Sweet Science

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

This was one of those rare times that everything just happened to work out. It was unlikely enough that we managed to save the North Country trip at all, even if it’s a few weeks early and none of the people I invited actually showed up, Hayden pulled it off and got not only the biggest meet in a few years, but a way to get there too, and off we were! After a few stops on the way to pick up food, beer and gas masks (mostly intended for the paper mills later on in the trip), we found our way to route 3. It took some convincing to even try, but the 9th Sesqui-Annual Semi-Cold Urbex Camping Extravaganza started off with a wild guess of a location, something I’d heard was abandoned, and huge, but didn’t know if there would even be a way into. To our surprise, despite looking more or less solid from the highway, an entire wall was missing from a botched or forgotten demolition, and just like that, we walked right into the former Nestlé chocolate factory.

At the time of its first closure in 2003, the property was the world’s largest, and America’s oldest, working candy factory, and its closure came as a shock to not only Fulton but the entire industry, as production moved to Europe and a few smaller facilities in the Southeast, as a cost cutting measure. Demolition started this spring, but came to a screeching halt under legal and financial pressure from the city of Fulton, with the property suffering from tax foreclosure and an unforeseen asbestos problem. Unable to break ground on time, Aldi nullified their purchase of the factory, and now it sits in typical abandonment limbo, with no definite plans and nebulous, or no, ownership, and none of the potential owners wanting anything to do with it.

Immediately after entering, we realized we were onto something: not only had no one explored this place yet, but there wasn’t even much graffiti, and the smashy people barely even had a chance at it, except for the gaping demolition wounds.

Not to say it was pristine: much of the machinery was sold at auction, and what remains are the unsold lots, auction tags still hanging off, or the units simply too heavy to move or unsuited for any other location.

I think these were packing lines of some type, filling hundreds of bags (or bottles?) of product at a time through the grid of nozzles.

Nobody bothered to clean up on the last day of work. Some of the floors are covered in a thick, noisy layer of sugar syrup!

The scale of this place is truly incredible. There are nine interconnected, multi-level factory buildings, not even counting the substantial part that they did manage to demolish over the summer.

It was enough of a maze that sometimes we went in circles without even realizing it.

Unnecessary, ironic gas mask selfie? (I imagine this place didn’t even stink, let alone was toxic, but I’d just directed everyone else to buy them thinking we were going to the massively toxic paper mills!)

This was signed as the “bean hall”. I can imagine there being ceiling-high piles of hundreds of tons of cacao beans here, waiting for processing into chocolate… it did appear though that the bean-counters had been through, as unlike the sugary residue around most of the place, the floor was swept thoroughly clean of the deliciously bitter fruit.

…And then we got into pulling each other around on danger carts.

Yet Another Building — we didn’t even have time to try this one I don’t think

For some reason we crossed this little minefield instead

and tried to get lunch in the employee cafeteria but the kitchen was closed

We hurried out of this place having seen maybe a third of it. There wasn’t much choice, we’d found far more than we’d ever planned for, and we were barely even on our way to the North Country!

Bombed Out Mill

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Industrial, North Country

After the unexpected success at Lyons Falls, yet again we found ourselves at Deferiet and running out of daylight. If anything, Deferiet is an even bigger paper mill, although a huge part of the center is missing thanks to a rare opportunity for Fort Drum to do some live fire testing of a bunker buster in 2009 or so, leaving behind a crater of burned brick and twisted steel.

The mill buildings aren’t as interesting either, having been cleared out of most anything that could be moved when International Paper left.

I have a feeling this waterfall used to be part of a hydroelectric system for the mill. Now it just spouts water right back into the river it came from…

This, though, freaked me out. In a place that should have been abandoned for years, there’s still one entrance with lights on and machinery humming, deep in the center of the abandoned mill. The purpose of it is less than obvious, but it seems like this might have been the power station for the village.

Just Milling Around

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Industrial, North Country

This was something of a first for me – traveling somewhere far away to a place that not only have I been, but I wasn’t with anyone guiding me to it. As fragile as things have been for me over the years finding people who will explore with me, it was probably a huge mistake, but one that paid off in the end. After a bit of wandering to check out an abandoned, delicious apple orchard (can all this fruit be free?) and another mill which seemed to have been demolished decades ago, we eventually made it to Lyons Falls, a classic American bust-town, built and collapsed on the fortunes of its company.

Once known as Goulds Mill(s), after the founding Gould family, the town grew quickly into the start of the 20th century, soon moving across the river (and acquiring its present name) for more room and to take advantage of the namesake cascade for power, until it reached a population of over 1000, with nearly all of the village’s men working in the paper mill, a behemoth separating the main street from the river. The mill prospered for 100 years, expanding three times after the 1922 move to the present side of the Moose River, until it came into hard times in the 1980s like many American paper mills, faced with competition from Canada and price pressure from recycled paper reaching sufficient quality for newsprint. Lyons Falls finally fell in 2001, within months of the first closures of Deferiet and Newton Falls, a “triple whammy” blow to the economy of Lewis County that cost much of its working age population, and left three towns blighted by toxic, abandoned wrecks of some of the largest factories in the state. By 2010, with no hope in sight for restoring the mill, and efforts at the other, slightly newer North Country mills sputtering along at best, the county and state started demolishing the most dangerous and toxic sections along the riverside, an attempt which quickly ran out of money, but created some entrances in the once solid compound.

The front of the mill is guarded by what at first appears to be a palisade, but was actually the foundation of a former elevated rail line, delivering supplies into the upper level of the building.

As soon as we got into the building, a toxic sensation wafted through the air — more than just a smell, but kind of like a taste, with a tinge of headache. Overall, a sign that this might not be a place where people belong anymore.

The cause became more and more apparent. When the mill was abandoned, they didn’t even bother to empty many of the chemical tanks.

I tried to start the machinery up again, but there was no owner’s manual.

No one even bothered to do the dishes the last day in the lab!

At the top of this building, we found a somewhat rickety crossing into the much larger main part of the mill, which is still effectively sealed from the outside by fresh boards and 1000-lb concrete blocks sitting in front of doors that would have probably opened otherwise.

There was a nearly identical match to the control room on this side, hidden in a completely pitch-black cage in the center of the factory floor. Compared to the location of the other control room, between the lab and the breakroom and with windows onto the factory and the outside, this doesn’t seem like the most appealing work environment.

Unfortunately, these appear to be the seatings for some immense machine that is no longer with us.

…probably whatever used these 5-foot pipes!

And now you tell us! This sign was right by the exit, and probably quite justified with the toxic cocktail involved in running a paper mill, most of which is still left here.

Paper Trail

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Industrial, North Country

From the turn of the last century, the economy of New York’s North Country has been based on three industries: mining, tourism, and paper. The trees of the vast Adirondack forests, and power from the fast-flowing rivers, were perfect for giant paper mills to develop, to the point that most paper in the United States in 1900 was made in New York and Maine. Rising demand and falling supplies of trees led to Canada taking over this position by the 1970s, then a precipitous drop in demand during the Information Age and into the present day led to the closure of one mill after another, and the fall of the mill towns. Deferiet, named for its 18th-century founder Janeke de Feriet, was one of the earliest mills, and one of profound economic stability, with no layoffs for 109 years before finally falling on hard times in 1999, and closing for the first time in 2001. A few buyers attempted to resurrect the property in the mid-2000s, none of them managing to hold it open for more than a year before succumbing to the costs of an aging plant and the declining revenue of the paper business as a whole. In 2010, the Army from nearby Fort Drum had a hand at demolishing the property, testing out a few demolition charges and partially imploding the mill; the site has remained stagnant ever since.

The first building facing the street was the corporate office, where we first started to discover just how recent the fall of Deferiet was
Ethernet

Well, not *that* recent. How long has it been since you’ve seen a laptop look like this?
Laptop

But look! That’s an Amazon box. What’s that doing here?!
Amazon

It was almost enough to make us wonder if someone was still using the property, a little bit anyway. One look behind the office though was enough to prove that absolutely wrong. It looked like a bomb went off here, because, in fact, one did.
Demolish

This building seems to have been the laboratories, from the looks of it. There was a potent chemical and putrid stench permeating the entire building, and its contents we tried to bring with us.
Smelly

With enough water damage, 4 years can make a place incredibly rotten!
Rotten

I would not want to work in this office…
Office

This was the source of the stench, it seemed. It was hard to even breathe in here, as much as I would have wanted to investigate more.
Heavy Chemicals

I used to explore with someone who did these tests at RIT… apparently it was very monotonous work
RIT

I see a red door and I want to paint it peely!
I see a red door

We were almost out of daylight by the time we even made it into the main building. I need to come back here sometime!
Bombed

Figured it was time I actually had a picture of me in an abandoned building. Happy Easter, Laura, wherever you are!
Easter

And the long walk back to Route 3…
Trestle

Disappointment Island

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Industrial, North Country

After Benson Mines, this one was something of an impromptu explore halfway through a trip. We missed the exit onto 3A and took an unplanned detour into Carthage, when what to our wondering eyes should appear but a disembodied smokestack looking for its factory

Smokestack

We chased it through the village, and finally figured out it was on an island, which would take some searching for. The island itself ended up being completely overgrown in eight-foot tall grass, and filled with a minefield of old foundations. Adding to our woes it just happened to also be 94 degrees with the sun beating down on the island, and the river steaming with humidity. Eventually we thrashed our way through to the old mill, just to find that it had burned and collapsed many decades ago. Shit.

Collapse

There was really nowhere to go; only the brick walls were still standing, the interior floors collapsed into one pile of rubble.

Rubble

Overall, this was one of the (VERY) rare places I wouldn’t recommend going back to, and one with no redeeming value to justify the battle with the island.