This Is Ground Control

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…

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