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.

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