Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Exploring the Husk of a Distillery

Sunday was a gloomy, dank day, and absolutely perfect for urbexing photos. We were in PA to visit an old distillery which has a lot of coverage on the internet so I feel it's OK to mention its name here. A distillery, built in the 1850's, which had managed to survive prohibition by distilling medical spirits but was well known for distilling Overholt whiskey. It stood tall and desolate as we approached and it was apparent that it was really nothing more than a shell.
 It sported some recent fire damage scars from 2004 but still managed to create a dramatic first impression. There was a fire here in July 1884 when one warehouse with 600 barrels of whiskey was saved.  The Somerset Herald wrote in their story of July 30, "The heat of the fire was intense, and the flames lit up the country for miles.  Burning whisky flowed down the river.  Twenty-five barrels were rolled away and the whisky dipped up by a mob.  There were hundreds of drunken men."  The detail about hundreds of drunken men may have been the reason why, in 1905, Fire Marshall W. H. Marietta "issued orders that no liquor be given the firemen, saying that it was impossible to drink whiskey and fight fire at the same time."  It was an order that prompted some of the firemen to strike, "but they were not from Connellsville."
Maybe this was remembered years later when another fire broke out in 1905 prompting the headlines, " WILL MAKE OLD TOPERS SIGH. Four Million Dollars' Worth of Overholt Whisky Fed a Fire at Broadford, Pa."
There was still snow on the ground from the previous week and as we walked towards the abandonment, rain and sleet started falling again and the hulk of bricks towered above us.
We took shelter inside and looked around. There's some great photos online of what used to be here, even after it had been left to fend for itself, but there were no relics to be seen now, Plenty of broken glass, graffiti, old boxes and paint pots and bricks but very little furniture or equipment left.
A beautiful old iron spiral staircase could be seen reaching up towards a hole in the roof but we weren't tempted to climb up, even though someone had thoughtfully left a pallet and part of a ladder as a way to start ascending the broken  metal stairs.
I really liked the windows in these ruins but was suffering from a lack of creativity in my shots. I wasn't sure if it was the weather, or the fact that I'm not really happy with the photos from my G15 camera and am counting down the days until I have a new top of the range mirrorless camera. Maybe it was a combination of both. The weather outside was horrid and we had to stay under shelter. I saw a couple of mad men racing up the river in a speedboat, and although they were well wrapped up, I had to question their sanity. i was so surprised to see them I wasn't quick enough to grab a shot.
I couldn't take many exterior shots, the sleet was pretty hard at times. So I walked about and occasionally pulled out my camera for a quick snap and then hurriedly tucked it into my jacket again. It was a little frustrating as the brickwork here really warranted some closer shots. But it couldn't be done.
 We trampled through a couple of outbuildings and then decided to find somewhere warm for lunch and beer. The sleet was coming down harder and we wanted to get warm.
Rumor has it the distillery is haunted by a son whose family murdered him for monetary gain and his apparition has been seen on various occasions, as well as objects mysteriously moving or the feeling of being watched. I wasn't aware of these tales before I went but felt nothing untoward while I was there. The full story is here.
Some more shots and information is here, many photos of buildings now no longer standing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Blind Whino and a Cold School

On Saturday I drove down to DC for my first urbexing trip after returning to the U.S. I was feeling a bit down and not really looking forward to the venue, I was more interested in catching up with friends. I'd been to this church before and taken photos of the outside but today we had paid to be allowed inside.
The building is now an art space which will put on shows, workshops and performances. It isn't an old building, built in the early 1900's so I wasn't horrified at the way it's been defaced. I really don't like the paint job on the exterior, it looks like it was done in haste, but it certainly is eye catching and easily visible from I395. A link to the website is here.
It was incredibly cold when I stepped out of Stuart and ambled over to the entrance. I had bundled up and was about to crack open my hand warmers when I realized that I could feel warmth when I walked through the door. There was heating inside! How great not to be puffing on frozen fingers while setting up a photo. There was already quite a few folks inside and I cheered up immensely when I received plenty of huge hugs and "Glad you're back!" comments. After a few chats it was down to business and shooting the colorful graffiti artwork that covered walls, floors and ceilings.
It was quite luxurious being able to walk around an empty building and take photos with heating on, something I kept marveling over, and we were all very grateful. But after about 90 minutes we were all done and so it was time for the group photo, taken here by Richard, and then we turned our attention to making a very important decision, where we would go for lunch and beer.
We ended up at a nearby bar where we could all sit together and food was brought out. Liz took the photo above. I wasn't overly impressed with the beer. I think I was having a hard time converting back to american beers, flavored with many fruits and flowers and spices, compared to English beer that's mostly flavored simply by hops and water. But I kept working at it and the task was made easier by the accompaniment of the most awesome fries I've had for a long time, (excluding English chips of course). These were straw fries loaded with parsley, salt and fresh garlic. What a heavenly combination and we were all quaffing them down rather rapidly, I tried not to think about how bad our breaths might be the following day...
After we left the bar, Emily, Richard and I decided to try out looking in an abandoned building nearby. It used to be a school and as we got inside it felt as cold as a morgue. We got a fright when a guy suddenly appeared and started rambling on about how he'd been in here before and had knives pulled on him by prospective scrappers. He warned us to be careful, telling us he was a 'friend' of the building and kept a frequent eye on the place. He wished us luck then walked off. We three all looked at each other then continued setting up tripods. But the afternoon was closing in and the light was fading so after a short while we called it a day and decided to go home, saying we'd return another day. The photos below are the only ones that were worth posting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Stroll around Swanage

Nearly all of my days in England had been gloomy but it hadn't worried me at all. I actually enjoyed the dark skies and blustering winds, and of course it also meant mum and I could explore tourist areas without swarms of visitors. We were rubbing shoulders with just the locals and it felt nice belonging to this crowd,
I had been growing steadily anxious because although we had had a delicious meal of fish and chips in a seaside pub, I was really wanting to enjoy the experience of eating them from a proper fish and chip shop where they'd be served in paper. So we drove down to Studland, taking the ferry for a short trip across the Studland Bay to Swanage, where we promptly parked the car and walked to the town center.
We walked alongside the beach where the wind was whipping up the waves. Few people were out today and we were glad to turn the corner and march straight into The Fish Plaice, where we would have our lunch.
A big thumbs up from Mum. We had just the normal size fish and chips, (the large was huge!), and a cup of tea. The meal was divine. I'd forgotten how wonderful chip shop chips are, they just cannot be replicated, and the fish was like a white steak, so thick and meaty and fresh. I was getting so full that I actually remembered to save a few morsels of fish to feed the seagulls with afterwards.
Adult and youngster gulls all clammered for my measly offering and within seconds it was gone.
There was an abandoned cafe on the beachfront with an excellent trompe l'oeil painted on the front. I would have loved to sneak round the back and see if I could get in the building but Mum wasn't even remotely interested, snorting her derision and saying the building was a disgrace and should be razed. So with a little sigh and a last backward glance we carried on walking.
At the top of the hill we looked down onto the bay and saw this wonderful old tower sat next to some modern houses. I walked down and climbed up onto a fence so I could take a photo without the fence being in the image, but was having some difficulty holding on to the fence and clicking the shutter at the same time. Some nearby workmen were building a tall wall or something and offered me a view from their scaffolding. That was much better.
I looked up the history of the tower and found it had a fascinating tale, click here.
Some views looking down from the coast path and the entrance to the pier.
We walked through the town trying to find the old station but took a wrong road. We were glad we did as we came across some very pretty and secluded areas in the middle of town. Tiny bars, a huge teddy bear and picture postcard stone houses with stone roofs and a small river running by their front doors. The window was in someone's garage looking down their garden path.
We eventually found the station but no steam trains were running to Corfe Castle today, only from March to October. It used to run a passenger and freight service since 1886 but the passenger service was withdrawn in 1972 by British Rail. It's now run by a heritage group who revived a 6 mile stretch of the line.
I loved this shop window. There are a few villages and a river in the area with the word, 'piddle'. There's even an award winning Piddle Brewery, who have some very classy sounding beers, website here.
Checking out the old fashioned saucy postcards, I can't believe these are still running, and this bakery window caught my eye with all those lovely pies and pasties on sale.
We eventually made our way back to the car and decided to run the short trip to Corfe Castle.
But it was nearly 4pm when we got there and dusk was approaching. And then as I walked through to the castle entrance I noticed there was a lot of scaffolding obstructing the view. I guess I wasn't supposed to explore it today but there will be another time for that so I didn't let it upset me. I walked back into the village and up the hill where I could grab a photo of the castle with the pub obscuring the scaffolding. And then we popped into The Sweet Shop. I bought a huge bag of Winter Mixture, rhubarb and custard, and sherbert pips. Yum!
And then racing to get home before dark we drove back to the ferry.
Mum holding a postcard of Studland where we were getting the ferry to. You can just see the ferry and Studland in the photo above as we waiting to board.
This was our last outing on my trip. We spent the last day or so being lazy, meeting more neighbors and saying goodbye to her friends. I certainly won't leave my next trip for another 5 years, it will likely be something I now do every couple of years or more if I can afford it. There were definitely a lot of perks doing our trips without the usual tourists around but I think my next visit home will be to see and smell my beloved bluebells.