Missiles? What Missiles?

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

My friend came in from Ithaca this weekend for some exploring, and after some Friday night drinking and draining (making use of his crow-wrench tire iron that I took by mistake almost six years ago and *still* forgot to return), we thought we should try some new places out in Niagara Falls, see if we could find a “missile silo” someone posted on UER about a month ago. It didn’t go according to plan at all, we went around in circles looking for it, found a few fenced off vacant lots, and finally something that looked like a plausible base.

I think there were missiles under here at one time (back in the 60s, at the latest). Unfortunately, all that’s left is about a 10 foot drop into stagnant mosquito water. No missiles, and no structures solid enough to explore down there.

At least there was a shed to explore? A serious waste of effort is all this was.

So we continued on to Niagara Falls, and went to one of our old favorite spots instead, the Tesla power plant.

We climbed to the top, but there wasn’t much of any view out the window.

And someone had been using it as an epic paintball field.

There are certain ingredients which are, whether we try or not, absolutely integral parts of our adventures. Along with the tire iron, there’s the inevitable car trouble, getting a special kind of lost, attempts to sing along to “Ásilos Magdalenas” with more passion than vocal range, and our life-long frenemy Mother Nature always trying to fuck shit up on us yet again. This time, on a beautiful May afternoon, we saw Her wrath in the form of a thick, sopping fog in Buffalo’s main drain that prevented any possible photos that didn’t look like this:

But, before we left, the steam cleared out, and we cooked up a piece of pi.

Fuck Mighty Taco.

Mines of Moria

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Outdoors, Underground

The best and weirdest ideas begin with beer, specifically the consumption of it in the outdoors. (like this:)

Not that any of you didn’t know that I’m not normal, but with some liquid inspiration and the right friends, even something as strange as a weekend bike trip to Niagara Falls makes perfect sense, and less than 24 hours later we were off riding into the night, basically in search of the unknown, to go sleep in a cave.

After 55 miles or so, we found the cave entrance, and in the morning it was time to explore.

From all we knew, the Akron cave would be a rather dull straight line route like Norton’s cave; we could not have been more wrong, as soon as we lost sight of the entrance we were in a maze of twisty passages all alike.

It goes on and on… we didn’t dare venture too far in though still having to ride to Niagara falls and part of the way back

Somebody many years ago seems to have left an offering.

These are rotten wooden columns, apparently holding up the entire mine system…

Our ride home brought us back along the lake, camping in some park we weren’t supposed to be in along route 18

And, yesterday, my hipster bike died suddenly and tragically, at mile marker 29 of the Lake Ontario parkway. After four flat tires in less than an hour, the cause became apparent: the frame had come unwelded, and I had to finish the trip quite ingloriously, packed in the back of a friend’s Prius, wedged under my bike’s corpse. But at least it was an adventure, even if it would prove to be an expensive one!

When Life Gives You Columns

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Industrial

…you make colonnade? Or not? At least I had an unexpected opportunity to explore with Ian one more time. Although, more realistically, it turned into a chance to stand on the sidelines while he explored. His goal was one that I shared interest in for sure, but probably not the right physique, or state of mind — climbing the Buffalo grain elevators. While they originally had stairs, due to a rash of suicides in the early 70s right after they were abandoned, none of these stairwells are complete, with the stairs up to 30 feet or so cut out, leaving only the brackets that once held iron steps. So, while Ian climbed and took roof shots, I spent a morning walking around looking at columns. So many columns.





Column me maybe?

The next place we went, a warehouse or factory thing, Ian didn’t even want to get out of the car. Which I guess goes to show how different our tastes are. I’m not sure what this place even was, but it’s pretty far gone now, and getting started with demolition.

Bits and Pieces

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

The rest of the places in Buffalo this weekend that weren’t quite big enough for their own posts

WILDROOT — the product that made 50s hair the greased-up mess it was. Just by nature of what the factory made, and a precipitous drop off in demand once greasers were out and bowl cuts were in, Wildroot closed after just 14 years of operation, in 1963. A few later attempts were made to bring the product back, then to attach the Wildroot name to other hair products, but the association with crew cuts and grease was just too much for the company to ever be profitable again, and the factory was left to rot.

A TV commercial from 1953 for Wildroot:

And their factory roof from 2012:

The decay in there was about the level one would expect for a place coming up on 50 years gone


STATLER — Theater in South Buffalo that went the way of most live theaters around the country; first into a movie house, then into oblivion. After the theater’s closing, it spent some time as a shared church/mosque known as the Holy God Temple, until that too closed. Renovations are expected to begin later in 2012 on the theater to bring it back to life as a Broadway theater for traveling shows. Unfortunately I had the absolute wrong lens for the job here and couldn’t take any pictures of the whole theater, or anything close. I’d like you to at least imagine this sunbeam pointed down onto one random seat in the gallery, since that’s the shot I wanted to take!


This theater organ has certainly seen better days…

Don’t try exploring the Statler on your own… it is FRESHLY boarded up as of today, we got permission (easy to obtain) from the developers, who will come and personally unscrew and un-nail some boards just for you! The other way in is much too dangerous, unless you enjoy falling through floors as much as I do!

TERMINAL — I’ve already seen most of what there is to see here, but I was back again, and did a few redos of pictures from last December…


And a clever graffiti that wasn’t here last time:
Pass out
Didn’t bring nearly enough beer for that one to work…

Sins and Trasspeses

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Religious

Buffalo’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, like so many other Catholic churches, fell into ruin at the loss of its flock. Once Buffalo’s diocesan church, well before 1900, it became an early casualty in 1952 due to suburban sprawl and white flight, leaving behind a church building that soon after reopened as a prominent black church and religious school before fading away in the early 2000s, again facing the loss of its congregation.



Typewriter Jesus

Fallen arches

The church basement held a variety of religious leftovers from both the Catholic and AME eras of the church. Molding away in a few boxes were 1930s and 40s anti-Communist propaganda, early televangelical memorabilia (listen to my radio show, send me money, and your sins will disappear!) and a few dozen of these posters (?). Any idea what the meaning of these may be? If it’s any clue, I think the symbol, in at least some of them, is a Chiron (Greek representation of Jesus).

Lonely chair

And finally, we found these on our way out (hence the title). The best part is, there were five, ALL with different spealling’s. One can only wonder if they were too embarrassed to leave the signs up!


How The West Was Lost

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

To Station
Through the days of the Erie Canal, Buffalo rose from a western outpost founded in 1802, into the 8th largest city in the United States by 1900, on its essential position as a market city and trading port to the frontier West. With the rise of the railroads, naturally this position translated into being a hub in that system as well, and just before the Depression the tracks along Lake Erie were the busiest in the world, with close to 200 passenger and 500 freight trains passing daily toward Chicago and New York. The previous station, located on the present site of the Sabres’ arena downtown, was massively insufficient for this level of traffic, so in 1928 the New York Central Railroad commissioned a landmark station, at the time the tallest, and among the largest, yet constructed (and which would only be surpassed in the US by their own construction in Detroit). Buffalo Central was, for its entire life, a station of excess — by its completion in 1930, it, and its companion Michigan Central Station, both opened to drastically reduced traffic, and would only come close to capacity with the troop trains of the second World War. The jet age led to the demise of these stations in 1979, and their replacement with dull prefab buildings hardly fit for the legacy of what once was. One can only wonder if stations like these could restore the glamour of train travel… while certainly far slower than flying somewhere, with the TSA being what it is, and the price of gas on the rise again, not to mention the sense of adventure and authenticity, will the railroads finally rise again? Will this station someday serve its purpose again as the gateway to the wide open West?

The station itself is an incredible 3 1/2 blocks long, from the end of the freight house to the tower.

This building, which finished its life as the freight house, was once a sort of second-class station for interurbans, short line trains which served small towns on tracks averaging 10-60 miles. (One would not be mistaken comparing this to the light rail that still thrives in the East Coast cities). Amazingly, these tracks were not even counted in the 200 daily trains serving the main station, and probably added at least as many departures.

Continuing toward the tower, the next building is the mail house, dedicated to sorting the incoming mail arriving in Buffalo. These numbered columns referred to wards of the city in the pre-ZIP-code system, to serve the mail trucks that would pull up to the loading docks.
Mail house


Any ideas? There were a number of these coarse-toothed iron gears around the mail house. Each weighs at least 50 pounds, and is on a rod that seems far too weak for the job.

Sometimes the way in is just like in the video games…

This appears to have been some sort of corporate office. The burned paperwork on the floors was employee and freight records from the early 1930s.

Outside the mail house, going toward the arrival platforms

Arrivals hall in a December sunset

A few notes for anyone trying to explore the Terminal — property lines here are a bit tricky, and well enforced. Buffalo city owned areas include the freight line, interurban platform, mail house, arrivals and most of the vacant land; you should be able to explore these areas without being hassled. The tower can only be accessed via tours, available every two weeks from April to November 2012, as well as special events at the holidays and Easter. Attempts to access the tower and concourse on your own will end badly, like mine did last spring!