas and bonus time, I heard from a TV producer who was thinking of including me in his show. Of course technical difficulties got the better of us for a while, and a video chat and photo slideshow turned into a phone call, but it seemed promising. Then the next day I got a very frightening email saying that they wanted to see a sample of a 10-minute documentary by the end of the week (!) and weren’t in any hurry to answer my questions clarifying it. Having never shot video before, and being at work for almost all of the daylight hours, I knew I was probably screwed. Eventually I found out I got that message in error, and they didn’t actually need me at all anymore.

During that confusion I made a frantic plan to explore the mental hospital again, even though I thought I’d never go back after having one great chance, so I met up with Casey and one of his friends there. This time, Hell’s Hundred Meters got the better of us, as a security guard (who didn’t even work there a few days earlier, and was borrowed from a nearby apartment complex) stopped us and sent us on our way, just as we were about to climb into the wide open window.

We didn’t do much better at the old church on West Main, only this time it was a relentlessly nosy neighbor who circled the property at least six times while we looked for a way in, which there wasn’t one of anyway.

The next day, I made it to the drains at least, showing some people around the tunnels on a frigid December night before we went for garbage plates. There was a suspiciously placed cop at Maplewood, and it just snowed so we would have had to make a lot of noise and/or waste a lot of time trying to make the cover budge. We settled for the “Motivator” drain instead – we really need to go back and see what’s beyond the river of shit sometime. I didn’t bother to take any pictures, but drains don’t really change from one time to the next anyway.

Finally, last night we got out again, and made it into the deep drains. Even after a few times there, it’s still an amazing experience. The thought of being over 100 feet underground and miles from the nearest exit is one thing, but then there’s the tremendous echo (almost a minute in some parts of the tunnel), the pitch blackness, and the sound of being in the city’s vena cava, a slow and steady flow of a buried river, directly below the Genesee.

The scale of this place is such that I doubt any explorers have even been to the end. Just on the most direct main route, there are about 11 miles of tunnel, from the airport to Durand-Eastman park. Most of the distance, however, is in a network of branches that cover downtown and the entire west side, and being less prone to overflow, have gathered deep, putrid mud. Making matters worse, there is only one entrance and exit to the system, most of the ways out consisting of one of these: a dead end with no way up, and a sheer, dripping 100 foot rise up to ground level.

It’s just the ending I want for a year like 2014 though. Far from the dismal failure I expected, I made it to 50 locations, and even made a few exploring friends, admittedly not as many as I lost, but such is the life of the hopelessly inept.

Keep It Simple

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Institutional, Rochester

Needless to say, after that kind of success in a place like Terrence, it didn’t take me long to come back. Christmas must have come early this year, letting me into a building I’d wanted for so many years, and without any chance of getting caught.

Even the ceiling fans have given up…

The graffiti in here isn’t great, but at least they try to be clever.

Every level has its own color. Almost as if different psychiatric conditions might benefit from being surrounded by one particular shade for months at a time. Notably absent: institutional green.

…maybe just because it got painted over.

Caged birds are an odd symbolism on an asylum wall. Who knows why the caged bird sings?

Weirdly enough, the water damage increases from top to bottom through the building.

Inspiring to some — I’ve always found better results by aiming lower and lower until I don’t – can’t – miss. Lofty goals make long falls.

This should be on the stairwell to the roof.

Something is missing here. Somehow, the autopsy table got taken out.

Here’s a little clue if any of you would like to go. I saw this on my way out.

And we even made it through Hell’s Hundred Meters. Without so much as seeing one cop or security guard…

White Whale

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Institutional, Rochester

And just like that, it happened. I’d heard mumblings that there was a way in for a few weeks, but I didn’t entirely believe anyone that told me, and besides, it was probably some climb that would leave me re-enacting the plight of the beached manatee, only this time in broad daylight and fully sober. I’d had a few close calls with this building already — in 2011, with an unloaded camera; in 2013, at night, twice; earlier this year, not quite able to get in the hole in the window as I thrashed away at it helplessly. This time was different though, the entrance was a fully open window, with a larger than me-sized hole, only 3 feet off the ground. I could do this. We did do this.

The top floor is about as interesting as the rest of them combined… most of the very few medical implements left were in the surgery wing.

One advantage this place does have though is its sheer size and condemned status mean there is almost no risk of security once you’re inside the cuckoos’ nest.

For the most part, every floor is a subtly different repeat of the last one, a layer cake where it’s all the same flavor, but the frosting might be another color.

There is a reason I took a picture of this one in particular. Anyone know why?

Again, it’s just like upstairs. Only this time it’s mauve.

Asylum corridors and peeling paint, because people are supposed to love this stuff.

Out Of The Loop

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Rochester

Imagine a world after cars, after trucks, after petroleum. Imagine walking through the snow, following the track of a guardrail along the ghost of what was once a highway, and now carries only the prints of a few snowshoes. This could be all of us someday.

For now, it’s just one little piece of the Inner Loop, but it’s still a sign of progress. With an intermediate stage as some sort of accidental park, the former freeway will soon be a city street, filling in the moat that separates downtown from the rest of Rochester.

Obviously I wasn’t the first one to wander through here, but it’s a sight I never thought I’d see, least of all in a city that’s seemingly on its way up.

You don’t know how much I wanted to play some industrial-size Jenga here.

Because It’s There

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Outdoors, Rochester

I’ve always had a bit of an attachment to Pinnacle Hill. It’s not much of a mountain… just enough to notice you’re getting up there, before the top appears. Then another 300 feet if you feel like climbing a TV tower. Which I’ve only done once, back in freshman year. But between that climb, and the mushroom summer last year, not to mention the inkling I had ever since 2007 that I’d live within sight of the blinking towers when I could; it’s a place to go when I feel like I’m fucking everything up and I just want to step back and try again.

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Oompa-Loompa Doopadee-Doo

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Industrial, North Country, Syracuse

Apologies for the title — but you deserve just as much of a constant torment coursing through your head in an impossibly lilting and plodding e minor as we were both stuck with as we wandered around an abandoned chocolate factory. At one time Nestlé, then based in Fulton, NY, manufactured about 40% of the chocolate eaten in the US, including even franchised production for Cadbury and Hershey’s, in this one enormous factory. Open from 1899-2003, it briefly played the role of Oswego County’s largest employer, after the Miller brewery closed, but like so many other American factories, foreign production became so much cheaper that the operation moved to Mexico and Spain, leaving behind yet another massive industrial hulk. There have been some plans, and a botched demolition that took out some of the newer sheet-metal construction and left the brick behemoth largely untouched, but it has been the ruin of one developer after another, ranging from another chocolate factory to Anheuser-Busch to razing the entire thing for an Aldi and a Dollar General.

Until then, it’s just like you’d imagine an abandoned chocolate factory, right down to puddles of sticky syrup on the floor!

Necessarily for the nature of their product, this factory kept up with maintenance and cleanliness much more than, for example, a paper mill. Even though decay has obviously started, it’s notably more modern than many industrial sites that closed a few years later in the recession era.

The device to the left was some kind of bulk nozzle, capable of filling 192 bottles at a time. A likely guess for the product would be Nesquik chocolate syrup, but other than the sugar floods, no trace of finished product or packaging remains in the factory.

Notice anything wrong with this phone?

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but all the specks in this sugar-glacier are writhing maggots. Blechhh!

Quoth the spiders, “Never More.” April 9, 2003 was not in fact the day the chocolate died. But it would go to logic that the plant closed gradually, one product at a time. According to the New York Times, May 2 was the final day any product passed through the loading docks, and the last day at work for 474 upstate New Yorkers.

This time, they WERE all full…

Emphasis on WERE… Next time we should wear white. This was just one can each.

What is it with racks of keys?

There was yet another building, but we were out of daylight and the glassy syrup mirror was just too pretty to shatter.

So we left across the rubble field, and caught the end of the Bills game on the ride home instead. For the 9½th time in a row, North Country was all we could have imagined and more. Can’t wait to go back in the spring!