Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Bridge to the Film and Chapel

Jeff and I got together on Saturday for some local exploring. I'd previously heard of the urban legend about the Bunny Man Bridge in Clifton but had never been there. It was quite a novelty to drive only a short distance to our destination, compared to the hours and hours which I'm usually accustomed to traveling.
The bridge was down a quiet country lane and looked as though it had quite recently been painted, but somebody had seemingly objected and some areas had been scraped to reveal colorful strokes of graffiti paint underneath.
There's different versions of the Bunny Man Bridge but I liked this one the best, the 'facts' supplied and earnestness could almost make it believable after a few renditions around a camp fire. The bridge has appeared in a TV program, Scariest Places on Earth, and there's plenty of different accounts on the internet, along with various quirky images. I loved the one above.
It was hard to get into the spirit of things though with a freshly painted tunnel and bright sunlight beating down. We took photos from all angles and I did eventually manage to capture a 'ghostly image' while Jeff was shooting towards the other end!
Apparently there is a little truth in the tale as in the 70's, supposedly, a guy was seen running around the neighborhood in a rabbit suit, and also a bunny suited chap was threatening folks who trespassed on his property as he wielded a hatchet, reports that have been colorfully and imaginatively embellished since. We were harassed by a grumpy female as we took photos, implying that we were illegally parked, and she looked remarkably like an older, crosser version of the girl in the image above. So who knows? But I don't think I'll be back on any dark nights to see if the tale harbors any truth, I was kind of glad it was a cheerful sunshiny day.
We went on to revisit an old building locally that we'd nosed around 6 years ago. Nothing has happened to the property despite being sold but we did discover that the place had been completely ransacked over the past few years since we'd been here. The old trailers out back had gone but now the house was wide open, its interior totally ravaged, boxes of paperwork and machinery thrown and hurled everywhere, furnishings broken yet somehow the windows had been left untouched so the building was still dry inside.
A film processing company, operating since 1955, had once been here, specializing in all kinds of security cameras and film types. I'd even read that they had been the instigators of the ID card but there's little evidence of the company now on the internet.
We didn't stay long, the place had been so trashed, and this kind of disrespect bothers me. I fail to comprehend the necessity for such wasteful expenditure of energy with this senseless destruction.
So we trundled along graveled country lanes, looking for anything quirky that warranted a photo or two, then came across an old church which had been on my 'places to visit' list.
Bull Run Chapel in Haymarket was built around 1914 by the 8th Regimental Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who strove to memorialize the 8th Virginia Regiment soldiers of the Civil War. They used this building as a monthly meeting place.
Despite being covered with creepers that appeared bent on trying to pull the wooden structure to the ground, the building is still sturdy and it's a shame the current owners are doing nothing to preserve it. Trees had grown close to the walls, looking like a barricade around the old place, and it really was quite possible to drive straight past without noticing it if you didn't know it was there.
I did manage to find this description of the building along with a survey letter stating that the poison ivy was doing a great job of protecting the structure and that it could certainly be restored but that was back in 1999, and obviously was information that wasn't acted on.
The woodwork inside was beautiful, pine slats in a herringbone pattern covered the walls and ceiling, the workmanship to be revered still in this day and age where details such as these are too costly or time consuming to consider. The broken windows still held a few panes of ruby and gold glass, the afternoon sun casting rich colors across the floor, now strewn with old cushions and sadly, an old piano that had been flipped onto its back.
Apparently the place is haunted, there have been stories of voices heard at night and white orbs floating on the grounds. We didn't bump into or hear anything sinister as we took our photos and I was a little disappointed not to see any turkey vultures occupying the place as I'd read about online.
As the sun dipped towards the horizon we headed back to Centreville, said our farewells, and then I drove the short drive home, with plenty of time to water garden plants, feed the cats and finally finish the evening on the patio with a glass of red, listening to the tree frogs and cicadas heralding the approaching twilight. Bliss.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Heat is On in Philly

I was up early again on Sunday and heading back up the road towards Philly again, this time to meet the crew for a scout around an abandoned power station. It's been many years since my last trip to another station, Port Richmond, so this was a welcome opportunity. There's something alluring about these huge, vast skeletal old power houses that just beckon anyone with a camera, and we were excited to see inside.
Taken in 1954. Note the huge lettering on the side.
The hulking Neo-Classical building with its 8 rusting smokestacks looming above it was built in 1920, designed by John T. Windrim and W.C.L. Eglin, who also designed Port Richmond. It eventually closed in 2004. It was referred to by locals as 'the Monster and the Monstrosity' and apparently looked dismal and eerie as it chugged and coughed out plumes of black smoke. It's designer saw it differently, as an architectural showplace, and even suggested that people might mistake it for an enormous public library. I have to agree with Mr Windrim, being a lover of industrial buildings, and as we trudged up and down countless stairs it certainly felt like the gargantuan structure that it was, and definitely bore a strong resemblance to Port Richmond.
This was uncannily proved correct when we entered the main control room. Even though I'd never stepped a foot in this building before, I knew my way around these rooms and knew what machinery would be around the corner before I turned it, it was the same layout as Port Richmond. And this also proved to be true down below in the turbine hall. It was an odd feeling.
We trod carefully around the control room, blueprints and manuals strewn across the floor. The heat in here was thick and heavy, it was another hot, humid and sticky day. My forehead dripped onto the dusty floor as I adjusted my tripod and across the room came constant heavy sighs from Margie as she tried to deal with our stuffy situation.
We made our way into the heart of the building, down dark, narrow corridors into enormous spaces where now rusting machinery sat silent but had once been oiled and running smoothly and no doubt very noisily. Corroded metals and concrete had dripped deposits onto the floor, stalactites hung from the ceiling and safety rails glistened with chemical and mineral crusts.Bright sunlight forced its way through cracked and smashed windows casting white dazzling patches in the gloom and the heat was still intense down here. My t-shirt clung to me like a second skin and I was extremely pleased that I'd swapped my Timberland boots for a pair of thin sneakers that morning, aware that my feet would be more vulnerable but unwilling to spend 13 hours plus with hot feet.
I loved this corridor shot, and even more, loved the breeze that blew past me as I set up my tripod. That spider's web blew back and forth, looking like it had been there for eternity, but then got caught up in a tripod leg as I passed through the door, causing me to muffle a squeal, but the spider whose abode it had once been had long gone. I couldn't go too far down that corridor anyway, the rusting floor had corroded in places and I wasn't going to test its weigh bearing ability.
We eventually found our way into the turbine hall. The turbines themselves had been removed and the ceiling wasn't a patch on the Victorian splendor of Port Richmond's but it was still an impressive first impression as we walked out into the vast room, the 115ft ceiling above us.
I had wandered away from the others and found myself in a huge dark room filled with enormous vats and then found other corridors. I was exploring these when I heard laughter and a door banging. We had been making every effort to be as silent as possible since we didn't want to be found out and also because we'd heard that there were some folks living in the building, and had indeed found an area that had been barricaded. I walked quickly back to the main turbine hall to the others where shortly after we were hailed from above where 3 guys wanted to know how to get down to where we were. I gave then vague directions and we decided this would be our cue to leave.
 Picking our way across the roof, we came across this perfectly formed Christmas Tree. Incredible that it's surviving, and even thriving, up here with its roots gigging deep into industrial decay.
We heard loud banging below us, and wondered if those guys had been scrappers, so we picked up our pace heading to the exit. We were amazed to find a throng of 'tourists' outside, picking their way through the rubble and looking for entrances. And then by the gate was a couple grabbing their cameras and walking through to the building without a care in the world. It won't be long with these cavalier attitudes before the place is secured tightly again.
When the power station was first closed down, the plan had been to convert it into offices, but years passed, it changed hands, and the latest development idea is 2 hotels and with ballrooms large enough to hold impressive receptions. We'll have to just wait and see, there's obviously no sign of money being spent so far.
Cool drone footage here. 
The first thing we all wanted once we were in the car was Slurpees, and as soon as thirsts had been quenched, the next port of call had to be for beer. And oh joy of joys, I hooted when Emily announced that the nearest bar would be the brewery that I'd stood outside yesterday, sulking and lamenting about all Saturday afternoon. So I ecstatically skipped inside once we arrived. What a perfect place. Lots of beer, fabulous food and gloriously icy AC. A little piece of heaven!
Later, back in the car and heading homewards, we stopped off at Chester, it had looked a run down community with a possible personality that warranted a few photos. We actually found it to be an incredibly friendly little town, with folks inviting us into their art project and antique store, an art gallery and even a small theater. We were invited to cross the road for a cold one in the Gold Room, which we did, but we were also warned not to be out at dark with out cameras.
Most of Chester appeared to be falling down but there was obviously a lot of history here. Originally a town settled by Swedes, its population worked in shipyards and automobile manufacturing, and later the power station we'd just been exploring. Chester was also where Bill Haley and his Comets came from and where they held their headquarters. As dusk fell we made sure we were back at the car, and then it was the long journey home to Marshall. I only just made it into bed before my heavy eyelids fell shut for the final time that evening.