Working today to preserve yesterday for tomorrow.

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  • A Divine Opportunity

    Some abandoned places are easy to overlook.  Block after block of soot stained brick factories can easily conceal an abandoned place in their midst.  Some only stand out as they windows are broken and replaced with plywood, while others go unnoticed until the taggers start covering them with spray paint.  Then there are those you just can’t miss, such as the Divine Lorraine Hotel on Philadelphia’s North Broad Street.  If its striking architecture was not enough to attract the eye, the fact that it towers over any nearby structure makes it impossible to miss.

    The Divine Lorraine in 1971

    The hotel dates back to the 1890′s when North Broad Street was the gateway to the affluent neighborhoods of North Philadelphia.  Designed by architect Willis G. Hale, the building is a testament to the age in which is was built.  The industrial revolution brought about new technology and new wealth like the country had never known before.  At ten stories tall, it was one of the first highrise apartment buildings in the city, and one of the first equipped with elevators.  It was a place of luxury for the city’s elite boasting such rare features as electricity and an onsite staff.

    In 1948, the controversial leader of the Universal Peace Mission Movement, Father Divine, purchased the building and renamed it the Divine Lorraine.  Divine opened the hotel to members of all races, making it the first Philadelphia hotel of its class to be fully integrated.  With its religious affiliation, the hotel operated with a strict code or morality, meaning no drinking, smoking, or excessive interaction between members of the opposite sex.  Divine believed that all people were created equally in the eyes of God and was active in various social welfare programs as well as civil rights.  The hotel closed in 1999 and has been sold twice since then.  Currently, the graffiti is being scrubbed away in preparation of a major renovation, where the old structure will be reopened as condominiums.

    The interior was gutted in 2008, leaving a shell of the former structure.  In 2009, I took my camera inside and captured what was left.

    The lobby looking towards the front door and Broad Street


    Only the frills and trim of the lobby remained to hint at the hotel’s past glory



    The hotel safe by the remains of the front desk area


    Fancy marble stairs curved up from the lobby, promising luxury that had long since been stripped away.


    Stairs into the darkness


    A small room next to where the front desk stood was filled with trash and debris and we quickly assessed that it was someone’s current home.  So we headed up to the upper floors.


    Skeletal remains


    Every floor between the ground floor and the top was more or less the same.  Walls removed, flooring stripped, frequent holes that needed to be avoided.  But the views of the outer walls from so close were totally worth the trip.


    Looking into the central courtyard



    Across the way


    There was something about the views here that reminded me of pictures I’ve seen from the old left bank of Paris.  Until you noticed modern Broad Street in the background.


    Looking towards Broad

    We took a break in the section seen at the top of the above picture, where the two wings of the building are joined by a bridging hallway.  The spot offered great views to the west and I was able to spy some of the wall at Eastern State Penitentiary.  It was a popular place to hang out as evidenced by the various empty booze bottles, food wrappers, and three homemade crack pipes we found sitting there.  Time to move on.

    The top of each wing was a large space under a soaring curved ceiling.  One of these had been a place of worship and I believe the other was a dining hall.  Both had been gutted, though.

    Big and empty


    We did not venture out on the roof, which has since become a popular graffiti spot and location for group photos.  But we were content with finally getting inside a place that had beckoned us for years.  Most of her mysteries had been wiped away with the plaster, but the sense of history that this grand old building retained was easy to perceive.

    A last look westward


    The full series can be seen here: Divine Lorraine


  • The Old Ball Game

    Across a dead end road from Paterson, NJ’s striking Great Falls rises a nondescript wall of white.  A peek through the gate in the wall reveals an aging scoreboard, the rising bleachers, and the faint outline of the infield of Hinchliffe Stadium.

    Recently, my accomplices and I took a quick tour of the old stadium, now listed as a National Historic Landmark, which patiently waits to be restored to its former glory.

    Hinchliffe awaits its rebirth

    Dating from 1932, the 10,000 plus seat stadium hosted a variety of sports including football, boxing, track and field, and even auto racing.  It also provided a venue for entertainers to perform including Duke Ellington in one of his last performances.


    Main Gates for Ticket Holders


    The stadium was a testament to perseverance and determination.  It was built in the Great Depression as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal, employing many out of work laborers.  But what really sets it apart and demands that it be saved is that Hinchliffe was a Negro League baseball stadium.  Built in the time of Jim Crow and rampant segregation, it was home to some of the greatest athletes of the day, athletes that would never be allowed onto white professional teams.  It is a monument both to the ignorance of the time and to how far we have come today.


    The only spectators left today


    Eventually, the stadium became property of the Paterson school district and was used by the neighboring high school.  It’s age and declining condition caused the district to close it in 1997 and it has sat idle since.  It has not been ignored, however.  There was minimal debris and graffiti to be seen owing to the efforts of devoted supporters.  A local man we talked to by the fence pointed out the boarded up press box and spoke of how it used to be a popular hangout for drug users.

    No red hots today. Not even peanuts nor crakerjacks.



    Unlike many historic structures that languish until they are finally leveled (see Greystone Hospital for example) there is hope for Hinchliffe.  Restoration efforts are being funded and hopefully the park will be restored to it’s former glory and the seats will once again echo with the cheers of fans.


    Game tied at Null


    For more history of Hinchliffe and information on the preservation effort see the Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium


    Ticket Window


    For the rest of my pics click Hinchliffe Stadium




  • Huber Breaker – Rest in Peace

    Once a common sight in Pennsylvania coal country, the breakers are all but extinct.  And now there is one less.

    Blue Coal’s Huber Breaker


    Built in 1939, in Ashley, PA the breaker was built to take the massive chunks of coal that came out of the mines and smash them down to a smaller, more standardized size.


    Weather and Time take their toll


    Over the decades since World War II, the coal industry has been in steady decline.  Blue Coal went bankrupt in 1976 and the breaker was closed.  It’s sat idle ever since.


    Crumbling Towers


    Stillness and Dust


    The long sloping connectors between buildings housed massive conveyor belts used for moving the coal.




    Frozen in time


    Despite a movement to preserve the breaker, its time ran out and it was recently razed, the pieces removed and sold for scrap.


    Conveyor running under floor



    Huber Breaker – R.I.P.


    See the rest of my Huber pictures here:  Huber Coal Breaker

  • Greystone Hospital – The Last Monument to Forgotten Souls part II

    It’s not uncommon to hear people express fear of heights, or of water.  Claustrophobia is a term that most people would recognize.  Fear of death is so shared that people are more likely to point out those who don’t have it than those who do.  However, one of our most universal fears seems to rarely be spoken of.  The fear of being forgotten.  We may not even realize we have it, but everyone from the billionaire whose name graces a skyscraper to the kid in the alley spray painting his name on the wall is saying the same thing.  “I exist!”  Every tombstone and monument is an attempt to stay in the public’s memory.  Every film credit, every world record, every kid jumping around behind a new reporter on the evening news is trying to document their presence in the world.

    So imagine dying and leaving nothing behind to show for your life.  For many of the patients that found themselves living out their days in Greystone (and other hospitals) this was the sad reality.  For them there are no fancy stones, no flowers left by loved ones, not even a sign to show where they lie.  Their fate was a small patch of land at the foot of a wooded slope adjoining a more typical public cemetery.

    The final resting place for hundreds of forgotten people

    One of the great tragedies of the state hospitals is that they became a dumping ground for the homeless, the elderly, troublesome children and the overflow of overcrowded prisons.  But unlike a prison where you do your time and are released, the hospital stay was indefinite.  Meanwhile, those who were truly ill were often ignored and forgotten by any family they had.  The stigma of mental illness and the ignorance of the public made having a mentally ill relative a cause for shame.  Much as a pregnant teenage girl in past decades would be pulled out of school and sent far away for fear of bringing shame and embarrassment to her family, so too were the mentally ill hidden away and not spoken of.


    The closest thing to monuments are stones denoting the grave numbers for each small section.

    What’s worse is those who wound up here, unclaimed by anyone and forgotten by all, do not even get their names.  The numbers seen above do not refer to a plot but to an individual.  A whole life condensed into a small concrete cylinder with a number on the top.  Most of them are hidden by the grass but as you roam across the lawn you see traces of the rows.

    Row after row of forgotten lives.


    And others have been pushed right out of the earth by decades of rain and snow.  If one did not know, there would be no way to tell that this is the final resting place for a human being.

    A life reduced to ashes sealed in a numbered tube


    And now the only home these people had is about to be leveled.  The only monument to hundreds of forgotten souls will soon be erased from memory.

    Nameless, faceless with no history.


    Ignored and hidden away in life, forgotten in death.  Forgotten souls.


    Full gallery at Greystone Hospital Cemetery

  • Greystone Hospital – The Last Monument to Forgotten Souls part I

    Americans have a reputation for not valuing their history, and our general attitude toward preserving our historic places only supports that reputation.  One of the latest victims of our disregard for the past (and our devotion to money over all) is Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in Morris Plains, NJ.  Greystone is a magnificent example of Second Empire Victorian architecture, designed by the great architect Samuel Sloan.  It is also one of the few remaining hospitals that were built on the Kirkbride plan, a pioneering approach to housing the mentally ill first developed by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride.

    Approaching the Kirkbride

    The Kirbride plan featured a central administration section, with bat like wings extending to the right and the left forming the male and female wards.  Greystone’s wards have been empty for years and were already subject to demolition by neglect while the admin was still in use.  The admin finally closed in 2008.


    Further Along the Wards



    Forgotten Corridors



    The Chapel Shortly After the Admin was Closed


    Greystone treated thousands of patients including the great Woody Guthrie.  It was mentioned in Allen Ginsberg’s homage to his generation, Howl.  It is a place of beauty and history, when many suffered and were offered comfort.


    Full Moon over the Kirkbride

    Now the state of New Jersey has decided this building needs to go – at tremendous taxpayer expense.  But many of us stand opposed to the state and its total disregard for the history of this building, those who labored so long and hard helping the patients within these walls, and those patients themselves, many of whom lived out most of their lives here.

    Two of the crusaders trying to save Greystone are Christina Mathews and Rusty Tagliareni who have been working on a documentary about the hospital and the need for its preservation.

    You can view the trailer for their film here:



    For many who lived (and died) in Greystone’s wards, this was the only home they knew.  The staff and patients were their only friends and family.  And the building itself, the only memorial that they ever lived.  For more on their legacy stay tuned for Greystone Hospital – The Last Monument to Forgotten Souls Part II


    The Seal of the State of New Jersey – defaced soon after this was shot and now gone completely



  • My Interview with Photographer Sarah Bloom

    I made a vow that I would update this site at least once a week.  So far, I’ve failed miserably.  But to prove I’m not idle, here is my latest piece for Hidden City Philadelphia.

    I met up with local Philly photographer Sarah Bloom at an old abandoned factory and interviewed her about her work, her inspiration, and what it is like to get naked in places most people won’t even enter.

    Give it a read and stay tuned.  I promise to have more stuff up soon.


    Disrobed in the Desertion – Hidden City Philadelphia


    Sarah in an abandoned factory - shot by me
    Sarah in an abandoned factory – shot by me

  • Sometimes the Abandoned are Flesh and Blood

    There are people we see every day, but don’t really notice.  They lounge on sidewalks, dash down alleys, prowl abandoned houses and sleep under bridges.  They hide during the day and emerge only at night.  Ghostlike entities who suddenly appear asking for spare change, or step from the shadows on a deserted street causing fear and alarm.  But they are people like any others.  Each one has a name and each one has a story.  Thanks to a handful of street photographers, these people are being made visible, being given back their voice, and having their stories told.

    Chris Arnade

    Photo by Chris Arnade


    Photo by Chris Arnade



    Photo by Chris Arnade

    In 2012, Arnade walked away from a successful career on Wall Street to focus on his photography, specifically of the addicts and prostitutes in the Bronx neighborhood of Hunts Point.  Arnade has taken the time to get to know the people he shoots, many of them becoming friends.  He provides not only a unique look at a life most of us will never know, but also gives his subjects a voice.  The stories he tells of love and loss and pain are relatable to anyone.   The difference between someone hustling on the streets and the person sitting in a warm home reading this is a matter of luck and circumstance.  We should view them with compassion, not scorn.

    Arnade has been written up in numerous publications and websites.  His work can be viewed at


    Charlie O’Hay – Everyone Has a Name Project

    Clint\Revisited – Photo by Charlie O’Hay


    Sabrina – Photo by Charlie O’Hay


    O.G. – Photo by Charlie O’Hay

    Charlie O’Hay, a poet and photographer from Philly, is no stranger to hard times.  He openly talks about his days as a drunk, losing jobs, friends and family because of his addiction.  He’s sober today, but his experience helped instill in him a compassion for the people whose lives go off the rails.  It could have just as easily been him.  Charlie takes time to get to know the people living on the streets of the city.  He helps them out with socks and gloves and gift cards that let them get a hot meal.  But more than that, he gives them back their dignity and identity.  Life on the street is not easy and some times it’s downright deadly, but even in the best of times people look down on the homeless as something less than human.  O’Hay puts a name to those faces that we pass every day on the way to work or home.  And in many cases he provides their story, often revisiting them over time to see how they are getting by.

    See more of his work at  Everyone Has a Name.

     Jeffrey Stockbridge – Kensington Blues

    Sherry – Photo by Jeffrey Stockbridge


    Nichol – Photo by Jeffrey Stockbridge


    Melissa – Photo by Jeffrey Stockbridge


    In 2008, Philadelphia area photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge began exploring Philadelphia’s Kensington Ave., a depressed area known for easy drugs, prostitution and squalor.  Much of the street is perpetually in the shadows of the elevated Market Frankford train line, adding to the gloom and the feelings of desolation.  Jeffrey took time to not only meet the addicts and prostitutes along the street, but to also meet the people who are just trying to live their regular lives in an area that has been going to hell for years.  Through pictures, interviews and journal entries from his subjects, Stockbridge provides a look into the struggle just to stay alive and stay sane when your world is falling apart.  We learn how people have fallen to where they are, and what their hopes and dream for the future may be.  We learn about trying to raise kids in a crime infested neighborhood that most people would rather ignore than deal with.  There is both horror and hope, happy endings and sad, as people just try to make it through one more day.

    More of Jeffrey’s work can be see  at Kensington Blues.



  • The Freedom Tunnel – New York’s Lost Art Gallery

    One of the first places I ever photographed, with my little Sony Cybershot, was the legendary Freedom Tunnel in NYC.  Recently, the British artist Banksy has been tagging up walls in New York, creating a media circus, thrilling hipsters and art dealers, and royally pissing off the local artists upon whose turf he is treading.  And with good reason.  New York has a long history of amazing graffiti artists, some of whom went on to mainstream success such as Keith Haring.  Most, however, thrive on anonymity.  They take great risks to put up their work, but physically and legally, with only pride and personal satisfaction for a payment.  To have their space taken over by an outsider, to have him lead throngs of fans around the city to seek out his latest piece, and to have him eclipse everything they’ve been doing for years while he still feigns being a “street” artist must be infuriating.

    Into the darkness

    No better example of the greatness of New York street art ever existed than the Freedom Tunnel.  Originally a railroad tunnel running freight trains under the west side of Manhattan, the tunnel was eventually closed down and abandoned.  It soon became infamous for its massive homeless community that saw an unused shelter, complete with buildings, and set up homes.  For information on the once thriving community that lived there in the 1990′s see the movie Dark Days and the books The Tunnel and Tunnel People.  While the shelter of the tunnel did draw some less than reputable elements. the majority of the people there were just down on their luck with no place to go.  Of course such an act of freedom and defiance could not be tolerated and eventually the city chased everyone out and razed every structure that could be turned into a home.

    Home Sweet Home

    But this is only half the story of the tunnel.  The name the Freedom Tunnel came from artist Chris “Freedom” Pape, who along with such notable painters as Smith and Sane, Ghost, Cost, and REVS created massive pieces on a scale rarely achievable for street artists.  Some of the more well known pieces include a recreation of Goya’s The Third of May and the Venus de Milo.

    The Venus di Milo – NYC Style

    Eventually, the tunnel reopened for its original purpose, this time for use by Amtrak.  Not that this deterred the artists, the few remaining squatters, and the those of us who came to view the gallery.  While only a few tracks are active in the wide tunnel, making it easy to avoid passing trains, Amtrak still was not happy about people probing the space and around 2009 began a campaign to paint over all the murals and pieces that adorned the damp tunnel walls.  Fortunately, there are a tremendous number of pictures out there of the works that once adorned this space.  My big regret is I was not able to return with more experience and better gear, and get some shots worthy of the works themselves.  But I’m thankful for what I did get and the chance to see it while before it was covered in cheap institutional blue paint.

    See the rest of my shots here.

  • Germantown’s Forgotten Town Hall

    Some locations you stumble on, a place you never noticed and a wide open door calling you in.  Others you need to scout and scope and research, biding your time until you find a way inside.  Then there are those locations that you’ve known for years, tightly sealed and secured, with no chance of even a glimpse of what’s inside.  They taunt you.  They tempt you.  And they frustrate the hell out of you.  But every now and then, there will come an opportunity to grab your camera and go inside for a precious few hours.  After more than a decade of waiting, I finally got my chance to shoot Philadelphia’s Germantown Town Hall.

    Germantown Town Hall Rotunda


    The building was designed by architect J. Sinkler and completed in 1923.  This wonderful example of Beaux Arts/Classical Revival architecture stands on the same site as the former Germantown Town Hall.  It has been empty since 1998, and despite its name, it never actually served as a Town Hall.  Then again, neither did its predecessor, which was built after Germantown had been incorporated at part of Philadelphia.  It did house various municipal agencies, the police, and during the cold war the basement was a headquarters for the Civil Defense.  Today, it sits empty, slowly being worn down by the elements.  This year it saw some life as one of the locations for the Hidden City Philadelphia Festival, but otherwise, its halls are empty of footsteps , the bell in its tower quiet and still.

    The Main Hallway

    See the full gallery Here.