Common Knowledge

When looking for a place to explore, never discount the obvious. Anyone who has seen this building enough times would notice the lights are never on, and the windows are broken, on the first two floors. This one is only an elevator ride away from me – the building where I live, 111 East Avenue, used to be the Sagamore Hotel, one of the most luxurious places in the city in the 1920s and 30s. Among the more interesting historical uses of the building, the penthouse once housed W2XRT, among the first television stations ever built, going on the air in 1938. After the war, the hotel was converted into apartments, and the building more or less left to rot for the past 70 years, becoming an artists’ and students’ haven across the street from the Eastman School. The second, tenth, and half of the first floor are sitting abandoned, and no one really bothers with them, they’ve been in a perpetual state of near-renovation for what looks like at least ten years. I wouldn’t be surprised if their days are numbered though with yet another new owner taking over the building, and a wave of evictions and rent hikes throwing out most of the people who already live here. And now that I’ve gotten my own notice to be out by the end of July, I figure I have nothing left to lose even if I did get caught here.

This entrance once belonged to the Monroe County Democrats’ office, before they moved to an industrial park on the east side.

Being a semi-active building (and UE layer cake), the decay isn’t particularly extreme here, and looks more like aborted construction. But what can I expect, for a place 30 seconds from home?

There used to be some government offices here too. Locked door? no problem, just go around the side.

…and run into construction workers smashing down some walls in what used to be a subprime mortgage brokerage. They threatened to call the cops but I told them I live upstairs, and I can’t get evicted twice anyway, and they let me go in peace.

The penthouse was the most interesting part by far. I’m not sure if this is original, or when it was added, but I could imagine this lobby having been the entrance to an experimental, and distinctly classy, TV station 60 years before Reality TV was even a concept. This was a time when it made sense to put the TV studio across the street from the Philharmonic, when radio was the entertainment of the masses, and television featured mostly classical and jazz music, live theatre, political talking heads… and boxing, fought in an improvised studio ring.

Even the ornately stenciled ceiling remains, evocative of the ceiling tiles at the old Eastman Theatre before the new renovations there.

And finally, from on top of the studio roof, a view of the East End.

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