Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Boxing Blues and Ruined Rayon

Melony and I drove up to Philly on a blazing, melting day to photograph an old boxing ring building that has been abandoned for some time and is now earmarked for development. There's been rumors of it being demolished in the near future so not wanting to miss out we set off early. We'd followed the advice of friends who'd already been there and called ahead to arrange entry. There's a security guy living inside who met us out the back where the 1865 brownstones appeared to have already started tumbling down without any help from a wrecker's ball. Windows had been smashed and boarded up and piles of rubble filled spaces that had once been ports of entry. Our 'guide' spent a good few minutes unlocking the various padlocks and unraveling chains while Melony and I patiently waited in the humid and fetid air surrounding us.
Once through, he led us inside where our eyes had to get accustomed to the dark interior. We followed him down a hallway where on the right a TV flickered and garbled in a dark room where I glimpsed a mattress on the floor and a dim lamp, and then we were walking up stairs. He pulled away metal chairs that had been propped against doors, booby traps in case anyone broke in, which looked to be impossible, and then we walked slowly into the main hall. The boxing ring stood in the middle. Bright sunlight cascaded through high windows highlighting the dusty floor and pigeon droppings. Our man walked over to the far side, closed the shutters, and temporarily the room was plunged into darkness. My eyes had no time to adjust as suddenly the lights above the boxing ring came to life, illuminating a blue padded floor sprinkled with fallen plaster and feathers.
 Above show the boxing ring in its heyday. Originally built to house wealthy families, from 1912 the building was a Moose Lodge hosting the world's largest fraternal membership. It became a boxing venue after 1961 and gradually earned respect as one of the top places to watch a fight. ESPN televised fights here for 'Tuesday Night Fights'. Posters of iconic faces once lined the hallways and 1500 fans were stuffed tight into the seats, shouting and cheering in a hot stuffy atmosphere, there was never any AC. Ring Magazine once voted it the Number 1 Boxing Venue and some people said it was the greatest boxing venue in the world. But despite hosting fights with names such as Fast Eddie Chambers, Boogaloo Watts and George Benton to name a few, it's believed that unpaid property taxes led to its closure in 2010.
The gilded wooden medallions decorating the balconies still shone golden as they caught the light, and it saddened me to think this building, which was definitely not beyond repair, and this ring, would likely not be saved, history razed to the ground to make way for an uglier money spinning enterprise.
The old wooden seats were piled up in a corner, all removed from up in the balcony and below. Originally they had wire racks running underneath them so fedoras could be stowed safely. These were in place from the beginning when the Moose members showed movies here.
I wanted a photo of a pair of boxing gloves hanging in the ring, but had to cheat and photoshop them in, rather than buy a pair.
Looking down from up in the balcony, I could almost hear the scenes from Rocky V which had been filmed here, along with Annapolis and some commercials. There were once old stained glass windows but I wasn't sure if these were now covered or had been auctioned off.
We had been given exactly 30 minutes to take our photos and on minute 28 our guide came back into the room, his phone alarm promptly ringing out loud, our signal to pack up. The ring lights were turned off and the window shutters opened, bright, white light dazzling us, and our short moment of being transported back in time was lost. We grabbed our things and followed him out to the gate, where we were amazed to hear him tell us to meet him out front. We did.
 We had planned on walking around here anyway but I wasn't sure that under this burning sun we would have spotted the enormous mural on the side of the building. He pointed it out and also a yellowed piece of newspaper in a window, then left us to feed the pigeons, which, apparently, he does three times a day.
Incidentally, memorabilia from the venue was to be auctioned off earlier this year, including a door autographed by Joe Frazier. The boxing ring itself was thought to  fetch $5-7K but it didn't sell. Plans for it to be turned into a restaurant and hotel were replaced with proposals of demolishment and a parking garage but the building and ring still stands and waits...Anyone for a fight?
The mural outside depicting Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali, painted in 2002 by David McShane.
We cruised around another neighborhood which Melony had seen on a friend's Facebook page and wanted to photograph. It had plenty of murals so sounded quite interesting but I got distracted when we parked very close to a brewery. "Oooh, look, beer!" I cried, casting a sidelong look to Melony, who didn't bat an eyelid or acknowledge this hop filled oasis in any way. So we got out of the car into the blazing heat and pounded the pavements looking at crap which likely a bunch of high 12 year olds had plastered onto walls. most of it was incredibly immature and none of it was great up close. I took a load of photos hoping that by adding some grunge and filters later to them might add some appeal but I failed and so haven't posted any. I walked past the brewery again and stood with shoulders slumped, wistfully wondering if I should just go in anyway and slurp a quick pint while Melony finished her photography, but I knew I wouldn't enjoy my drink under those circumstances so I sorrowfully turned my back on the place and snapped a few more gaudy images.
 We eventually left to grab a cheese steak at Pat's and then drove to our last destination of the day, an old viscose plant. I'd last been here 3 years ago, and it's definitely declined since then.
We barely spent 30 minutes inside. I think the heat was by now sapping our energy and enthusiasm. It had registered at 102F in the car with a heat index of 116F. Creativity was leaking out along with the sweat that seemed to be coming from every pore. I shot my images quickly and we left, striding back to the cool sanctuary of the car, and then home.

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