Secret Base

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

With what’s left of summer days, I will build a secret base

A complete departure from what I normally do — I actually took pictures of people! And why not, we actually got this thing off the ground again. Concrete Discussion Group is back, and better than ever! Our first adventure together brought us to Iola, a place where we’ve all spent too much time already, so we got a bit more creative. (Only capitalism was harmed in the production of these photos)



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!

Spoiled Oil

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

Now that I’ve stopped spending every minute of free time I can find at Occupy, it’s time to get out exploring and following some of the new ideas for our new group, the biggest change of which is to try to explore every Monday instead of taking up people’s weekends. On the one hand this keeps us close to home, but it also opens the group up to many more people. We had a group of about ten for this place, an oil refinery that spent a few years repurposed as offices before closing in about 2000. Its demolition has been pending ever since, held up by toxic ground under the factory.

Unfortunately, my mind is still Occupied or something. While the pictures don’t suck as badly as the caves last week, here goes… a bunch of shit. Yuck.

The one identifiable tenant was an interior design firm of some sort.

Most of the rest of the building seemed to have been a car repair or similar facility, judging by the open spaces and number of loading docks.

The graffiti really was the only thing of any interest here, not an outstanding location by any means.


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

With Occupy Wall Street starting up, I just thought about this graffiti I’d seen a few years ago in the Rochester Subway. I don’t think I thought much of it at the time. In 2008 I didn’t even really know how to ride a bike, let alone having one. Yes, I was that sheltered. But that was then.

When the revolution comes, will your bicycle be ready?

I have no idea who Jonah L’Esperance is, assuming he’s even the one who said it, but this is really kind of brilliant. Say what you will about bikes being slow, or somehow else inferior to cars, but they really are the most egalitarian vehicle — one bike per person, no fuel to run it (except for burning our own fat), and you get to experience the city in an entirely deeper way on a bike than watching it go by through a windshield.

This may even end up being a future plan for Concrete now that we’ve lost all our vehicles (AGAIN) so we can stay out on our adventures — no cars involved means no stupid drivers being pains in the ass and stranding us before the trip has even started.

Highway 61 Revisited

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

And so i go back to the Union Carbide/Tesla factory for the fourth time this year. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of all these machines. Even after what turned into the fail explore of failness last weekend.

First, a picture that isn’t of machines…

But really, this is why I’m here

And this

And this

Although really this trip kind of sucked. I don’t think these pictures were anywhere near as good as the spring…

Then as soon as I got home, I realized just how much fail there was. I was locked out — and my keys were back at the Hall of Machines, probably from when I was climbing around on them. To make matters worse, it was supposed to be our group chat and online meeting to try to get Concrete Collective off the ground again, which, of course, I showed up 45 minutes late to, after Nate had run roughshod over the meeting and taken away 2/3 of the group’s members to start his own, depriving us of basically anyone over college age, anyone with a car, and anyone with exploring experience besides with me. Like I needed any more of that shit happening, after my troubles with UER. So now I’m stuck with no group and no house keys, all because I wanted to take a few shitty pictures of machinery. How’s that for fail?

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.