Thursday, May 1, 2014

Helmets and Petersburg, VA

On Sunday Melony, Emily and I drove south to explore an abandoned helmet factory. It was a little off the beaten track and we had to stomp through plenty of tall grass and undergrowth to get there, so for the whole visit, I was scratching and imagining ticks and other bugs running riot inside my clothing. But on the plus side, the building was wide open as we approached so not having to climb through windows or over walls was a bonus.
Inside were hundreds and hundreds of molds and casings for helmet interlinings. It seemed that this factory was under government contract to make these for all kinds of military helmets. I found a lot of helicopter helmet linings but we also discovered a few outer casings as well.
A room with presses.
The helmets and liners were scattered about inside and some outside, some had obviously not been moved for some time and had dust laden cobwebs stringing across them.
There was a lot to photograph here, great that a lot of the products, molds and labels were still remaining. It was evident that vandals hadn't played a big part in the destruction of the interior. There was also a lot of personal effects as though the building had been used for personal storage at some point, but this was all junk and we took little interest in it.
We left the building and decided to travel in another direction and check out a town that has plenty of history, Petersburg. This city was the site of Fort Henry, an English frontier fort in the 17th century and is also one of the oldest free black settlements in the state. It grew as a transportation hub, being on the River Appomattox River, but seems to have declined some as we came across many abandoned buildings.
These beautiful old houses must once have been grand homes judging by the intricate woodwork. We couldn't get inside but the detail on the outside was extensive. I even discovered some English bluebells growing round the back, and spent a few happy moments on my knees sniffing their fragrance and remebering the blankets of bluebells in Kentish woodlands back home.
Breaker, breaker, no hands!  This cool old gent cruised past in his beat up Buick holding a very intent conversation on his CB radio and holding a can of drink. Using his knees to steer, maybe?
We drove onto the campus of Eastern and Central State Hospital, the first institution in the USA for 'colored persons of unsound mind'.
A walkway between buildings, lined with bars.
The building above was for delinquent females, the top image taken in 1929. The structures were tightly sealed so although exceedingly tempting, we didn't attempt to get in.
A cool BBQ sign. Our next stop was an old school that was closed in 2005. Again it was well sealed so we had to content ourselves with walking around the perimeter and peering in through windows and doors.
We were being lazily watched by a couple of folks who were sitting on their porches and likely glad of something to hold their attention, and as we ambled around, the horrendous honks and squeals of someone badly practicing a trumpet heralded our procession across the courtyards and grass.
We gave up after circling the building and looked at our map to see where to go next. We had the coordinates of an abandoned hotel but once we arrived we saw that the power was still on and it had not long been left vacant. We'd spotted a large Ramada hotel across the way and drove to that.
It had closed in the last couple of years and I actually managed to find some information on line about it, click here. We were able to get inside but it wasn't that exciting. Scrappers had pulled the place apart and roof tiles along with cables hung from nearly every ceiling.
Melody found this cool key laying on the floor, I was a little envious! It was getting late in the afternoon with Emily and I already thinking about beer. We were all thirsty and so headed downtown to the Croakers Spot to drink beer and eat seafood. Cameras were packed away and we sat on the balcony of the restaurant enjoying the warm air. It had been a fine day of exploring.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering wear did you go to explore the old helmet factory. Was it in VA? What city? You mentioned exploring the old hospital in Petersburg, but not the city of the helmet factory. Thank you, and very nice pics.

Nicole Cleavenger said...

I have looked everywhere to find this factory and still can not find out where it was. Any chance you could let me know the location?