Author Archive

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!

Fallen Champion

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

Deferiet is everything you might expect a company town to be, when the company leaves. From the potholed entrance road off the highway, to the complete lack of businesses on the village’s three streets (which wrap around one side of the mill), this is clearly no boom town. Even the bank, the post office and the fire department closed, all of them maintained by the Champion Paper Company of St Regis, just like the enormous industrial hulk that is still the focal point of Deferiet, even in its inglorious death.

The houses aren’t all empty, at least — the town borders Fort Drum, and is only 8 miles from Watertown, so especially with the undoubtedly plunging real estate prices, enough people still live here. But they only live here, with no jobs in sight. Most of the people left probably don’t even remember the mill, even though it only closed 9 years ago: those of working age would have moved to another mill town or left the paper business entirely. Even fewer care about the mill. The gates are wide open, no one is watching. The last action on the property was in the fall of 2010, when the Army tested some demolition explosives on the main building, leaving a crater of shattered brick and twisted melted re-bar. The result is too broken to salvage, and too solid, not to mention isolated, to ever be worth demolishing.

Like everywhere we’ve found in the north country, getting in was beyond obvious: follow the gaping hole, this time larger than a football field, directly into the factory, taking a short detour through the firehouse.

Like most places in the chemical business, laboratories were all over, at least one in every building, with most of the toxic fun stuff still intact (and the rest spilled, shattered and fuming the place up)

At the edge of the “demolished” section, you can start to imagine the sheer power of what broke half the massive factory apart

Looking the other way, you can see just how much is still left, AFTER half of it met the bomb!

Compared to Lyons Falls, it’s nowhere near as photogenic, being of more recent renovation. Lyons Falls was built in 1918-38; Champion has had a mill on this site since before 1900, but most of the surviving buildings date from just after World War II.

The last paper left the mill in January 2005, giving it plenty of time to reach the information age. The control panels of Lyons Falls were long since replaced by electronic terminals like this on many of the columns, each controlling one or two processes.

Most of the machines, presumably of tremendous scale, were salvaged when the mill closed, leaving gaping holes into the basement and sometimes even sub-basement

Adding to the carnage the Army inflicted on these ruins, winter (maybe aided by a blast wave) took down a few sections too.

These confuse me. Not just here either – Bensons Mines and Sykes have them too. Electrical outlets hanging from conduit, 4 feet above floor level, and not on a wall. Any idea what these might have been for?

I think this is my favorite sign I’ve found in an abandonment. If it were a little bit smaller and not nailed to the wall I’d have to admit it would be on my office wall.

This was just about the only graffiti in this place. Or in the whole north country for that matter.

Do as you ought’er:

After the mill, we went through the office, one of the more interesting parts in 2011 but now hopelessly water damaged with mushy floors and moldy just about everything inside… The hallway was the only worthwhile shot in the place, and we had better things to get to anyway after Deferiet.