Friday, July 7, 2017

Inspections of Interest on Independence Day

On Independence Day I met up with Andrew for a day of exploring. Despite having known him for nearly 10 years, this was our first trip together and not with a group. We were checking out an abandoned power plant, hoping we'd find a way in but soon discovered that even though it had been out of commission for a few years it was tightly barricaded. But it was still photo worthy, so we pottered about, snapping some shots.
But that infernal sun was relentless, the air thick and sticky, so after walking about in the open, our enthusiasm waned after a while and it was back to the cars to ponder our next move. The power station would have to go on the 'to do' list, something to look forward to in the not too distant future we hoped, now that interesting derelict buildings are so hard to find.
We drove a while to reach our next destination, an abandoned stone ;mansion' built in the early 1900's and once used as a tuberculosis hospital and also a boys' reform school.
The inside had plaster and paint peeling and chipping from the walls and ceilings, piles of dust, yet surprisingly no obvious signs of vandalism. It was wonderful to see no graffiti at all, no discarded paint aerosols, or the usual litter that accompanies this, piles of bottles, cigarette packs or smashed items that had pointlessly trashed. The floors were a little soft so we stepped carefully through the rooms, watching where we placed our feet. An old arm chair, still bright orange, had only known of dust occupying its seat for years, and with a shredded lamp shade, its tatters moving gently, above it, this had obviously once been a favorite reading spot. Other furniture was stacked up in the hallway, sofas, cupboards, tables, maybe once on its way out to be disposed of and then left instead. A wheelchair sat in a sunny corner. All of this gave a friendly air, not one of the usual creepiness found in empty dark buildings. Except for the infernal flies. They were a constant presence, buzzing loudly and annoyingly close, zipping back and forth throughout the rooms and around our heads. I will admit that I'd hoped to myself that we weren't walking through the place of a murder. Who knew when someone had passed through here last?
The staircase was beautiful, every intricately carved baluster intact, the handrails still visibly smooth though coated in a thin film of dust.
We found the cause of the flies near the TV room, a poor demised and now, totally dehydrated, raccoon, and I was grateful we'd missed the suppurating carnage that had evidently spawned the flies in the first place. 
I loved the hallways in this place. Only a few areas had colored walls but some of the corridors seemed very narrow and were fun to photograph.Some of the rooms had been lined with thin wood, which had now rippled and warped. I kept looking at it in case it moved.
We came across a rather curious collection of telephones, all neatly arranged on shelving. I wondered if they had been placed thus when the building was being vacated, or whether a fellow explorer had taken some time to set up a photo. Regardless, we loved it and snapped away. I nearly fell over what I had first though was an old dodgem car in a hallway until Andrew informed me it was actually a learner driver simulator. I'd never seen one before but apparently some states had them in schools to teach children early driving skills and a driver's awareness.A great idea, and a shame the money for this scheme was scrapped, judging by the traffic accident figures today.
We finally crept back outside, having left no mark of our presence, and was instantly pummeled by the blistering heat as we exited the gloomy ruin, it felt like the rays of a stun gun. Walking around the outside, we commented on the workmanship that had gone into the construction of this building, noting the detailed wood work and plaster work, even the finish on the pointing between the stones in the walls. We also spotted that some of the window lintels had been replaced so were optimistic that possibly a restoration may be about to start.
Our next stop was an abandoned military camp. Now abandoned, apart from a few people renting homes, who will have to move out as their leases expire, the campus has a weird empty feeling about it, almost as though it was an empty film set, and it also has an interesting history, full details here. I would have loved to have been around when it was an ice company. I can just picture the heavy sooty smoke from the steam trains floating down to carpet the original lake in the early days when it was an ice-making company. As a military camp, spies trained here and it was also a testing site for Agent Orange.
 We drove about the camp, spotting another vehicle with an older couple doing the same as us, and wondered if they were once stationed here and were now reminiscing. I found the empty houses and overgrown play area more interesting than the many stone structures here, appearing like faux castles with mini turrets and battlement walls. These were the camp facilities, the officers club, a kitchen, and offices.
 The latest development plans are here, and since over 1700 jobs were lost at its 1998 closure, I expect the community welcomes a new venture. 3 years ago, less than 400 people over 16 years old, which was about half of the local population were employed. A venture of bottling the local spring water had even been suggested as a new purpose for the old camp. The area had lost its recreational business, a bowling alley, a movie theater and a golf course all closed.
Despite the new 'town center' bringing money and jobs back to the community, there are still a few people opposed to the idea. The last tenants were supposed to be out by July 1, but we saw some were still in place. There is a petition to suspend any development until the public have been allowed to vote. Concerns about Fort Ritchie being a historic district and not being preserved are being voiced. There is even a memorial site there with sands from Normandy Beach. I have to sympathize, the idea of a town center or typical urban sprawl makes me shudder. I'll have to keep an eye on this camp's development.

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