The Coney Island 983

In another life, when I used to work as a bank manager, I had a client by the name of Rocky who was the President of the Craggy Mountain Line Railroad in Asheville, NC. Rocky had a long time dream to own and restore an authentic 1930’s New York City Subway car. Before I left the bank to pursue photography as a full time career, I was able to help Rocky get a loan so that when he found a subway car, he would be able to purchase it on the spot. When I left I told him to remember me and call me when he got one because I would love to take pictures of it before he restored it. About six months after I left the bank I got an excited phone call from Rocky who was finally able to get his hands on true to life NYC subway car in Florida of all places! I wasted no time getting out to see Rocky and his new project!

The American Car & Foundry Co built subway car no. 983 in 1935. The car is more than 60 feet long and weighs just under 84,000 pounds. The car was taken out of service in 1975. In 1977 the New York City Subway car was sitting in a junkyard near Coney Island when an owner of the “Nichols’ Alley Disco Club” in Florida found it and decided to use the old car as the ‘storefront’ to his club. He commissioned a crane operator who loaded it on a flatbed and cruised down I95 from NYC to Florida with “Wide Load” signs adorning the rusty exterior.

Historical Image by Ron Bereman http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-jan-springfield-subway-car-mystery-solved

Historical Image by Ron Bereman http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-jan-springfield-subway-car-mystery-solved

Historical Image by Ron Bereman http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-jan-springfield-subway-car-mystery-solved

Historical Image by Ron Bereman http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-jan-springfield-subway-car-mystery-solved

Historical Image by Ron Bereman http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-jan-springfield-subway-car-mystery-solved

Historical Image by Ron Bereman http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-jan-springfield-subway-car-mystery-solved

Nichols’ Alley operated clubs in Atlanta, Orlando, and Gainesville before its largest club opened in Jacksonville, FL. The 983 car was literally inserted into the front of the club where patrons would enter and purchase tickets at the front in the conductors booth, then walk further down the car (and into the dance club), exiting the passenger doors on either side out into the 2600 square foot neon lit disco.

When the club went out of business around 1982, the owner had the subway car moved to a vacant lot that he owned. His plan was to use it as a meeting place for a women’s club that his wife attended, but due to neighbor’s complaints the idea fell through.

For thirty years the subway car slowly rusted away, half forgotten near Jacksonville, FL. When early in 2013, after several years of looking, Rocky’s wishes came true when a friend told him about the car and Rocky was able to purchase it and transport it to the Craggy Mountain Railroad Line in Woodfin NC (Just outside Asheville). Over the next year, Rocky and his team of volunteers will be tasked with an extraordinary feat of overhauling the subway car and bringing it back to life with the goal of actually operating and running it again on the three and half mile stretch of railway they own.

The car’s current condition is “pretty rough”. That’s a technical term that I use, meaning most of the floors are rusted out, doors are broken or jammed, parts and wiring have been stripped out, etc. But the structural foundation is still solid, and with a lot of TLC and blood sweat and tears, Rocky and his team will have it back to new in no time! I plan on visiting them from time to time over the yar to check on progress and take some reference photos as the work on restoring the car. I will be sure to add those images to the blog when I do!

The Coney Island 983 vintage subway car from New York City. The American Car & Foundry Co built subway car no. 983 in 1935. The car is more than 60 feet long and weighs just under 84,000 pounds. The car was taken out of service in 1975. (Walter Arnold)

The Coney Island 983 vintage subway car from New York City. The American Car & Foundry Co built subway car no. 983 in 1935. The car is more than 60 feet long and weighs just under 84,000 pounds. The car was taken out of service in 1975. (Walter Arnold)

The Coney Island 983 vintage subway car from New York City. The American Car & Foundry Co built subway car no. 983 in 1935. The car is more than 60 feet long and weighs just under 84,000 pounds. The car was taken out of service in 1975. (Walter Arnold)

The Coney Island 983 vintage subway car from New York City. The American Car & Foundry Co built subway car no. 983 in 1935. The car is more than 60 feet long and weighs just under 84,000 pounds. The car was taken out of service in 1975. (Walter Arnold)

The Coney Island 983 vintage subway car from New York City. The American Car & Foundry Co built subway car no. 983 in 1935. The car is more than 60 feet long and weighs just under 84,000 pounds. The car was taken out of service in 1975. (Walter Arnold)

The Coney Island 983 vintage subway car from New York City. The American Car & Foundry Co built subway car no. 983 in 1935. The car is more than 60 feet long and weighs just under 84,000 pounds. The car was taken out of service in 1975. (Walter Arnold)

The Coney Island 983 vintage subway car from New York City. The American Car & Foundry Co built subway car no. 983 in 1935. The car is more than 60 feet long and weighs just under 84,000 pounds. The car was taken out of service in 1975. (Walter Arnold)

If you are in the Western NC are be sure to check out Craggy Mountain Line Railroad! They offer a super location for family fun, events, and offer rides to the groups that attend. Please contact them to schedule a group event, they are very reasonably priced!

111 North Woodfin Avenue
Asheville, North Carolina 28805

Phone (828) 808-4877
Email rocky@craggymountainline.com

Website http://www.craggymountainline.com
About
Craggy Mountain Line Railroad is a Non-Profit Organization which owns and operates the last three miles of the historic Craggy Mountain Line in Woodfin, North Carolina, working to make the rails open for the public to ride.
Formed in 2001, Craggy Mountain Line Inc. owns a 3.45 rail line in Woodfin, North Carolina which they are repairing and restoring historical trains and trolleys to operate on the rails for visitors to experience. Craggy Mountain Line is restoring a 5 car train with 2 trolleys-one an original Asheville trolley, two cabooses, and an engine. Though still under construction, the organization’s plan is to have a depot for visitors to purchase tickets to ride the rails, have a meal at the restaurant, and explore railroad memorabilia from museum artifacts about the railroad. For more information on the line, restoration work on the cars and history of the line, visit our website!

Historical images used from: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-jan-springfield-subway-car-mystery-solved

The Tennessee Brewery – Memphis, TN


***Please note: We had direct permission from the owner to shoot here. This location is private property. Do not attempt to visit or access this site. I cannot provide any information regarding access or info of the owners. Thank you :) ***

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South. With more than 1500 workers producing more than 250,000 barrels per year, the Tennessee Brewery was a titan in the beer making industry.  When prohibition hit, operations shut down, but resumed afterwards producing the best known leading beer in Memphis called “Goldcrest”.  The building which was erected in 1890 is basically unchanged today.  The brewery officially closed in 1954. The current owners (who gave us permission to shoot there) purchased it a few years before the 2008 market crash in order to keep it from being torn down. They are holding on it hoping that someone will make an offer to renovate or restore it as a mixed use building



Wiki Images

Above Images from Wikipedia


 

The brewery has other claims to fame beyond beer. A few scenes from “Walk the Line” were actually filmed inside.  Memphis Paranormal Investigations have investigated overnight about 12 times and claim it is one of the most haunted buildings in Tennessee. During our 8 hour daytime shoot however we never felt any unease or heard anything other than the trolley out front coming by every 20 minutes on its circuit. That being said… I’m not sure I would like to spend the night there.

What really struck me as we entered the building was the massive open center shaft of the building which was adorned with beautiful metal worked railings. The windows mostly covered up with a semi-opaque corrugated plastic offered warm pleasing light to the enter the spaces.

As we walked around and explored all the twists and turns and hidden rooms of the seven story building we quickly realized that nothing was left inside, just empty rooms with interesting architecture. This presented a challenge for me as a photographer because many of the images that I take have a ‘human element’ that helps draw the viewer and place them in the scene. Instead I tried to capture the magnitude of the building and the beautiful decaying architecture all around me. I hope you enjoy the imagery:


Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

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Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

 

 

Perched on the Mississippi bluff with the trolley line at its front door the Tennessee brewery was at one point the largest brewery in the South.The brewery officially closed in 1954. (Walter Arnold)

 

 

Ward of the Mississippi – The Marine Hospital

NOTICE: The Marine Hospital is ACTIVELY OWNED, patrolled, and monitored. This location while in state of disrepair, is slated for renovation and development. It is private property and special consideration was granted for us to access it. Do NOT attempt to go here without direct permission from the owners. I cannot and will not provide any information regarding access to the complex.

 

Marine Hospital Video from Walter Arnold on Vimeo.

I recently quit my day job as a banker and made the leap into freelance photography. To christen the major life change, I set out on a two week road trip with my best friend Casey Stern. Casey was also with me when we discovered the Airplane Graveyard in St. Augustine FL (now demolished)  where I was lucky enough to create some award winning imagery including an image of an airplane cockpit which was a winner in Canon’s Project Imagin8ion.  Our plan: to drive two and a half weeks from Asheville, NC to Nashville, TN, Memphis, TN, Hot Springs, AR, Kilgore, TX, Baton Rouge, LA, New Orleans, LA, Atlanta, GA, and then to our respective hometowns (NC and FL).

 

Fast forward to our first major stop: Memphis, TN. I had spent the month’s leading up to the trip researching abandoned, historic, and vintage locations. I made a connection with the owner of an old Marine Hospital in the French Fort district of Memphis who agreed to allows us legal access to the property which was locked up tight from the outside.

 

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)
We met the owner at 11am, provided signed liability release forms, and he let us inside and told us a brief history about the location:
“The history of the hospital dates back to July 16, 1798, when President John Adams established the Marine Hospital Service.  Designed to care for sick and disabled seaman (working on the Mississippi River), it was the precursor to the U.S. Public Health Service… The hospital opened in 1884 and consisted of six buildings – the surgeon’s house, a stable, the executive building, two wards and the nurses’ building. The facility was originally used to treat Civil War soldiers and to conduct scientific research in hopes of finding a cure for yellow fever. Only two of the original buildings survive today, the nurses’ building (located on the east side of the 1930s hospital building) and the executive building (the white building that houses the Museum’s library and permanent collection). Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the 1930s, several new Works Progress Administration buildings were added to the site. To make room for the new buildings, the wards and stables were demolished and the executive and the nurses’ buildings, both of which faced the street, were moved three hundred feet to their current locations on wagons pulled by mules. “

“The largest of the buildings is the three-story, neo-classical brick hospital building that dominates the site. The Georgian-style building has slate roofing, a copper cupola on pedestals, and large limestone columns, capitals, and gutters. It cost $1 million. Although built to serve the needs of ailing seamen, the building has been used by the Coast Guard, cadets of the state maritime academies, members of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, Public Health fieldmen, the Army Corps of Engineers and employees and federal workers injured on duty… “ Source: Metal Museum

 

After unlocking two padlocked gates, and entryway doors, we parted ways with the owner as he allowed us full access to explore the massive complex as we wished. The three story building was a kind of “Y” shape so exploring each floor involved us walking up the center staircase and heading out in all three directions and back to the center each time.  Peeling lead paint, dust, dirt, decayed drop ceiling tiles, and more than likely asbestos particles wafted through the air as we walked around, our footsteps softly stirring up the debris.

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)
The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)
The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)
So many of these old locations are like walking back in time and the Marine Hospital was no exception. Hallway doors had identifying markers on then denoting commanders quarters, supply rooms, and plenty of medical areas, like the operating wing, dental wing,  X-Ray room, etc.

 

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

An old derelict Coke machine sat in a room piled with drop ceiling debris and dust piles.

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

Most rooms were empty, some had connecting hallways with shared bathrooms between them. We poked out heads in each one though hoping to find some vestiges of the former occupants. Suddenly Casey called out to me, excitedly informing me of his discovery!  I walked down the hallway as he ushered me into a room that was obviously the dentistry section of the hospital.

 

The old vintage equipment still bolted to the floor were covered in layers of dust and dirt. One of the units, which looked like a wash basin with  articulating arms to hold dental tools stood near a window… it’s arms outstretched like an abandoned  “Star Wars” server droid who would bring around drinks and food at a bar on Tatooine!  I never was much of a fan of going to the dentist (only looking forward to the occasional chance to space out to some music on my iPhone while sucking down some nitrous oxide..) but  hanging out here with the old vintage equipment in the swirling dust and decay made me appreciate the high tech comforts (and clean surfaces) that my current dental provider treats me to! Nonetheless I totally geeked out over the outdated abandoned equipment and cursed the person who removed the old dental chair that must have been there at one point!

 

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)


The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold Photography)

Just down the hall from the dentistry rooms was the old operating wing where medical tests, operations and exams would have occurred. I got a few cool shots of an old surgical light and some lab testing equipment but you can see some more of the wing on our “Photo Adventure Road Trip Video Blog” if you like (the video blog is also embedded at the bottom of the blog)!

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

After breaking for an extravagant lunch comprised of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and luke warm water we snapped a few images of ourselves in an old rocking chair and delved back into the massive complex.

Walter

 

Casey

 

We headed up to the third floor and then the roof to check out the view.


Last on the list (for good reason) was the basement… And the morgue. Of course it was completely pitch black, dank, dark, dreary, and just a little bit creepy if you stopped long enough to think about it… The morgue had an old embalming/examination slab, and an old florescent light fixture hung just above. In the corner of the room sat two slide-out containment units for the dead bodies to be stored.  After we got past the creepiness factor, we set up the camera and began to “light paint”.  Remember the was NO light down here, but we did have four led flashlights that we were able to play with and strategically place, aim, and “paint” with in the room. Most of the shots in here were 20 to 30 second exposures using the flashlights.

 

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

Of course we also had to get up on the embalming table!!

After shooting the morgue we explored the rest of the pitch black basement and headed back up for our gear.  At this point we had been exploring the location for just about six hours and were wiped out from heat, exhaustion, and  copious amounts of unidentified particulates we had breathed in while they floated around in the air. I used what energy I had left to drag my gear out to the front of the building and photograph a few outside shots of the magnificent campus.

 

The old Marine Hospital in the French Fort area of Memphis, TN. (Walter Arnold)

Aerial View From Google

Old Postcard Aerial View


Lastly here is our “video blog” from the Marine Hospital as produced from the road (so forgive the editing or lack thereof!)

Photo Road Trip Day 5 Video Blog – The Marine Hospital / French Fort from Walter Arnold on Vimeo.

Restrained Reverence – Eastern State Penitentiary

The more I travel and explore historic, abandoned, vintage, and forgotten places, I learn everything revolves around the adventure, the experience, the journey… My recent road trip from North Carolina to New York was no exception. The first leg of my journey took me to Philadelphia, PA where I was to meet up with fellow photographers A.D. Wheeler and Lou Quattrini.  I set out from Hendersonville, NC at the crack of 9:15am and made my way up. My iPhone decided that a simple straightforward trip would not be in my best interest and routed me through the heart of DC during 5pm rush hour traffic.  It could have just kept me on I95 North but instead it took me on a wild goose chase through traffic jams, road accidents, through the slums of Baltimore and then slapped me right back on I95. The three hour detour  allowed for a late arrival to my hotel at around 10:30pm. After checking in I discovered that my right rear tire was completely flat…  So after hauling my bags up to the dingy hotel room I was staying in I called AAA hoping they could patch the tire for me. As I waited for them to arrive I listened to a couple screaming obscenities at each other and throwing things in the room next to me and considered calling the cops but after about 10 minutes the fight ended in silence and I simply figured one of them had killed the other and took solace in the fact that maybe now I might have a peaceful night’s sleep (I’m kidding of course :)  )

AAA arrived a few minutes before midnight and informed me that my tire was so damaged from the object that I hit, that I would need to have it replaced. He put on the doughnut for me as I googled directions to the nearest tire shop. Luckily there was one just 4 blocks away that opened at 8am. Back in my hotel room I all but passed out after the long and crazy day of travel.

My iPhone alarm roused me at 7am and I begrudgingly pulled myself out of bed, showered, and gathered my gear into the car. Before I checked out I used my pass for a free breakfast and a nice Jamaican gentleman directed my to the breakfast buffet and gestured to the food explaining that I could help myself to “All this cool stuff over here!”  So I loaded my plate up with bacon, sausage, some hash browns,  and a cup of yogurt and plopped down at a table. A minute later the same guy ran over angry about something.  He explains that the free breakfast pass was only for the COLD items… Oops!

So after stealing my hot breakfast I dropped my car at the tire shop and one of the mechanics gave me a lift over to Eastern State Penitentiary.  I was the first person there at 9:40am and followed the girl in as she unlocked the prison for business.

Eastern State “was operational from 1829 until 1971. The penitentiary refined the revolutionary system of separate incarceration…which emphasized principles of reform rather than punishment. Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held inside its unique wagon wheel design. When the building was erected it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, quickly becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide. The halls were designed to have the feel of a church.”

Abandoned hallway inside of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia PA. (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

As I walked the long halls which radiated from a center hub like spokes on a wagon wheel, I truly got the feeling of walking though a crumbling sanctuary. If the high ceilings with arched skylights had sweeping frescos painted on them I would have sworn I was in a church. A church with iron bars and locking doors on the end caps of the pews!

“The Quakers were the moving force behind construction of the prison, and they wrote that the exterior appearance should be “a cheerless blank indicative of the misery which awaits the unhappy being who enters.”

 

“During the previous thirty-five years, the reform-minded Quakers tirelessly lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature to build a prison based on the idea of reform through solitude and reflection. The Quakers hopefully and naively assumed that an inmate’s conscience, given enough time alone, would make him penitent (hence the new word, ‘penitentiary’). “

 

“Some believe that the (cell) doors were so small so as to force the prisoners to bow while entering their cell. This design is related to penance and ties to the religious inspiration of the prison. The cells were made of concrete with a single glass skylight, representing the “Eye of God”, hinting to the prisoners that God was always watching them. Outside the cell, there was an individual area for exercise, enclosed by high walls so prisoners couldn’t communicate. Each exercise time for each prisoner was synchronized so no two prisoners next to each other would be out at the same time. Prisoners were allowed to garden and even keep pets in their exercise yards. When prisoners left the cell, a guard would accompany them and wrap a hood over their heads to prevent them from being recognized by other prisoners.”

  (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

Each cell had accommodations that were advanced for their time, which included a faucet with running water over a flush toilet, as well as curved pipes along part of one wall which served as central heating during the winter months where hot water would be run through the pipes to keep the cells reasonably heated. The toilets were remotely flushed twice a week by the guards of the cellblock. Other than a bed inmates had only a copy of the bible to keep them company. The exception to this rule was Al Capone’s cell:

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

The Famous Barber Chair:

An abandoned old barber chair sits in a decaying jail cell at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA. (Walter Arnold)

 

Cell block 15 aka “Death Row” housed some of the most violent inmates in the Pennsylvania prison system. The building was the only one as Eastern State that had electronic door locks. The inmates were only housed here, none of the executions actually took place at Eastern State.

 

 (Walter Arnold)

Over the years only about 100 prisoners managed to escape, most were recaptured but one man Leo Callahan managed to escape completely.

 

I walled the long halls imagining what life must have been like in a place like this. It was around 85 degrees outside but inside with no air moving it was stifling and muggy. I can’t imagine what life must have been like for prisoners during the heat of the summer… Although given some of the horrors that took place at Eastern State in the form of punishments for the prisoners, I’m sure that a hot summer day was the least of their concerns.

 

 (Walter Arnold)

Distant murmurs of other visitors quietly echoed around the halls like detached voices of ghosts of old prisoners giving a flicker of life to the quietly decaying cells.

 

A cross adorns a metal gate to the medical ward inside Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (Walter Arnold)

A cross adorns a metal gate to the medical ward inside Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA (Walter Arnold)

 

The amazing thing about Eastern State was that they kept the majority of the facility in a decayed state. They had done and were doing many repairs but they left the crumbling rocks in the cells and piles of dust and dirt as the were. It was a very odd feeling exploring this place as I am used to exploring locations like these with no one else around. One minute I’d feel completely alone and then next a tour group would pass by talking and laughing. It was a strange juxtaposition for me!

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

 

After a long day of shooting from 10am-4pm we called it quits and the three of us debriefed at Luigi’s Pizza a few blocks down the road and scarfed down slice after slice of delicious Neapolitan pizza. I picked up my car which now was outfitted with 4 brand new tires and hit the road for the four hour drive  from Philly to Elmira, NY. Day one of my road trip was in the bag! I had memory cards full of images, and a head full of stories and history from Eastern State Penitentiary. I could not have been happier!

 

Sources:

http://missioncreep.com/mw/estate.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_State_Penitentiary

The Mason’s Castle – Ghost of the American Renaissance


“The thing that fascinated me about the castle is that everybody thinks that it’s haunted, that people were locked up in the courtyards…None of its true. What did strike me as very unusual is from the time that I’m able to record; no one has ever been able to live on that land. That struck me as bizarre.”
– Dr. Joyce Conroy – Historian

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

When I first heard about an abandoned castle in upstate NY I all but booked my plane ticket before even researching it! The prospect of exploring a castle deep in the overgrown woods of NY was irresistible.  I started researching and making phone calls, and in doing so made contact with a local historian who had done extensive research on the castle and its history. Her name was Dr. Joyce Conroy and she not only provided us with useful information, she also gave us a 35 minute interview in person, and also gave us copies of historical images of the castle for us to you in our write up and video. Here is some of what  we learned from her:

 

Before the castle was constructed, a small hunting lodge called the “Beaverkill Lodge” was built on the almost 1000 acre plot of land. This was built by Bradford Lee Gilbert in the late 1880’s. Gilbert frequented the lodge only once or twice a year and only for a few days at a time. When Ralph Werts Dundas bought the land in 1915, he constructed the castle on  and around the original lodge and then expanded it out from that.

 (Walter Arnold)

 (Walter Arnold)

Gothic windows, turrets, towers, and steep parapeted roofs are just a few of the beautiful architectural features that make the castle an amazing oddity to find hiding in  the woods.  R. W. Dundas was a bit of a recluse but he had money, and dreams of being a Scottish laird. He was married and had a child. His wife was very emotionally disabled, and his daughter was taken care of by a number of nannies.  They visited the site  while construction of the castle was going on but they never  lived there for any length of time. A great deal of money was spent on the inside of the castle. Electricity and steam radiators  were installed in almost every room, an  incredible luxury at the  time. In addition to marble floors and countertops, and porcelain tiles,  there were also reports of a gold leafed  fireplace in one of the rooms.

 

 (Walter Arnold)

 

However in 1921, before the castle could be completed Dundas died, leaving a reported fortune to his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, after his death, his wife was then taken  to a sanitarium due to  her existing mental illness. The daughter was suddenly  extremely wealthy and in need of a guardian. The castle caretakers who were watching over the daughter,  basically robbed her blind. She went  on to get married and eventually headed  over to England with her husband on an expedition to find “St. John’s Gold”. The expedition fell apart when eventually they fired the historians and scientists helping in the search, and hired a dowser/mystic with a willow wand. At this point the daughter’s mental health was called into question and she was subsequently placed in a  sanatorium in England.   The castle changed hands a few times over the years and is now owned by the Prince Hall Mason’s.

 

I flew up to NY and met up with fellow photographer A. D.  Wheeler, and his colleague Jon. We set out on our first day of exploration with the castle set in our sights. We made the trip from Elmira to the site of the castle without knowing much about how to get in or even its exact location. We neared the castle and after a few miles of  unmarked back roads we spotted one of the towers of the castle up on a hill buried deep in the woods and overgrowth. After parking our car and gathering our gear, we trudged up a steep ravine and into a clearing which revealed the outer bulwarks of the castle. It’s gothic windows and ‘witch’s hat’ spires that adorned its towers loomed through the trees and immediately hinted at the mystery and fantastical stories that this location might hold.

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

We quickly ducked in under a beautiful stone archway and into the sprawling courtyard. We all stood in awe of what we were seeing. It was like being transported back to medieval times, as if somewhere in the woods we stepped into Narnia without knowing it. I quickly checked my back to see if any talking beavers or goat-men named Mr. Tumnus were sneaking up on me!  :-)

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

After taking in the awe-inspiring architecture of the inner courtyard we ducked into the first open doorway we saw, and found ourselves in the kitchen of the castle. Tiled floors and marble window sills surrounded  us. Every window and door we encountered was beautifully peaked, and every corner we rounded and room we entered spoke of mystery  and an untold history.

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

It was a strange juxtaposition to be exploring the hallways and rooms of what one would imagine to be a castle out of the dark ages and then notice an old push button switch on the walls which was once used to turn on the electric lights. It was like a modern day fairytale gone wrong. I felt like Alice going through the rabbit hole discovering crazy distorted visions of reality that immediately clashed with my senses and perception of what should and should not be.

 

 (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The majority of rooms were completely cleared out of anything that would have resembled human habitation . The only vestiges that remained were bathroom fixtures, and electric heaters, which only furthered the surrealistic perception that what appeared to be something from the dark ages was still indeed a modern ruin.

 (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

We explored all three main levels of the castle, poking our heads into every room, and even ventured down into the depths of the blackened basement. We spent hours peering into abandoned rooms and speculating on the stories and history that the castle held.

 

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

A few days later we had the  honor of speaking with  local historian Dr. Conroy who donated her time to give us a full interview and history lesson regarding the castle. There are very few websites dedicated to this location and many of them contain historical information that is not entirely accurate. We were able to talk with Dr. Conroy to uncover what was myth and what was factual. She was very generous and donated a number of digital scans of old historic photos of the castle.

 

 (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Castle (Walter Arnold)

 

The Mason’s Castle was an incredible location and a true gem of American history. Please note that due to the fact that the land is actively owned I am unable to disclose the exact location of the castle or provide any information regarding gaining entry. Please do not attempt to visit this location, as it would be considered trespassing. I hope you enjoy the photography and the history!

 


In Memoriam: The Airplane Graveyard


The Airplane Grave Yard was demolished in an unceremonious fashion on 05/11/2011 A metal scrapping company was hired to destroy the lot of 8 planes that inhabited a quiet plot of land just outside St. Augustine, FL.  The current owner listed the property for sale and had the planes demolished and removed.

 

This is very sad for me as a photographer. These planes were a staple of the landscape, the giant tail fins and cockpits looming from the side of the highway for upwards of 30 years. For locals, the landscape has permanently changed.  The once watchful guardians of highway 1 have been relieved of their post with no further standing orders. From a personal standpoint I feel like I have lost quite a few of my dear friends. As funny as that may sound, these eight planes represented much more to me than a decaying hunk of metal in an overgrown plot of land. They had spirit, character, history, and countless stories to tell.  The maintenance dates stamped onto their fuselages told a great history of service to the United States. Whether they were used in warfare for tracking of submarines and reconnaissance missions, or whether they were used for domestic purposes such as fighting off wild fires, there are countless pilots out there that could tell you incredible stories of the missions these planes flew.

 

The planes were housed on this plot of land specifically for scrap, the owner selling off pieces of equipment to be used for newer planes as needed.  As the years went by nature began to take her toll. Vines grew up into the cockpits, propellers, and other vital pieces of machinery were removed and sold for reuse as the planes silently slumbered in the field.

 

The times I visited them became a turning point in my art. I was just getting into Urban Exploration, and photographing abandoned decaying locations. After seeing the sheer beauty that the Airplane Graveyard held, I was completely head over heels in love with the idea of finding and exploring many more locations of its type. These planes embodied everything that I was fascinated with; the juxtaposition of man-made vs. nature, the joy of finding beauty in uncommon places, the oddity of discovering such a unique location hidden in plain sight of us all. The sheer beauty of ‘Nature’s reclamation’ was all around us at the Airplane Grave Yard.

 

I remember exploring all eight planes climbing into and examining each unique cockpit. Some had vines growing up through them, some had broken windshields, some had a strange lichen growing on the glass that resembled blood, but none the less, each one of them was unique, amazing, and full of life even in its decaying state.

 

I guess all in all I spent about 18 intimate hours with the planes over multiple visits. It’s an indescribable feeling sitting inside something like this; listening to the dead leaves rustle around in the breeze, looking at the old bundles of copper wires hanging from the ceiling like vines in a jungle, reading old signs and warnings, and advisories printed onto the rusted metal. I guess you just begin to picture the people that flew these planes, and their lives, experiences, and stories. When you start to envision the glory and excitement of what used to be, and combine that with the saddening decay of what remains, you begin to form a bond.  It is something that is hard to put into words.  Something that when you watch the video of these beautiful machines being ripped apart, begins to have the same effect on you.

 

It’s hard to describe the feeling and emotion I felt while watching the video of the ‘removal’ of the planes. For me it was like watching a friend getting beaten to a pulp and then disemboweled for the world to see. I understand the company that was hired to demolish the planes, performed the task in the manner in which was most efficient, but to watch the video of the planes being rocked back and forth and gutted was just too much for me.

 

After years of looking at these pictures and sharing them with countless people who had flown these planes, it is much more than witnessing a piece of machinery being demolished. This was the loss of a group of dear friends.  With this demolition, I further recognize the importance of what I, and many other photographers strive do; that capturing of the images of such locations goes far beyond the desire to portray the “beauty of decay”. It also grows out of the need to share the history, spirit, and the stories that these artifacts of history stand for.

 

So farewell to the war machines of the Airplane Graveyard.    You will be missed. But your legacy and that of the heroic pilots who flew your missions will live on.

The Silk Mill – Maryland

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

Recently, I was offered a very unique exploration opportunity. I was invited by “Photographer’s for Historic Preservation” to travel to Maryland and shoot an abandoned Silk Mill. A select group of photographers from all over the country were invited to legally shoot this location in exchange for donating to the owner to help preserve and repair his building. The silk mill was in operation from 1907-1957. Construction of the Mill was begun in 1905. Initially, silk was imported from Japan and China and the factory produced silk thread. During World War II, rayon was made. In the 1920s the payroll included over 300 people, but in later years fewer than 200 worked there, and by the 1950s antiquated machines in a small mill made competition with larger facilities difficult. In 1957 the mill closed. Since its closure, the owner has done his best to keep the building intact, but nature and vandals have taken their toll.

I invited fellow photogs, Andy Wheeler and Jared Kay, to come along. Andy traveled from New York and Jared and I made the 8 hour drive from Asheville NC.

We arrived and met the owner, who told us of the struggles he had faced over the years keeping the building up physically and financially. Recently someone broke in and stole thousands of dollars of materials from the location. Leaking roofs, broken windows, and buckling floor boards needed to be fixed, to name just a few of the countless maintenance issues. We made our donation and entered the building.

The massive three story brick structure welcomed us into its former office where we were greeted by our first piece of history; a vintage fire extinguisher.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

This strange hand grenade looking phial on the wall was filled with carbon tetrachloride, a chemical compound used in early fire extinguishers. If a fire broke out you hurled it at the fire and it would (hopefully) extinguish it. These types of fire extinguishers were discontinued due to the hazardous effects of the chemicals on the human body.

Stepping out of the tiny office room and into a vast workspace, we were treated to our first jaw dropping sight: hundreds of rows of silk spinning looms.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

It was overwhelming. There’s no other word for it. It took a moment to get over the magnitude of what we were seeing.  Then we scrambled to get out our cameras  and start shooting!

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

It was hard to miss the bright red buckets hanging from the end of each row of looms, which had FIRE stamped on them in bold black lettering. This was a reminder of how far back in history we were stepping.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

On the end of each row were a faded grimy tag and a label. We learned that each employee was responsible for a different row and they would tag their row (and the finished silk spools) with their label which had their employee number stamped on it.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

The next sight, that quickly became commonplace, was the hundreds of thousands of bobbins that were still sitting in the machines, on the floors, on racks, and in decaying cardboard boxes.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

It was apropos that everywhere I looked were thousands of little spindles, each resembling the core of a film canister that would have been used to wrap film from a camera. The catch line for the day was “These Bobbins are Dirty!” which became a running joke between Jared and me (such as, the two of us leaving a note to housekeeping in the hotel we stayed at complaining about the dirty bobbins in our room) But I digress…

As we walked around we wondered at the amazing relics of Americana the building still held. It was like time stood still here. The mill management had simply shut down the machinery leaving behind everything as it stood the moment they closed and locked the doors.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

Vintage posters advertising workers compensation laws or safe driving habits were found in dusty corners.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

A lunch menu advertising a local eatery was found defaced on the wall.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

Even a dusty romance novel had been left behind!

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

And my personal favorite was a tattered old calendar featuring a picture by Norman Rockwell for the Boy Scouts. I found the old poster hanging face down against the wall in the basement. It wrinkled, bent and torn, but it was a beautiful sight.

 (Walter Arnold)

The second floor held more looms, but they were taller and looked much different from the first floor ones. Some of them looked more like torture devices than manufacturing devices.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

More pieces of history and Americana were strewn about on the second floor.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

After about 3 hours we finally ventured down to the basement through a dark stairwell encased in peeling paint.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

Still more treasures were to be found in the darkened depths of the mill.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

An old scale loomed in the corner.

 (Walter Arnold)

Vintage newspapers lay in a stack of boxes nearby.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

Old labels from Japan which were once included in shipments of silk were found on an old work bench.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

Another one of my favorite finds was an old empty oil barrel, ironically labeled with the words “Gulf Harmony Oil”!  Many more looms, and vestiges of the mill haunted the darkened basement.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

Jared and I spent some more time talking with the owner as we wrapped things up. (Andy had left earlier.) We thanked him profusely for allowing us legal access to his property for the sake of preservation and art. After 5 hours of shooting, we packed our things back into our car (including our complimentary “Dirty Bobbins”!!!) and bade farewell to the Silk Mill.

An abandoned silk mill in Maryland. (Walter Arnold)

The Adandoned Hotel Adler – Sharon Springs NY

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold Walter Arnold)
“The Adler Hotel was a 150-room, five-story hotel in Sharon Springs, New York that was operated from 1929 until 2004. Known for its therapeutic sulfur baths, it catered primarily to a Jewish clientele who travelled to Sharon Springs in the summers. Ed Koch (congressman and former mayor of NY) worked as a busboy at the hotel in 1946.” Over the last few years a company has purchased the location with plans to renovate it, but lack of recent news/plans may indicate that the renovation has been put on hold for reasons unknown. -From Wikipedia

The Adler Hotel was the fourth and final location that we traveled to on our week long Urban Exploration trip in July 2010. Some last minute research by my brother yielded this gem of a location. We drove almost three hours from Elmira to Sharon Springs and had no problem finding the Old hotel on Adler Drive. We parked and walked up to the hotel and made our way in.

 (Walter Arnold)

The lobby had three beautiful sets of double doors with a windowed arch above each. The drapes softened the afternoon light that streamed through boarded up front doors.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The front desk held many interesting relics from years past. An old switchboard that once routed calls for the hotel still had patch cords running everywhere and listings for local businesses that had long since closed their doors.

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

An old phone switchboard in the Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. This image was the grand prize winner in Ron Howard and Canon's Project Imaginat10n and inspired the short film "Out of the Blue" starring (and directed by) Eva Longoria. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

The main lobby divided the ground floor in half and separated the entertainment and the dining side of the hotel. The entertainment wing had a small game room with a few old puzzles and board games scattered around the floor.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The main room on this side of the building was a small theater complete with an old curtained stage which was home to the bulk of the hotel’s old chairs.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

On the opposite side of the building was a very large dining room and kitchen area.

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

We started to make our way up to the second floor and the guest rooms. The rooms were an unbelievable sight to behold. Every room had wallpaper and decorations from the 60’s and 70’s. The various designs of wallpaper in each room always were unique and quite humorous. Some had brightly colored garish designs, others had a silver reflective surface that was almost mirror like.  Whoever was the wall paper supplier for Sharon Springs must have had a hay day installing all these wacky designs.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

Another thing that none of the rooms lacked was a vintage telephone. Most were jet black and only dialed the front desk’s switchboard; a few in the larger rooms had options when dialing out.

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold Walter Arnold)

 

Quite a few factors came together to make the Alder a fantastic place to shoot. The color coordination of the room’s carpet, sheets and bedding, and wall

paper, and the obviously recent use of many of the rooms by squatters and homeless. People who had used these rooms recently had taken the blankets and hung them up over the windows (presumably for privacy and also to keep out drafts in the winter). So in an already green themed room, the sun streaming diffusely through a heavy green blanket, made for magical color tones and light in the scene.

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

We continued through each room in the hotel, some rooms appeared more inhabited than others. We worked our way up floor by floor. It was in the upper 90’s, one of the hottest days of the year so when we arrived at the top floor the temperature became unbearable and we back tracked down the stairs.

 

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

The Abandoned Hotel Adler in Sharon Springs NY New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

 (Walter Arnold)

 

 

-Written by Walter Arnold Photography. Photos by Walter Arnold Photography unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to the fellow photographers who joined me on this trip:

Will Arnold: www.twarnold.com

Andy Wheeler: www.adwheelerphotography.com

__________________________________________

 

Grossinger’s Abandoned Resort – Revisit

To see the images from our FIRST trip to Grossinger’s CLICK HERE

 

Day three of the 2010 Urban Exploration trip: Return to Grossinger’s Abandoned Resort in Liberty NY.

In October of 2009 my fellow ArtByDecay.com photog Andy and I had visited the abandoned Grossinger’s Resort (you can read the original photo-blog here). The haunting beauty of a bygone age echoed from every crumbling room and we were dying to go back and revisit the location armed with flashlights and walkie talkies. This time around my brother Will and friend Dave joined us for the abandoned goodness.

Last year the golf course was fairly desolate because of cold October temperatures, and sneaking in was not a problem. This time in July the golf course was in full swing (pun intended). We opted to simply park on the back road and enter from the side. Slipping in undetected always gets a sigh of relief.

We headed for the outdoor pool first and presented to Will and Dave their first taste of the massive abandoned glory that Grossinger’s has to offer. It was a balmy 97 degrees and exhaustion from the previous two days of exploring was catching up with me so I didn’t take any serious pictures of the pool while we cooked under the summer sun.

We walked around the complex then entered through a side entrance that we had not used last time. We found what might have been a large lobby at one point. The room now held only a scattering of random detritus. On the far side a grand staircase made its way up to a second floor balcony.

We photographed this room and a few side rooms before continuing deeper into the building.

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

We passed a bank of elevators filled with debris. We walked up a small set of stairs and came out to the infamous (in my mind) “Bar Stool Room”. I took a few shots but didn’t think I could outdo my work from October:

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY. Catskills New York (Walter Arnold)

Armed with a flashlight I felt braver than before and pushed further into the building in the direction of the indoor pool. I had only gone about 50 feet when my flashlight beam revealed a fog of humidity and particulates in the air. It was so dense that I was concerned about even removing my camera from the bag. Andy cautioned us to put our masks on as a precaution. As we walked around we realized we were actually below the massive indoor swimming pool. This area at one point was a spa. Directly below the deep end of the pool was a cracked and grimy glass window that looked into the swimming pool. In the adjacent rooms were a shower and changing area for the guests, and a locker room. The giant white shower curtains with the signature Grossinger’s “G” just begged to be taken for souvenirs, but our credo of leaving things untouched and unharmed resonated in my mind, and I opted for a silly portrait to remember instead!

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

The remnants of a salon complete with vintage hair drying chairs stood haphazardly in a dark corner of the particulate clouded sub-level. This area was completely devoid of outside windows was almost pitch black. We set up and shot long exposures of 15+ seconds and ‘light painted’ the chairs with LED flashlights to get the desired effect. It was an interesting photographic experience shooting a subject that we could barely see, while wearing masks, in potentially hazardous environment. We shot for about 10 minutes until we got the right combination of shutter speed and light from the flashlights. Will and I took the opportunity to get some atypical portraits of ourselves sitting in the antique chairs.

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Walt Above, Will Below

After 30 minutes in the Grossinger’s underground we headed up the stairs to the indoor pool.  Grossinger’s pool is truly a sight to see. Even after our first visit, the indoor pool took our breath away.  There is something about the massive space of the area that makes everything feel vast yet confined at the same time. Strangely, I felt a sense of intimacy when in such a large enclosed and derelict space that is hard to describe. We spent a good 45 minutes shooting, composing, and yelling, asking if we were in each other’s frames as we shot. It was a feast of a scene and we devoured it!

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

We headed back out and around the building the way we came in then continued around to the far side. We passed an entrance to a portion of the complex where I remembered a nasty prank that Andy had played on me during our last visit. Now that my younger brother was with us, I figured it would be a perfect time to play a mean ‘older brother’ prank on him! As we neared the entrance I stopped and acted excited saying “Oh! Will, you HAVE to step inside that entrance and look into the room to your left, you won’t believe what you see in there!” Given that it had been more than 10 years since I had played prank on him, he naively obliged and walked about 5 steps into the darkened entrance. As soon as he was fully inside the building, I picked up a medium sized rock, and hurled it through a broken window a few feet to his left! The rock nicked a shard of broken glass still hanging loosely in the window and made a beautifully loud and scary bang followed by the shattered glass clanking to the ground. Will bolted from the hotel, eyes wide and saying words that I can’t mention here! Dave, Andy, and I were cracking up and he soon realized that the joke was on him. I laughed even harder since Andy had done the exact same thing to me during our first visit!

Since the golf course was open we didn’t want to risk being seen by walking out near the road. We were headed to the one location that we had not visited the first time around; the ice skating rink. We crossed through the gigantic dining room. (We had thought this room was the ballroom but a reader of my first blog who had worked at Grossinger’s for many years corrected our assumptions.)

We left the dining room and walked up the steep embankment towards the old wooden building next to the ice rink. As we approached it, we could easily see just how bad of shape it was in. A back door hung from its hinges but we pushed our way through and into the building. The wooden floor boards had rotted away over the years. The floor was very soft and we stepped gingerly. At one point my foot actually broke through the floor. The room was lined with old benches that were shedding beautiful flaking paint in bright red and yellow colors. A large old sign read “North American Invitational Barrel Jumping”. Mosquitoes and high temperatures drove us back out into the hot summer air after 15 minutes.

 (Walter Arnold)

We left the ice rink and went back through the old dining room. As we reentered the dining room, we noticed a gap in the ceiling that permitted a very thin beam of late afternoon light to enter the darkened space. The beam shone brightly through the dust and debris hanging in the air and made for a beautiful shot.

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

One of the members of our team (I will withhold names) happened to have a pack of cigarettes on them and we took advantage of the opportunity to make an interesting artistic shot with the wafts of smoke flowing through the light beam.

Grossinger's Abandoned Resort Liberty NY Catskills New York. (Walter Arnold)

 

We walked back to the car and bid a fond farewell to the “Titanic” of Urban Exploration. The return to Grossinger’s did not disappoint and we captured some new scenes as well as re-shot some of our favorites parts of the resort in a different season. Even in the killing heat of summer, Grossinger’s was alive in spirit. Countless ghosts, memories, and stories lurked around every decaying corner of the complex. Hopefully the images captured here will spark your own memories or conjure up stories even if you have never been to Grossinger’s.

 

-Written by Walter Arnold Photography. Photos by Walter Arnold Photography unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to the fellow photographers who joined me on this trip:

Will Arnold: www.twarnold.com

Andy Wheeler: www.adwheelerphotography.com

__________________________________________

Scranton Lace Company – Scranton, PA

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)

 

The Scranton Lace Company’s operations spanned two centuries of American history, ending production in 2002.

During its heyday in the early 20th century, Scranton Lace employed over 1,400 people and was the world’s largest producer of Nottingham lace. It had bowling alleys, a gymnasium, a barber, a fully staffed infirmary, and owned its own coal mine and cotton field.

Founded in 1897 in Scranton, PA, the company used looms that were made in Nottingham, England, stood nearly three stories tall and 50 feet long, weighing over 20 tons. During World War II, the company expanded its production line to include mosquito and camouflage netting, bomb parachutes, and tarpaulins. After the war, the company returned to producing cotton yarn, vinyl shower curtains, and textile laminates for umbrellas, patio furniture, and pool liners.

In recent years, the number of employees dwindled to around 50, with annual sales averaging $6 million. As mechanized looms replace manual, Scranton Lace joined the ranks of craft-style textile manufacturers in shutting their doors. – From: http://www.scripophily.net/sclacucope.html

 

We woke up the day after exploring the St. Nicholas coal breaker, still sore, tired and picking coal dust from between our toes. Will, Andy and myself hopped in the SUV, and headed down to Scranton, PA.

Andy had done a drive-by of a few weeks back and noticed video cameras around the building and a few posted warning signs, so we weren’t entirely sure of what to expect. A fellow photographer had given us some access tips so we were relying on that information.

The neighborhoods surrounding the Lace Company buildings didn’t seem too bad. We circled the massive buildings twice before parking on the street.  Gear in hand, we trekked along the side of a large building that spanned at least two city blocks. We followed our access instructions and slipped into the complex undetected (or so we thought).

The complex consists primarily of two massive buildings, side by side, with a long ‘courtyard’ running between them. The total footprint of the buildings were over 288,000 square feet! The courtyard was quite overgrown and we waded through waist high weeds as we searched for an entry point into the buildings. We passed old loading docks, and walked under large enclosed walkways that connected the two buildings from the second floor.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
We came upon a old wooden door and found it unlocked. We entered a large room filled with the old looms we had read about. These giant, black, two story machines lined the room and were dimly lit by a bank of grime covered windows. Most of the looms still had lace threads strung and ready to run. One in particular actually had clean, white, half-woven lace still sitting in the machine! It felt like they had simply shut down one day, closed the doors, and never came back.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
I climbed one of the ladders onto the second level of the looms, stood atop wooden planks and stared down the line of machinery . From there I could see thousands of threads running through the loom were organized by huge sheets of punch cards riddled with small holes for the needles to pass through. It was an amazing sight to see.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
Along the side wall, thousands of sheets of card stock hung from a massive rack. It reminded me of a vintage mainframe computer, holding massive amounts of binary data. On or off… Hole or no hole… Either the needle falls through the hole or it is blocked by the card, and after hundreds of lines of ‘code’, a pattern is made. After a moment of study, I could detect patterns in the sequence and arrangement of the holes, indicating the repeating pattern of the fabric they once would have woven.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
After shooting the loom room, we ventured out into the rest of the building. We made our way through a labyrinth of windowless hallways, poking our flashlights into dark rubble filled corners. We came to a massive two story warehouse. As we entered the room we heard distant echoes of murmuring voices. We froze and listened. The mumbled voices were above us! Slowly I walked out into the center of the room, my shoes crunching on the tiny shards of broken fluorescent light bulbs.  Suddenly, an eruption of birds from the air ducts and rafters above us settled the mystery. The voices we heard were the muffled coos of doves that had made the old air vents their home. Our hearts slowly settled as we realized we were still alone.

The space was rich with details–wooden boxes stamped with the company emblem, old safety posters, even an R2-D2 robot-like machine! I noticed a VHS tape lying in a pile of junk. I flipped it over and found it was an instructional guide to the original Windows 3.1. The computer geek in me was greatly amused.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
Finally we found a way up to the second floor. The paint on the walls and ceiling of the stairwell hung in sheeted tatters as if the walls were shedding brightly colored pages of a book.

SONY DSC (Walter Arnold)

First thing we encountered was the heat and we immediately started sweating. We came to a packing room. Conveyor lines on either side of the wall ran at least 70 yards to a stock room. At one end of the room we found a funny old sign that at one point used to light up depending on what production was traveling down the conveyor lines. We speculated as to whether the lace company actually supplied Wal-Mart with fabric or if it was a joke denoting the high quality production (black tie) versus the lower end production (Wal-Mart).

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The supply room was filled with row after row of empty wooden racks. The heat in there was like a blast from a furnace compared to the rest of the second floor and was utterly unbearable.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
I managed to stay in long enough to get this shot looking straight down the center of the racks. After just 2 minutes of standing there shooting this image the sweat was literally pouring out of my body as if I was in a sauna.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
We continued wandering room to room shooting, all the while wondering where the famed bowling alley was located. We found one of the elevated walkways that we had walked under in the courtyard. We headed across and were faced with a choice to go up or down. We chose to go down knowing it would be cooler on the first floor.

The second building by comparison was not nearly as wide as the first but it was still a pretty big place. We explored the first floor but found no sign of the bowling alley or any other paths to take. We went back to the walkway stairs and up into the hotter second floor.

We came out in what at one time must have been an employee recreation area. A wide hallway filled with stacks of the coded punch cards presented itself to us.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
With a touch of irony, the walls were covered with photographic wallpaper depicting a lush forest scene.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
Directly off the hallway we discovered the gym/theater. A basketball court was filled with old personal-sized sewing machines and fabric. One end of the court had a large theater style curtain drawn across a small stage. Up and above the court on one side, were rows of movie theater style seating.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
I walked down a small hallway behind the stage and discovered a kitchen. Large stoves, ovens, ranges, and pots and pans filled the room.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
As I was shooting the kitchen I turned and noticed a beautiful scene that was picture perfect before me. The kitchen was lit by large banks of windows. Outside of the windows a flock of pigeons were roosting on the ledge. The lower windows were frosted so they could not see me. The silhouettes of the birds framed in the panes of the old windows and the warm diffuse glow from the colors outside, made for a lovely shot. I quietly called Andy and Will in to check out the scene.

 

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)

As the three of us stood there shooting, a very loud, low, deep BOOM shook the building. We stared at each other, listening for follow up noises. It was hard to tell where the sound had come from but it had been very loud. We had felt it. A minute passes and we heard no other noises. We speculated that it may have been a large metal bay door slamming shot, or maybe someone lit a M80 somewhere nearby. It was the day after 4th of July after all. A little nerve wracked and startled from the explosion we continued on.

The room adjacent to the kitchen must have been the old cafeteria, but now was a repository for hundreds of waist high stacks of more of the punch cards used in the looms. It was staggering how many there were.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
We found an old spider infested arm chair and had to get portraits of each of us. Notice the giddy look on my face. I’m like a kid in a candy store. A dark, dangerous, abandoned, spidery candy store.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
 

Portraits by Will Arnold

From Top to Bottom:

Walt

Andy

Will

We turned around after taking our portraits and…there it was… THE BOWLING ALLEY! A four lane bowling alley complete with pins and dozens of old bowling balls. Old score cards still littered the floor.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. A set of old bowling pins sit on an abandoned bowling alley. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
We had a blast shooting in the room, and before we left we actually each bowled a frame. I scored six, Will got seven, and Andy (the showoff…) rolled a strike! I blame my six on the fact that I was first to go and my ball cleared debris from the lane, allowing for my fellow photogs a cleaner roll!

We had been shooting for a solid 4 hours and at this point we were completely drenched in sweat. We decided to head back down and start to pack up. When we reached the old wooden door we had come in through we stopped in our tracks. It was propped wide open with a piece of wood. Our minds started racing, that boom we heard… there was definitely someone else here. We headed out into the court yard for a look but didn’t see anyone. We decided to shoot a few more shots of the outside of the building before we left.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)
It was at this point that our real fun started…

We exited the grounds and walked back onto the street running behind the building. We stopped on the sidewalk to take a few snapshots of the “Scranton Lace” sign on the old entrance.

The Abandoned Scranton Lace Company in Scranton PA. (Walter Arnold)

As we were shooting the sign, a large black SUV cruised down the far end of the street. As it approached, it slowed to a crawl, almost stopping right next to us. Inside were two unfriendly-looking guys with shaved heads, and white tank tops on. They eyeballed us with intent. We took the hint and started walking back to where we had parked, about 150 yards away. As we walked off, they disappeared around the corner. We were about halfway to our car when they circled around the building a second time. Again they slowed down and glared at us as they passed. At this point we started getting nervous, jogged to the car. We agreed that we would just throw our gear in the trunk and high tail it out as fast a possible. No sooner had we reached the car and started pulling away, when the two thugs rounded the building a THIRD time… They fell in directly behind us and proceeded to follow us. We drove away from the building making several turns hoping to lose them.  They tailed us for a few more miles until we reached the highway and then peeled off in a different direction as we got on the highway….

We all breathed a sigh of relief thinking that we had dodged a bullet (possibly literally!) It was at this point that I realized–I had lost my glasses! I knew I had them on me when I left the lace factory and now they were not in the car. They had to have fallen off during our flight from the factory.  We turned around and headed back down the very road where we were just chased out of town. At our original parking spot, Will and I jumped out and began frantically searching. Andy kept the car running and drove along side us on the street. Thankfully, I spotted my glasses on the sidewalk about halfway back toward the factory. We jumped into the car and sped off! Laugh about it now, sure, but it was a pretty scary situation, and we felt very lucky to have gotten away without a confrontation.

All in all Scranton Lace was a fantastic location to shoot, and we had quite the adventure.

 

-Written by Walter Arnold Photography. Photos by Walter Arnold Photography unless otherwise noted.

Thanks to the fellow photographers who joined me on this trip:

Will Arnold: www.twarnold.com

Andy Wheeler: www.adwheelerphotography.com

__________________________________________

Airplane Graveyard of St. Augustine, FL

I was in Gainesville, Florida this January to visit one of my best friends, Casey to see his performance in the play Closer. While there, we made plans for a trip to St. Augustine (his hometown) to do some head shots for him and to seek out interesting locations. I had seen a picture on Flickr of an old abandoned airplane near St. Augustine. We did some research and found Agnes Lopez. She specializes in wedding photography, but she had done a photo shoot at the location we sought. I emailed her asking directions. Not 30 minutes after I clicked send, she called me and was more than happy to point the way, but not before warning us that it was on private property and we should be careful. (She was very friendly and her photos are brilliant!http://news.agneslopez.com/) We later learned that the planes are Grumman S2 Trackers, naval bombers from 60’s and 70’s. They were one of the first aircraft designed to combine the detection equipment and armament to hunt and destroy submarines while operating from aircraft carriers. These particular planes (the S-2C’s) were outfitted to preform photo reconnaissance work as well. The planes and property are owned by a local man who had bought them and stripped the parts to sell to the local Grumman company.

The next day Casey and I set out on a mission to get him some rockin’ head shots and to find this airplane. We pulled up in the parking lot of the pier on St Augustine Beach and the familiar cool crisp smell of the ocean filled my nostrils. Casey had 4 pictures of himself that were taken about 10 years ago at the same location and one goal for the day was to recreate those shots. An hour and a couple hundred shots later we started packing up, but not before meeting and talking to Casey’s sister and mother who joined in a few of the shots.

After lunch at the Gypsy Cab Café it was time for the airplane. Casey called a friend who said he knew exactly where the planes were. PLANES? There was more than one??? Yes, according to Greg, there were at least eight! With my energy and excitement now ramped up, imagining what this place might look like, we picked up Greg in a CVS parking lot and headed off.

Not five minutes down the road we saw the giant tail fins of an entire graveyard of old war planes looming across the highway from us, and sure enough there were many of them in plane sight (sorry had to do it…).

Plane Grave Yard-001

We U-turned and made a slow trip past the fenced property. I noted that there was not a single ‘NO TRESSPASSING’ or ‘PRIVATE PROPERTY’ sign anywhere. Greg spotted a large opening in the chain-link that provided easy access to the planes. Equipment ready we parked and slipped quietly into the overgrown lot.

Plane Grave Yard-006

As we stepped through the brush we walked on and around old pieces of the planes, tires, wings, control boxes, and the occasional beer can. At the first plane I came to I saw that, being aircraft carrier planes, the wings were folded over the top. The engines and propellers had been removed from this particular plane and the nose was missing, but the fuselage was intact.

Plane 22

Plane Grave Yard-005

As we walked under the wing, we came to a small access hatch that was barely big enough for a hobbit to step through without ducking.

Plane Grave Yard-015

I stuck my head inside the plane and looked around. The interior of the midsection of the plane had been stripped of all equipment leaving bundles of wire hanging from empty compartments like jungle vines.

Plane 25

My mind raced with possibilities for the countless amazing shots inside these planes. This was my heaven, these are the photo ops that I live for! The beautiful contrast of industrial, man made decay juxtaposed against the slow progression of nature taking over again is a subject I love to explore.

The plane looked stable enough, so I turned to Casey and Greg. “I’m going in! I just want you guys to know that if this plane collapses and I die, that I will have died happy!”

I hoisted myself up into the fuselage of the plane through the hobbit door and crouched there a second, making sure everything was stable. Thankfully, it felt solid as a rock. From the low ceiling, to the wire bundles that hung like ropes, to the protruding rusted metal parts, everything screamed tetanus! Casey carefully passed my tripod mounted camera up through the hatchway to me. Hunkered over, I slowly made my way up to the cockpit. What I saw was sheer beauty. Over the years, vines had wound their way up through the windows and skeletal nose of the plane and draped the inside of the deteriorated cockpit. The seats had long ago been stripped of their padding and were now bare metal repositories for dead leaves and debris.

Plane 5

Plane 32

Half of the windows were still intact and hazed over by years of grime and fungus, and the other half were either gone completely or partially shattered, giving a broken jagged view of the other sleeping planes half hidden in the surrounding trees and undergrowth. The instrument panels were largely stripped of gauges and dials. Above me, levers, switches, wires, and buttons speckled the ceiling of the cockpit. With the nose of the plane removed you could see right through to the ground below. As I rattled off my first HDR inside the cockpit I thought to myself “Abandoned school buses, eat your hearts out!”

Arcsoft Panorama 3edited warped

I proceeded through the airplane graveyard with Casey and Greg who helped point out interesting shots and helped me in and out of the planes as I explored each one, getting shots of every cockpit and interior.

Plane 13

Plane 1

Plane 7

Plane 4

Plane 17

Plane 33

Plane 30

Plane 29

Plane 15

Plane 11

Plane 23

Plane 6

Planes aged blur

AP GY-004

AP GY-002

AP GY-003

Plane Grave Yard-004

We occasionally heard voices from the nearby houses so we kept as quiet as possible. Greg had seen a cop car drive slowly by a few times but they never stopped. After I had my fill of HDR shots, Casey suggested that we do some shots of him inside a plane. The bombed out cockpit made an awesome backdrop for some unique portraits.

Casey1

casey2

We even relaxed enough to have a little fun with some of the shots as well.

AP GY-005

Before we headed out Greg assisted the brave and foolish Casey up onto the tail fin of one of the planes and we did a few shots up there as well.

Casey-003

AP GY-007

Back in the car, I was exhausted but still on a natural high from exploring the planes. I couldn’t stop talking about how amazing the experience was and I couldn’t wait to see my shots. For good measure my dad and I returned to the graveyard two days later, just to be sure I had thoroughly explored all the possibilities. All in all this ranks in my top five favorite photo shoots. The locals say the planes have been there for at least 15 years, so when I return they should still be there, resting with the other retirees under Florida’s tropical sun.