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  • In Memoriam IV – Big Railroad Blues

    I have been running around abandoned places since I was a little kid, long before I started carrying a camera with me.  Most places were small.  Old railroad buildings, abandoned farms, an former general store that was near two covered bridges and a quarry with some ancient, rusting steam shovels, and so on.  When I started shooting these places I discovered that I was not alone in my abandonment attraction.  There was a whole underground community out there doing the same thing.  By that point I had begun spending much of my free time running around Bethlehem Steel’s abandoned flagship plant, but other than that I was still mostly hitting smaller stuff.  I was surprised to see the lists of factories and hospitals and other large places that people were going to.  I was also surprised by how many people would not bother with anything smaller than a former mental hospital.  Even the smaller, less flashy places have their stories to tell.

    A few years back I was waiting to meet someone to go shoot the abandoned part of an old slate quarry (with permission.)  While I waited I discovered this little gem just sitting there with its wide open windows beckoning.

    Freight Station

    It was a small freight station whose glory days were long past.  Its days were obviously numbered, one more piece of our industrial past about to be wiped from the earth.  But not until I shot a bunch of photos to commemorate its existence.

    Continue reading  Post ID 263


  • In Memoriam III – That Last of Cramps Shipyard

    Looking east towards the Delaware River, it’s hard to imagine that Philadelphia once had a thriving and vibrant water front.  The decline of industry meant a decline in shipping and trade.  Immigrants no longer arrive in America by the shipload, and newer forms of transportation mean less work on the water.  Then I-95 came through and basically severed the waterfront from the rest of the city. 

    Today, the Philly waterfront is seeing a renaissance of sorts, as old piers are being converted to parks and trails are being established.  Penn’s Landing continues to draw people in, and plans to cover more of the sunken parts of I-95 will turn what is now basically a moat back into usable space.  But besides the crumbling remains of piers, there is little left of Philly’s nautical past.

     

    Thousands passed it every day without a second thought

    Continue reading  Post ID 225


  • In Memoriam II – Tippett and Wood

    One of the most commonly asked question I receive is “how do you find these places?”  There are multiple answers to that. Sometimes it’s through sharing information with other abandonment enthusiasts.  Sometimes it’s by seeing stories of closures or impending demolition in the news.  Now and then we just go out cruising the streets for boarded up windows and the dank smell of mildew and neglect.  Or, as in this case, I spend hours looking at the satellite view on Google Maps.

     

    Weather worn and crumbling. This must be the place

     

    At the time I had no idea what this place had been.  Only that it was very abandoned and easy to walk into.  It took a little researching to learn that it was Tippett and Wood, a producer of water tanks and stand pipes.  The place dated back to the 1870′s but I had no idea when it closed.

    Continue reading  Post ID 245


  • In Memoriam I – The Ol Bleach Factory

    So many of the places I’ve photographed are gone.  Places that stood for decades, eliminated in the span of a day or two.  I decided it was time to take a look back at the places that will never be seen again, beginning with an old bleach factory that once stood outside of Philadelphia.  I’m not even sure of the name of the company, but this decaying structure (which featured an active beer distributor at one end) had that beauty and complexity only found in old industrial sites.

     

    Approaching to the building, we passed an old dam, though whether it was there to support this factory or a long gone mill I don’t know.

    Old Dam Along the Path

     

    Old Stone Facade

    Continue reading  Post ID 238


  • Way Up North in Dixie

    Heading east along route 22 towards Easton, one cannot help but notice a large factory building rising up on the right.  The buildings size, especially compared to its neighbors automatically draws the eye, but its most striking feature has to be the water tower on its roof, shaped like a paper Dixie Cup.  Opened in 1921, it was here that the world famous Dixie Cups were manufactured for most of the twentieth century.  

    A Closer Look at the Water Tank

    Continue reading  Post ID 235


  • Norwich Hospital for the Insane

    Located in Norwhich, Connecticut, Norwich State Hospital was opened in 1904 under the name Norwich State Hospital for the Insane.  It began with one building that housed 95 patients, but demand forced the facility to grow.  At its peak, Norwich had more than 30 buildings.

    While it was intended to house mentally ill patients and people found not guilty by reason of insanity, it went on to handle addicts, geriatrics and during the 1930′s tuberculosis patients.  Norwich’s patient population hit its high point in the mid fifties when it was home to over 3000 patients.  It declined over the decades that followed until it was eventually closed in 1996.  The last few patients were transferred to another facility and the buildings were left vacant.  Currently, the remaining buildings are in the process of being demolished.

     

    Empty Wards of Lost Time

     

    Continue reading  Post ID 207


  • Bringing Water to the Masses – Shawmont Pumping Station

    As Philadelphia’s population increased and people settled further and further from the city center, providing water throughout the entire city became more challenging.  To provide for the expanding areas of Manayunk and Roxborough, it was decided to build new reservoirs on the hill above the communities.  Water would then be provided via gravity to the homes businesses below.

    To supply the reservoirs, a pumping station was to be built just above the Flat Rock Damn at Shawmont.  Begun following the Civil War, the pumping station was completed in 1869.  The plant used steam driven pumps to force the water to the reservoir over 300 feet above.  Demand continued to increase as so the station was expanded in the 1890s and a larger reservoir was installed as well.

    By 1962, the system was obsolete and could not meet the needs of the much larger city.  It was replaced by a new system and the pump was closed down.  And there it remained, not much more than a landmark on the trails that run along the river.  In 2011, the remaining structures were razed.

     

    From Phillywatersheds.org

     

    Approaching the ruins

    Continue reading  Post ID 214


  • Live From the Eastown Theater

    After the great response I received to my piece on the Grande Ballroom, I decided to do a write up about the Eastown Theater.  In the middle of putting this together I came across some very recent pictures online that showed the Eastown being demolished.  The loss of this great venue meant that my tribute was now a memorial.  I only got to see this place twice, in its final years with decay and neglect taking their toll, but it was obvious what a grand theater it had been.  Although we knew its days were numbered from the moment we went inside, there is still a terrible feeling of loss knowing it’s gone.

     

    The Eastown in its glory days.  Not my picture
    The Eastown in its glory days. Not my picture

    The Eastown opened in 1931, as a venue for “talkies” or movies with sound.  This was a time when movie theaters were not referred to as “plexes” but as palaces, and the name was fitting.  Long before people could sit in their living rooms and be entertained by the images on a black and white television (and decades before they could watch a movie on a device that fits in your pocket) going to the cinema was an event.  It was an experience, not a short diversion between several other forms of entertainment, as the elaborate decor of such places can attest.

     

     

    The Eastown – 2009

    The Eastown was designed by V.J. Waier for the Wisper & Wetsman chain of theaters.  Waier used numerous classical influences in his design creating an extremely ornate interior that can best be described as Baroque.  Besides the 2,500 seat theater, the building also offered office and retail space, a 35 residential apartments, and a ballroom that could host 300.  

    Continue reading  Post ID 189