Thursday, December 26, 2013

O Street Mansion, DC

On Saturday I drove down to DC to explore the O Street Mansion with friends. I've been wanting to visit this place for a long time and was excited to see it. As I took photos of the front Brian and Kimber both turned up at the same time from different directions. We were meeting others and to me it was a good omen when we all arrived within a few minutes of each other.
 This heavily loaded Christmas tree was the first thing we saw when walking in to the house and is a great example of how the rest of the house will be, there was stuff everywhere, on every shelf, on every wall, in every corner and even above. We met with the owner who explained that 5 houses were joined together, many levels to explore and we could try to find our way around, with secret doors leading to other rooms, staircases and closets. We were free to roam everywhere apart from those doors that forbade entry and everything we saw was for sale with prices that could be haggled.
 This amazing chandelier was the next thing that accosted my eyes as I looked around. I've never seen a light fitting as huge as this one in such close proximity, it was begging to be touched, and was made of glass. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
 Another chandelier photo taken from below.
And there was a bar so you could buy a drink and walk around with it.
This sign proclaimed that the hat was $1800, and 'don't even think about touching'. I touched it. Note the bust above with smudged lipstick!
And this was one of the secret doors, hidden in the bookcase, which led to another of the houses next door.
There were many bathrooms all over the house, in different themes and which we were welcome to use if needed.
There was an abundance of guitars once owned by various artists. This was signed by The Rolling Stones.
The center of operations. This guy was actually working but people were milling around his desk, staring at things around and at him, picking up pieces from his desk and rifling around in cupboards. I was one of them, it was a fun experience. There is another secret door behind him to the left which is a mirror from this side but just a black wall from the other.
Upstairs across all the house were different themed bedrooms or suites, costing hundreds or thousands to rent for an evening. Many comprised of a large bedroom, a sitting room, a bathroom and a kitchen area. We saw some that still had unmade beds and used plates in the kitchen, it was a weird feeling roaming about these areas, almost as though we were trespassing. Those rooms which had been booked for that evening had signs on the doors saying not to disturb, but I only spotted a couple of those. I liked this suite with its huge circles decorating the rooms.
This is the John Lennon suite but I wasn't that impressed with it, although I liked his face projected on to the bathroom floor from above.
A rather sumptuous bedroom, albeit a little too masculine.
This was my favorite suite, a log cabin theme. I was ready to move in, It felt wonderfully welcoming.
The walls were completely covered everywhere with pictures and mirrors. Some of the artwork were prints or photos or were created by local artists. There were also many mirrors placed in places that could confuse a person approaching by implying a hallway continued in a direction that it actually didn't. And every little corner or cupboard was lined with shelves which were crammed with books, records, knickknacks, lamps, just stuff. There was so much stuff that it was overwhelming, a sensory overload, so that after about 30 minutes of trying to look at all the stuff, we gave up and concentrated on just finding our way around while ensuring that we saw every room. Good luck to anyone that spent too long at the bar, after a couple of drinks they'd never find their way out of here, you had to have your wits about you.
In the Beatles Room, I loved this juke box. Apart from that fantastic chandelier downstairs, this was the only thing that captured my attention but I didn't even bother to look at the price tag, I knew it was out of my league. I actually thought many of the items here were overpriced.
One of the many signs that we saw on our way round, they were stuck on closet doors and cupboards, declaring that these openings were not secret doors.
These were steps leading down into a kitchen area in the basement of the house, a really cool trompe l'oeil.
Bottles of wine were stuffed in amongst books and ornaments, the wine was for sale.
We all regrouped in the entry lounge and checked with each other that we'd seen every room. But after checking the website, I knew there were rooms I'd missed but I was too done in to go back and try to find them. I was pretty certain that I'd been through 7 secret doors although there were supposed to be a lot more than that but I wondered if they were all actually doors that you could walk through or were maybe just small doors that you looked through. Brian had paid extra for the Chestnut Tour which amounted to him being shown a chestnut tree growing in a patio out back, apparently something that city people were amazed at, but apart from that he was on a self guided tour like the rest of us.
I was disappointed with this place. At first it had seemed like a magic land, feeling like Alice going through the looking glass, and the thrill of being able to randomly  explore with very little restrictions made me feel like an excited child, but after an hour, it was all a little too overwhelming and the rooms just didn't have enough in them to keep up that magical feeling that I'd felt at the beginning. I'd been expecting more fantastical images and decoration, more stuff to gawp at, but apart from a couple of items, there really wasn't anything that I saw which amazed or enthralled me, and when I inspected some of the shelves' contents, it really was just junk, and a lot of it. And after walking around and around, traipsing through rooms and along hallways, making sure I hadn't missed anything, it felt more like a chore and less of a fun experience. It was an interesting afternoon and a unique place but I don't think I'll return. The website is here, and even that when you first click on it is overwhelming, and a little trashy. But this is just my opinion and the mansion has high reviews. I think maybe I'm just a little too organized...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Rayon Mill in PA

On Sunday I got up at 4:30am as I was meeting Urbexia for a trip to PA. It was a very slippery ride down the hill but I guessed most of it would be gone when I got back home since the day was supposed to warm up. We all bundled in to 2 cars after meeting up and headed north. We were meeting one of Richard's friends who was going to take us around an abandoned viscose factory.
Viscose or Rayon was the first man made fiber, a cheap fabric which had the look of silk. Rayon was made by chemically treating cellulose from wood or cotton to create a thick liquid called viscose, which was extruded through small holes into an acid bath that solidified the fiber. The building at the site in which this process had been used has already disappeared; residue of the acid had eaten its way into the wooden floors and walls causing the building to collapse, so it was demolished completely.
Our guide, John, also mentioned that another lady had been going to join us but had to drop out as she'd become ill. Apparently her father had worked here until the late 70's when it had closed down and he had lost his job. His marriage had also disintegrated and overcome with depression he had climbed the smoke tower and jumped in. She had asked John to show her the place where he had worked.
We walked in pulling out tripods and flashlights. There was silence except for the clicking of tripod legs along with a few hushed whispers, then it was down to serious work. 
Sure wish a 50c breakfast was still available these days...
Records going back to the 50's. It was wonderful how unblemished the place was, no graffiti anywhere and no senseless breakages, just the damage of time, where plaster had fallen from the ceilings, walls had crumbled and rust had textured the metal.
I didn't realize this at the time, but they're standing in front of a HUGE cigarette!
Looking directly up at the ceiling and lamp.
Looking through office cubicles.
I so badly wanted this pretty shade, amazing how it had remained pristine after all these years.
We found a sad bunny downstairs, looking as though he was sobbing from being abandoned.
Upstairs, looms and other machinery stood silently with bobbins and yarns scattered about the wooden floor.
Icicles hung on the walls and from the ceiling, and a cold wind blew in through a broken window.
It was great to get a some group shots, these came out really well, one from Huguette and two others from John.
Many rayon factories created men's socks, women's stockings, lingerie and dresses, then tire cords, particularly during WWII. After the war, the demand decreased and there was strong competition with other synthetic fabrics, such as acrylic and polyester, so many of the factories produced cellophane instead which was manufactured in a similar way to rayon, both being made from cellulose. Ultimately a combination of environmental pollution from this kind of manufacturing and the production of cheaper artificial materials that had a much shorter production time led to the closure of many plants. Today scientists believe that cellulose molecule can be obtained directly from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide meaning a cleaner method of production, so rayon may make a comeback in the U.S. It is currently still made the old way in India, Canada, Laos and China.
An interesting article on rayon.