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

Elevator Action

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

So I managed to get out exploring one more time before summer. Nate thought he could get us into some grain elevators in Buffalo that actually had stairs to the top so I could climb too. I guess he was sort of right; apparently the permission we got was only to walk around the outside, not to go in, so the trip ended early with us getting chased out by the owners. At least it was something… maybe enough to last me until September.

I only ever knew of Pinkertons as something from history class, the union busting scabs. I wonder what they did here?

It’s a long way down!

Nate in action … just before the “oh shit! security!” moment

The ground floor, or what they let us see of it

In which ghost-Nate is beamed up by the sun gods

This isn’t the same place. This was some random factory we looked into on the way home and set off alarms at.

Ghost of the Blues

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

After a few pretty hopeless busts in a row, and still on edge from the end of the Tamarack, we gave up before dark and started looking for a campsite. Sure enough, right off exit 98 was a little resort we MISSED entirely! Of course we’d give it a chance when it’s just sitting here. As is typical in these parts, the front door was wide open, inviting us in.

The perfection of this place was astounding. It looked like it could have just closed last week, in places!

After seeing a few rooms like these, we decided not to even try the campsite, this would be where we’d stay (for free!) for the night.

But the farther we got from the front desk, the more unkempt, and generally weirder, the place got. In the grassy field where the lobby and restaurant should have been, we started hearing ghost music, a phantom jazz band playing out into the falling gloom. The other side of the hotel was little more than a mouldering wreck. Case in point: this door. Pretty sure this shouldn’t be a rhomboid…

Hey! More piano!

In the pool, things got seriously weird. For one thing, it really was just as blue as it looks in this photo. Nate went off into the pool bar to take a few shots… then we both heard and felt it. This is the closest I’ve ever come to the presence of a ghost! He just says to me, “we’ve gotta get the FUCK out of this place! NOW!” and we leave.

No amount of out was enough for him… we kept going, all the way to Rochester. I wanted to stay in the Catskills, just a few towns away from this place, but Nate wouldn’t have it, we had to get home. On the way back I researched the place, and found out the cause of its demise. Closed for the first time after a devastating fire in 1999, the Paramount tried twice to return to business, failing miserably both times. The second attempt saw the Paramount crash just hours short of opening, going bankrupt and falling into repossession the morning the first guests arrived. The Gasthalter family (name apropos, as it translates from the German as “Innkeeper”!) held onto the Paramount for 105 years through boom and bust, and finally lost it in the Great Recession… while economics were part of the problem, so was a generation of Jewish youth groups who stayed there as the budget alternative to the better known resorts of the Borscht belt, and had their own memories of a haunting in Parksville. This is a place I would love to go back to… but only in daylight, and with a few more people. Just in case the only abandonment I’ve ever feared really does have a dark secret.

Cold Borscht

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Amusement, Catskills, Concrete, Institutional

I’m near the point where this becomes an addiction. It’s finals of my senior year, and the only thing on my mind is getting back to the Catskills. Nate doesn’t even want to wait the week (the misery of entrepreneurship and self employment has some silver lining, it seems), but I finally convince him to wait until after my last exam to go back. So we spent the week planning and plotting, and finding every abandoned resort that might be worth a visit.

The first one we explored, the Tamarack, has a typical story of intrigue and shady dealings for the region; after the decline and fall of the original Borscht Belt, these once-luxury properties went on the market for a pittance, attracting a variety of entrepreneurs from assorted sectors. The Tamarack’s new owners were a purported Mohican Nation, a tribe that only exists in James Fenimore Cooper’s eponymous novel, “The Last of the Mohicans”; their plan, which probably involved an Indian casino and/or tax evasion, landed them in state and federal court on an unwinnable case. The property itself, maintained by a live-in caretaker (oops!) and a landscaping crew, features a ‘Mohican’ cultural museum and annual festival, but the resort proper sits abandoned awaiting new life as a casino.

Unlike Grossingers, Tamarack built on more of a ‘Great Camp’ floor plan, with large mansion-like units instead of a single connected complex.

The swimming pool (and furniture depository) is one of its most recognizable landmarks

I love finding abandoned pianos that still play!

Quite a collection. Too bad these are obsolete now… for some reason abandoned hospitals and hotels did this a lot

Flying saucers and tepees? Oh my! The only thing better than a questionable architectural decision, is TWO questionable architectural decisions. This was in the room that purported to be the Mohican Museum!

The caretaker’s bedroom? Or a squatter’s suicide scene? The tableau here is so depressingly creepy… pill bottles, rotting can of food, unmade filthy bed, and law school study guides. This doesn’t tell a warm fuzzy story at all…

Right after this we ran into the guy. He was kind of pissed, and made us leave — at least he didn’t call the cops. You know, he was probably afraid of the cops catching him for that whole ‘Mohican’ business…

See the rest of the set here

Within A Mile Of Home

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

This is an absolutely rotten spot on the southwest side. I’d had my eyes on it for close to two years now as it sat near-abandoned, occupied by some clever squatters with Rube Goldberg booby-traps on the entrance. I never did get to figure out their story, but judging by the signs of life I’d seen, and the possessions left behind, it must have been a fascinating one. Last summer’s occupant, who we came to call “Mr. October,” made his presence very well known by keeping a boom box on the roof blasting baseball games seemingly every day. After a few weeks biking past it every day and hearing no play-by-plays anymore, I gave the door a try, and heard almost a minute straight of clanking and banging and crashing metal through the place, punctuated by four-lettered footsteps. I ran.

This time, the loading docks in back were wide open, revealing the building and its contents to the spring rains. The wreak of mold and mildew was incredible in here, which we soon found to be coming from the ruins of a moldering library upstairs. The entire hallway was filled with collapsed bookcases and writing desks filled with rotten literature.

Who is Tim Wandtke? Why did he leave a pile of name tags here?
Tim's Place

78rpm records are almost indestructible. Put these through the dishwasher and they still play!
Jazz Age

Nate setting up a shot in one of the “apartments” in the building. Whether these were residences for a while or built by the resourceful squatters remains unknown. What is obvious is that the building’s present state is a terrible place to live, and the encroaching water is probably what drove the last occupants out.

This stairway was in the other ‘loft’ space.

This is the water that is slowly ruining the place. The third floor is well flooded already, with a steady drip-drop-drip sound throughout the building, even a week after the last rain. A few half-hearted buckets and tarps remain, but there is no hope of containing the water any longer.

Government Mold

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

I must say after the raves this winter, I still didn’t know what this place looked like during the day. Having Nate and his friends around too made it different, none of them really knew the place so for them Iola really was all about discovery and exploration still. For me today was more about trying out the new 50mm lens, and learning just how far back-back-BACK i have to go to see a damn thing with it. No wonder Nate told me it’s the most inspiring mistake I’d ever make as an explorer.

This was my first time even bothering to go into any of the pavilions.

The tunnels, or an incredibly strong case for respirator use

Chidlen? Really?
Spel Beter?

Someone painted a Rwandan flag in the tunnels. I think.

Then I almost believe this place has a few redeeming qualities beyond abject ugliness

Can anyone guess what this is? It still lit up, in one of the basement rooms with residual electric service

This is literally about the one compelling corridor shot I have ever taken, and probably ever will

The rave tunnel lives!

More where these came from!