From the highway, I’ve admired and desired ( so I’m a little strange) this abandoned warehouse with the bright red doors for a number of years. Sometimes it’s hard to know why one day you are compelled to act. But, the other day , a good friend and I , circled and drove around until we found our way. Surrounded by trucking companies and a smattering of traffic, it appeared safe for a daytime exterior shoot. Indoors is another chapter and it’s going to take more guts and a group for me to attempt it. The structure has retained most of its integrity – light fixtures, high ceilings, and its heavy red doors remain nearly whole. As I wandered the property, I could imagine so many uses that it makes me sad to think it stands empty.
Tag Archives: urban exploration
Driving along a main street in Paducah, Kentucky, I spied this garage. Surrounded by eighteen wheelers and because it was after five, I couldn’t resist exploring. The alphabet doors drew my attention. Although I didn’t find twenty-six, these intrigued my camera.
Hot sun, rust, tired bricks and Virginia Creeper.The only sounds came from the industrial strength lawn mower overpowering the grass in vacant lots in Cairo, Illinois.
After seeing photos of the downtown’s abandoned buildings, I couldn’t wait to visit.The night before I hardly slept – images of rust and deterioration floated through my dreams.Ghoulish, I know, but I see beauty in remains.
A little less than an hour from our base in Paducah, Cairo is the southernmost city in Illinois and sits at the meeting of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.A former center of railroad and river shipping , the city’s welcome sign reflects its current state of affairs.
Just past the welcome sign is a motel on the right. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and grab my camera.Then I saw the black cat outside room 12. There is no 13 of course, but Cairo has had its share of bad luck and bad timing.
On the other side of the road, people washed cars and mowed lawns, going about their daily chores.The motel represented the experience in one building.One side was falling apart and the other side is occupied and served by the Nu-Diner.
Half alive/Half dead – an accurate metaphor for Cairo.
Continuing down the road, passing Shemwell’s Barbecue, a Family Dollar store, and a closed thrift store, I was disappointed.It looked like Main Street America on every highway in the country.
One block, two blocks toward the river and we found ourselves on an empty movie set on which no one filmed.
I was stunned.In my planning, I had looked at photos on many blogs, but even those from earlier in 2012 are no longer current.
More buildings leveled or collapsed and not a soul on the street but for a blue van parked in front of the Maytag shop. A television commercial come to life.
The workmanship and details on the remains is breath-taking.Many of the buildings ornamented in metal details and intricate brickwork stand open.Entering as quietly a hiking boots on crunching glass will allow, you try to listen for their stories but the silence is frightening.A department store, furniture showroom, and movie theater kept their secrets.Layers of brick, paint and plaster exposed when their neighbors succumbed provide some clues to the past.
My friend and I wandered, stepping carefully over glass shards , metal fragments and listening carefully. Several trucks passed and we waved and smiled trying to look friendly. They paid no attention, having seen so many photographers before that we were invisible.
Memphis ‘ s Zippin Pippin, an early wooden roller coaster , one of the oldest in North America,is now satisfying roller coaster aficionados in GreenBay, Wisconsin.The roller coaster is 2,865 feet long, travels 20.8 mph to 40 mph, with a maximum drop of 70 feet .It dates back to 1912, 1915 or 1917, depending on your source but it was the mainstay of LibertyLand in Memphis.
Elvis would rent out the park and spend hours riding the coaster.Children and adults screamed with terror and delight as they rode the Pippin.
As a non-native Memphian, I only rode it once. There is a terrifying quality to wooden coasters,they appear more fragile, they shake and basically scare me. I’ve made it a point to ride the ones I’ve visited at least once so they don’t get the better of me. Before they dismantled The Zippin Pippin and shipped the pieces to GreenBay, it was closed and sat at LibertyLand for four years.
Several years ago, while wandering along the fence line, we found entry. Climbing up part of the structure , the view was amazing. It looked like sculpture! The cars sat in a row as if ready for their next riders.Elvis’s car was the first one in line.
The cars remained with the coaster until an auction at which the buyers wanted Elvis’s car but ended up buying the whole roller coaster for $2500. The sale included provisions that the coaster be removed. An organization in North Carolina bought it and when they didn’t move it, the coaster was later sold to Green Bay.
The rest of LibertyLand has also disappeared , the land subdivided into plans for community centers and private development. The Grand Carousel, created by Dentzel who is noted for carving incredible horses and figures, has been dismantled and remains in storage somewhere in Memphis.It will be interesting to see if this piece of our city’s history is returned to use or ends up in a different city attracting tourists.We need to look more carefully at preserving our city’s uniqueness.
A stretch of cracked asphalt, crumbling graffiti covered walls , and silence are what remain of the raceway that once hosted drag-racing ‘s legends.Several years ago, after reading an article in the Sunday newspaper ( yes, we still had newspapers back then) , afraid that it would disappear before I got a chance to shoot, my friend and I searched and found Lakeland International Raceway that very afternoon.
Hidden behind an outlet mall which has since morphed into a church, we traveled a road that snaked out of the parking lot and found it in the woods. Deserted .
The strip itself is a quarter mile and dates to 1960 when it was owned by Raymond Goodman. It had its moment of silverscreen fame in Two Lane Blacktop (early 1970’s). During its heyday , records were made and broken by Daddy Don Garlits, Shirley Cha Cha Mudowney,and other Hall of Fame dragsters.I am not into racing, but even I know those names .To think that forty years ago they ran on this track in the middle of nowhere amazes me.
Standing on weed -ridden asphalt , surrounded by trees and silence ,except for the birds and us of course, it’s hard to imagine the crowds that came on Sundays to listen to the tires squealing and inhale the gas fumes.
But the strip remains . If you stand silently , you can hear the engines roar ,the cheers of the crowd, the squawk of the announcers ‘ calls , all ghosts of the Lakeland International Raceway waiting for the sound of the bulldozer.
A warm September Sunday morning found us searching for the tugboat graveyard that I’d read about on several abandoned building sites. In New Jersey for a short weekend visit, my husband obligingly helped me search the outer part of Staten Island for the graveyard at Arthur Kill. We found Witte Marine, the salvage company that bought the boats back in the sixties, but that Sunday there was no way to gain admittance .The property is presently known as Don John Iron and Scrap Metal .
Farther down the road, we spied a boat skeleton out in the distance.Finding a spot to park, we crossed the road to find a worn and weed covered stone staircase.At the top of the five steps stood a small family cemetery that dated back to the 1700’s, and beyond that- a sea of reeds.
The sun’s heat intensified the stench , and using the reeds as a solid surface enabled us to cross the slimy goop that was mudlike in texture but suggested something more sinister and chemical.It sucked at your shoes and I have to believe anything that succumbed is still buried beneath. Part way to the water, you could see the carcasses of several tugs.My husband found a stopping point and waited loyally while being devoured by insects.
I ventured forward, taking big high steps to flatten reeds while sliding and juggling two cameras. The remains of the tugs were identifiable but without waders and a crowbar, I wasn’t able to get much closer.
Changing strategies , I veered to the left towards a wooden hulk . As I looked for planks to aid my mud-crossing, two other adventurers appeared and we headed there together. They were more limber and scurried up the side of the boat. I worried that my husband would need a transfusion due to mosquito bites and might not come after me if I fell through the deck.
Eerie and beautiful in the same moment,although difficult to capture the atmosphere , these photos document our visit. I am not sure how many more ships can be seen by kayaking in the Arthur Kill or by gaining entrance into the salvage yard.The numbers I have read indicate at least several hundred recorded.The challenge of the graveyard partially met, I am anxious to return in cooler weather with more appropriate gear.
From preliminary research, I learned that one of the tugs still visible was the Abram S. Hewitt, a fireboat built in 1903. It had played a role in the rescue attempts as the command center at the burning of the General Slocum in 1904. On June 15,1904, over 1,000 women and children perished in the fire on their way to a day’s picnic outing on Long Island. It was the largest loss of lives in New York until September 11.
Also found in the graveyard is the New Bedford which served as a troop transport during the Battle of Normandy. The other ships have their stories also. Buried in the mud lies the history of New York and beyond.
It turns out that the boats cannot be moved or salvaged because populations of sea life took up residence in the remains and now they are a protected environment by law.
The tiny graveyard sits between the polluted waters and a busy road.It is the resting place of early settlers of Staten Island and is known as The Blazing Star Cemetery. The community was named Blazing Star for a ferry service that ran from the pier at the Witte Salvage Yard across the bay to New Jersey in the early 1800’s. The surviving headstones , beautifully carved and delicate, date from before the Revolutionary War, but that’s for another story.
oboylephoto.com/boatyard/index2.htm ( incredible black and white photos of the area from 2004)
http://www.the freelibrary.com – wrecks of NY Harbor