Archives for: 2006

12/04/06

Permalink 08:45:39 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 1258 words   English (US)

Wellington Military Academy

Recently, Silverstreak and I had a chance to visit a place that I had been wanting to go for awhile now. It's a little drive from the St. Louis area, so we loaded up the car with our gear and plenty of coffee and hit the road.

I knew what city the school was in, but had been unable to find an adress before leaving, so I wasn't sure exactly where I was going. We drove around for awhile, trying to aim for the areas where we assumed a military academy might be located (what those areas look like, I was never quite sure). Finally, after backtracking awhile, we saw a sign that said "Wellington Military Academy" and had an arrow. Frick! I wished I had seen that when we drove through that area the first time, because after being in the car for so long, we both REALLY had to pee.

I parked the car, grabbed my gear, and did the "boy, I sure have to pee" shuffel, where one can't really walk upright or at a full pace anymore. We passed an Episcopalian church, and Silverstreak got a strange look in his eyes.

"You're Episcopalian, right?"

"I sure am!" I said. I'm always Episcopalian when I have to pee and they have the nearest bathroom! Unfortunately, it seemed they were having choir practice, and we didn't want to interrupt.

After walking another block or so, we arrived at the academy. My awe at the size and beauty of the place would have to wait until we found a suitable corner for which to drain our respective dragons. Having done that, I was able to step back and admire the historical school and its many impressive buildings.

Silverstreak and I wandered around for about an hour through the snow, admiring all the old buildings and peering through windows. This academy is the most well preserved location I have ever explored; There are books still in the library, magazines in the rooms, and furniture in the President's office. For this reason, I have changed the name of the school, although I am sure with a little digging one can figure out what the school's real name is. "Wellington" Military Academy was the oldest military school west of the Mississippi River when it closed in 2002 due to low enrollment and poor management of finances. The school is now owned by the city in which it resides. The city is very interested in preserving the historical aspects of the school, and has refused offers to sell the property, probably because the intentions of the new owners didn't preserve this historical integrity. As Silverstreak and I began seeing the many interesting features of the school through the windows (the library was a big one), we knew we had to find a way in. I even had him boost me up to an ancient ladder on the side of one of the buildings, hoping it would lead to a roof with some sort of trap door, but as I got to the top I realized that he roof was steeply slanted and had rounded clay tiles. There was no was I was walking on that, especially since it was covered with ice! These are probably things I should check BEFORE I climb up four stories on a 100 year old ladder (I have no idea if it was 100 years old, but it was that old in my mind when I was at the top of it!).

Finally, after much trial and error, I found a way into the main administration building. As Silverstreak and I began to wander around, we seemed to mutter "Oh man!" after every corner. This place was FULL of history, and there was practially nothing in the manner of vandalism or tagging. It was pretty apparent, though, that when the school closed four years ago, many of the buildings must have been in pretty advanced stages of disrepair. There is no way walls crumble in four years of neglect. Some floors and areas were much worse than others. We walked through the President's office and admired the large fireplace and bay windows. We were especially impressed with the library, with many books and magazines remaining. Much of the school was tagged with lot numbers, and we assumed that a lot of the furniture was sold off at auction when the place closed. I guess much of it just wasn't wanted, though, because so much remains to this day.

The famous round tower of the admin building was especially interesting, with the lower part housing a room with bookcases in the library. The upper room, however, is a shower room! It must have been so great for the guys to get together in a circle after a hard day and shower in a room with windows on all sides! Yahoo!!!

After the admin building, I was psyched to check out one of the other buildings. After much scouting, I found a pretty easy way into the largest building on the campus. The only problem was that it was in an area pretty visible to the surrounding homes. I didn't think it would be much of a problem, but Silverstreak seemed to have different ideas, and began reminding me of our original plans to continue on to check out some sights in Jefferson City. At first I wasn't sure why, after seeing how awesome the first building was, anyone would want to pass up the oppertunity to see another of the buildings. Then I realized that Silverstreak was suffering from an affliction that he commonly develops whenever he thinks there's a chance he may be caught or injured. It's a condition known as Spontaneous Vagina. This is actually a medical term used to describe when a dude suddenly becomes a woman. Luckily, I had brought his medicated salve, and we were able to continue. I made a quick dash and dove into the opening I had found, and Silverstreak soon followed.

The second building was obviously not as old as the first, but still contained many interesting areas: the theatre, ceremonial drill floor, and cafeteria. On the fire escape windows on the upper floors, I saw signs reading "This building is off limits. Those found in violation will be brought to disciplinary board under Colonel 'whatever'." Apparently, this building was being renovated the year the school closed. Many off the upper floors had been stripped and there were large "construction area" signs. Not really fearing a board with the Colonel, we continued up, and then down to the basement. We found the Quartermaster's area, where cadets would have been issued their uniforms and supplies. Sadly, this is one of the only areas that was completely empty aside from a few cleaning supplies.

After seeing the theatre, Silverstreak was extremely glad that we had explored the second building. A theatre was one of the places on his list of "things I'd like to explore." After we exited back into the snow and wind, we both decided that it was time for us to depart. It had been a long, cold day, and we had quite the drive ahead of us back to St. Louis. There are still many buildings at the school that I would like to return and explore. I'll have to allot more time next visit. With so much history, I hope the city remains selective about who they consider selling it to. There's too much legacy there to waste on turning it into apartments or some crap like that.

09/25/06

Permalink 02:13:55 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 498 words   English (US)

Soap Plant

Oh how I love massive industrial ruins. I visited one recently that turned out to be quite spectacular. Unfortunately, I am unable to find very much information about its history. My dad actually tipped me off to this place. He told me that one summer growing up, a he and a buddy worked at a factory where they manufactured soap. That was all I needed, and I set off to see how much of this place was still there. Much to my delight, the buildings themselves are all still there, however most of the equipment has been removed. As you can see, this place is a gigantic monument of cement and steel, ascending anywhere from eight to ten stories in some areas.

The interior of the buildings are large, cavernous open areas that once acted as warehouses or space for large industrial soap machines. While pretty much empty, I could not help but be amazed by how far these rooms seemed to stretch. My dad had remarked to me how, during one of his workdays there, could easily disappear for hours at a time and find a nice spot for a nap. It is easy to see how this would be possible.

In most places, the buildings are in pretty good shape structurally. However, if one weren't paying attention, he might find himself falling through a hole in the floor where large pipes once carried soap in different stages of the process between floors. Some of these holes go down several stories. At one point, I was near the top of the main building on a catwalk that used to run next to where one of the large towers used to be. I hardly ever get afraid of how high up I am, but standing on a catwalk where you can see the ground nine stories below you is enough to make anyone a little uneasy. There are a few areas near the top of the building that have been damaged extensively, mainly the parts that used to house the large towers that are part of the soap making process. I find it hard to believe that the elements could have damaged the building that much, so I assume that this damage occured when the towers were being removed.

The soap plant is located in an area of the city that is mostly residentail, so it is strange to see such a large complex jutting out above all the nearby homes, cemetary, and park. The roof of the plant offers some amazing views of the entire metro area. I could easily pick out landmarks from all the different areas of St. Louis, and used this as an oppertunity to utillize the camera's super cool panoramic function (sorry, but this site doesn't support 360 degree panoramics).

I believe the plant has been closed down for about ten years. Interestingly enough, it still smells like soap, which is a nice change after visiting numerous buildings that smell like mildew and ass.

09/19/06

Permalink 12:10:42 am, Categories: Urban Exploration, 600 words   English (US)

St. Louis Power Building

On the same day that Chris, Hunter, Wolffy and I checked out the Goodfellow Plant, we actually began our exploring at the St. Louis Power Building (which I have changed the name of, because the building is in such pristine condition and because it is fairly high profile). This is one of the more interesting abandoned buildings in St. Louis, in my opinion, if for no other reason that its spacious open areas and intact switches.

I had been to this building on a previous occasion, but because it was after dark I had not been able to take any photos. I am always afraid my flash will attract too much attention. On this occasion, however, I was amazed at the space and feel of this building. I spent hours there with two fellow explorers that I had met doing an article for the Riverfront Times wandering the many subterranean areas and tunnels. One part in particular intrigued me: a shaft in the basement with a ladder leading down into the darkness. A large hose also ran into the shaft. Out of the three of us, I was the only one willing to climb on and descend into the shadows. As I began to climb, I looked at the walls and noticed that they were not smooth, but appeared very rough and uneven. I couldn't tell because of the darkness if this was a man-made or natural shaft, but I was struck by the water that seemed to be running down the walls. It was as if I was getting rained on. After I had climbed down (and this is not an eggageration) about five stories, I looked up at the other guys way above me and for the first time was regretting my decision to follow this ladder into the unknown. This was one of those ladders that was extendable, and I became nervous thinking about what would happen if it suddenly collapsed. I would be at the bottom of a pit five stories below the basement of an abandoned building in the middle of the night. At the bottom of the ladder, I emerged into a large flooded chamber. The ladder continued down into the water, but I couldn't tell how deep it was. I don't know what this chamber was or why someone was going to considerable lengths to pump it free of water, but when I visited the power building on this occasion, the water in the chamber came up to the ver top of the shaft. I guess they had given up on draining it. There were a number of other underground tunnels and passages that we found on that night, and many that appear to have been bricked off. We also found a trapdoor to the roof, and spent a long time watching the barges pass by on the river and admiring the St. Louis nightime skyline.

The St. Louis Power Building was built in 1901 for use in supplying energy for the 1904 World's Fair. In 1945 it was converted into a transformer and switch house and operated in this capacity until it was decommisioned in 1978. All of the transformers and switches are still there, although it seems that many of the parts have been removed to render them inoperable.

There are plans for the building's future, and it has been cleaned up considerably. There is very little debris or decay in many area, and the yard equipment in one corner suggests that the building is not really "abandoned." I am excited to see what is done with this building, considering its history and strange beauty.

09/05/06

Permalink 07:58:40 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 769 words   English (US)

St. Louis Army Ammunition Plant

A few weekends ago Chris, Hunter, Wolffy and I met up for some relaxing weekend exploring. We began north of the Landing inspecting the many empty warehouses there, finally realizing that most of them are pretty darn secure. We did, however, find a building that appeared to be empty that had a doorbell at one of the entrances. When I pushed it, we all stopped dead in our tracks as the sound of a siren echoed within. For a minute I thought that the owner of the building had set a trap for curious explorers like us. After ringing the bell again, though, it was apparent that the sound it made was in fact a siren. How cool is that?

After a little discussion, we decided to head a few miles down the highway to a gigantic abandoned munitions plant, somewhere I had wanted to explore for an extremely long time but had never had the courage to actually explore....and for good reason. If you live in St. Louis and use the interstate highway system at all, you are familliar with the munitions plant. It is RIGHT off the highway and getting to it requires walking through a very spacious and very in-the-open empty field. I finally convinced myself that motorists on the highway were more interested in keeping their cars on the road than on what was going on at the abandoned plant, and we headed out.

The St. Louis Army Ammunition Plant was built in the 1940s and used extensively for the production of ammunition during World War II. It was later reactivated and used during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The site continued to be used by different Army Reserve units (mainly the other newer buildings on the site, not the large plant building) until it was finally closed down in 1998. I have heard that the site is still owned by the military and that there are plans to raze it in the future, but I don't know anything more specific than that. One of the guys who accompanied me on that day was driving by a few days later and said he saw a number of guys with hard hats onsite walking around. Perhaps we visited just in time. This seems to usually be the case for me: I visit a place, and then two weeks later someone begins a renovation project.

The guys and I found an easy entrance point into the property after very little searching. Right away I was a little nervous because the cars on the highway were RIGHT THERE, but we had come this far, and I was "sure it's fine." The main building was massive. There was nothing in the way of old machinery inside. I'm sure that the government gutted the building fairly well when they abandoned the site. The catwalks were still intact, however, and after very little time I was ascending a ladder to the very top of the structure. From this vantage, one is given an amazing panoramic view of how huge the munitions plant really is. Sadly, none of my comrades had balls enough to join me on the highest catwalks. How I longed for White Rabbit's company.

After spending a good hour at the main building, we made out way to the newer long buildings at the other end of the property. Here we found buildings that seemed as though they had not been abandoned for too long, but that were completely ripped to shreds. It appeared as if a group of people spent a lot of free time making sure to bust up every ceiling tile, every toilet. We also found a number of used condoms. I find it interesting that someone would ever take a girl to a place like that and think, "Wow, this disgusting abandoned building is really turning me on!" But I am proud that they remembered to wrap it up. I just hope the laid a blanket down so the didn't get fiberglass insulation rash all over their butts. It was in the newer buildings that we found one of the more interesting and unexpected parts of the site: the massive underground areas. In the basement of one of theses buildings, we found a utility tunnel that led to an unending labyrinth of pillars and rooms. It was apparent that these area stretched all the way underneath the active buildings adjacent to the plant. These areas will require future explorations, I think, because we just didn't have the time on this day. As long as work doesn't begin in the near future, I'm sure I'll return.

08/15/06

Permalink 07:47:54 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 762 words   English (US)

Noah's Ark

I was quite lucky to have some time off from work a few weeks ago, so Silverstreak and I decided to make the trek to Mt. Ararat in Eastern Turkey to see if we could find any remains of the biblical Noah's Ark which is commonly thought to have landed there after the Great Flood. Unfortunately, the Turkish government wouldn't cooperate with our expedition, so we were forced to return home without even attempting to find the Ark.

In a strange twist of fate, it turns out that Noah's Ark did not land on Mt. Ararat as the Bible hints, but actually landed just off of the Missouri River in St. Charles, where it apparently had the perfect atmosphere for a resteraunt and until a few years ago was famous for having the best food in the St. Louis metro area (other than Eat Rite).

It wasn't terribly difficult to find, what with the plaster animals right next to the highway, and because it is attached to the Noah's Ark Best Western Hotel. Considering how much the thought of eating a meal in a boat that at one time must have certainly been full of animal poo makes my mouth water, it is strange that the resteraunt closed down a number of years ago. The Ark itself remains empty as does most of the hotel, aside from the first floor which is serving as office space for the Show-Me Aquatics company.

Silverstreak and I made our way into the interior of the Ark, which in many places is completely in ruins. There were a few glasses still hanging from the fixtures in the bar area, but most everything else is either broken or missing. This site is unique for me because it is one that I actually visited as a child when it was open. Most of the places I explore I was never able to see during their heyday. I remember eating there while looking at a large display case at one end where scene from the Bible tale of the Ark had been recreated in a sort of museum of history way. The case/scene is still there, although the animals and scenery are now gone.

The upstairs was much more interesting, with another lounge style bar, dance floor, and piano still remaining. From this floor we were able to reach the bow of the boat, where we had an excellent view of the St. Charles skyline (quite impressive, let me tell you). Silverstreak seemed to recall that after the Ark had closed as a restaraunt, it remained open for awhile as a bar called Tony's. We actually found the flourescent sign from that time upstairs, and after examining it realized that it must actually been called "Captain Tony's." The bathrooms also had some of the coolest wallpaper I have ever seen. It was so cool, in fact, that I really hope that when I get married some day, my wife will allow me to have similar wallpaper in our bathrooms. Nothing helps me to urinate better than thinking that I am being watched by multiple lions.

As we were leaving, we decided to check out the hotel. I knew that it was in use by an aquatics company, but we felt like walking around anyway. In the back parking lot, we found an old van painted as a zebra to represent the restaraunt/hotel. Man, would I love to find the owner of that van and make him an offer! It looked as though no one was driving it, since the plates expired in 2005.

The plan, as I understand it, is to tear down the hotel and restaraunt to make room for come condos, a movie theatre, an outside skating rink, and a water therapy center for the aquatics company. Who knows if and when that will happen. I do know that there is going to be a battle of the bands on the property soon, so you should all come out for that. It also appears that the St. Charles fire fighters are putting on their "Haunted Hotel" there again this halloween, but I would skip that because I heard it was pretty weak.

It will be sad to see the Ark go. It's been a landmark in St. Charles for years, and one that I remember from my childhood. Unfortunately, because of the shape of the Ark, restoring it might be too costly. You can see some pictures of the site when it was operating at this site: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tips/getAttraction.php3?tip_AttractionNo==769

07/02/06

Permalink 12:49:56 am, Categories: Urban Exploration, 356 words   English (US)

Camp Crowder

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days at the, dare I say, legendary National Guard installation known fondly as Camp Crowder. It is located less than two miles from the major metropolis of Neosho Missouri, near Joplin. As you may be able to tell from my tone, I wasn't too enthused about my time there, but I did have a chance one evening to drive around the back areas of the camp, where I ran across an old abandoned section. What the different buildings once were, I can't say. Military installations are always a mix of new, old, and REALLY old and somewhat forgotten buildings. Sometimes, you even end up living in the forgotten buildings!!! Camp Crowder saw its heyday around the time of WWII, when it was home to the US Army Signal Corps, and was exponentially larger than the small Reserve training area it is today. Along with Camp Clark to the north, it was one of the places that Japaneese Americans were sent and esentially imprisioned by an unreasonably frightened nation after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Isn't history fun, kids?!

The main building I found appeared to be some kind of garage or vehicle maintenance shop, judging by the large "garage" type doors. Further down the old abandoned road there were some more buildings, including one that housed four or five large metal tanks. Were these fuel tanks at one time, or perhaps something more sinister.....like toxic mutant waste?!

Although it's still in use, one of the coolest parts of Camp Crowder's hidden areas is a large training site used to teach military police how to run a prisoner of war camp. It's basically a mock field prison, complete with guard towers and razor wire. I was only visiting, but was stripped and de-loused nonetheless. So bittersweet.

So many cool hidden sites to see.....that's why all of you should run out and join the National Guard. And, if by any chance, any one of you is actually taking me seriously at this point, let me know. I totally get money if I get someone else to enlist!

06/05/06

Permalink 04:11:05 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 471 words   English (US)

The Clemens House

Matt and I spent the morning a few days ago attempting to visit a couple of sites that had been on our list. I didn't find what I thought was an easy way into the Munitions Plant on Goodfellow, so we headed to the city to visit the Clemens Home. I had seen this place a few times before, but never stopped because of its location in a fairly high traffic area on a busy street. It had always seemed too visible, but a few guys I met while on an exploration a few weeks ago told me that they had been there a couple of times, so I figured it was high time that I, too, paid the Clemens House a visit.

The Clemens House is the historic home of James Clemens Jr., who was either an uncle or cousin of Samuel Clemens (and for those of you who didn't attend high school, Samuel Clemens was better known as Mark Twain). The main portion of the home was constructed in 1858 (note: that was before the Civil War!) with an addition on 1888. The Chapel was built in 1896 by the of St. Joseph of Carondelet when they aquired the property after the death of James Clemens. They remained the owners until 1979, when the building began to change hands quite a few times. Many different social groups used the site until around 2000, when it was finally vacated.

It wasn't completely vacated, however, as Matt and I definately ran into someone on the uppermost floor of the home. I was going up the main staircase by myself when I heard a door slam. I yelled to Matt to see if that was him. It wasn't, so I very casually returned to the previous floor. We were going to continue on and just not go upstairs until we started to hear voices. We figured it was better to leave that part of the house alone. I didn't feel too let down, because it seemed like most of the main house was uninteresting....and completely in shambles.

The chapel proved to be the most interesting part of the site. Matt and I spent a long time in the chapel taking photos and admiring the architecture that was beautiful despite its state of decay.

Many say that the city should not worry about saving the Clemens home since Samuel Clemens probably never spent any time there. I don't know if that's really the point. There are few buildings in the city as old or as beautiful as the Clemens Home. Sadly, the company that owns it has yet to stabilize the sagging columns of the front porch, and looters have stolen much of the priceless ornament off of the exterior. I can only hope that someone does something to save this place soon, before it's too late.

06/02/06

Permalink 02:39:06 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 376 words   English (US)

Wet Willy's Water Slide

A few weeks ago, I helped a friend move to Fenton for the summer. As I was driving home, I decided to stop by the old Wet Willy's Water Slide, which has been abandoned for several years now and has become a haven for enthusiasts of skateboarding and street luge. It is more than apparent after visiting this place that while it may be abandoned, it is far from forgotten. I know that a few of my friends and I have talked about visiting in the winter after the first big snow and trying out some disc sleds.

I had no problem finding the slide, although it is very well hidden this time of year being at the top of a hill and almost completely swallowed by vegetation. There is not anything left to see as far as buildings except for the pump house at the very bottom of the slide. I am told that the main building used to be at the top of the slide, but there is nothing left today. I walked up and down the slides, imagining how much fun it must have been to have ridden it during its operation. I remember riding a similar slide in Chicago during my childhood. It was unbelieveable fun until one fell off of the provided mat and got all scraped up by the concrete of the slide.

It is amazing how much the surrounding brush has reclaimed the site in just a few years. Some parts of the slide are not even visible anymore, having been completely covered. I think it's a cool place, despite the fact that it is not really very historical or anything. If I had any kind of skateboarding skills, I'm sure you'd find me shredding it up on the slide during the weekends. Unfortunately, my skills are somewhat limited to photography and walking - and not at the same time. I'm not sure how much the police in the area are worried about kids hanging out at the slide. Judging by the amount of graffiti and beer cans left about, I'd say not very. And why would they be, unless kids start breaking their legs. On a 200 meter concrete slide with a viscious incline, I just don't see that happening.

05/14/06

Permalink 11:55:26 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 534 words   English (US)

Demolition of River Roads Mall

The demolition of River Roads Mall has been in the planning stages for some time now. Nearby Northland Shopping Center met its fate last year, and everyone knew that it wouldn't be long until River Roads joined it. Like Northland, River Roads is that unfortunate age that is too young to qualify for historic tax credits, but too old for restoration to be feasible or worthwhile (especially considering the economy of the city of Jennings today). I had heard from someone who works for the company that now owns the property that it's time had come, so I made it a point to visit this location for the last time this weekend.

As I drove up, it was apparent that demolition was well underway. The first satellite store that I saw was nothing but a concrete skeleton. Fortunately, this seemed like the only part that work had started on, as far as destroying stuff goes. As I entered the interior of the mall, much of the debris and junk that used to litter the floors and hallways seemed to have been piled up, or removed completely. Large piles of trash that has been removed from inside the mall dot the parking lots, but it's strange that they remove all this stuff when the building is just going to be coming down on top of it anyway.

The satellite store was bare, all of its walls having been removed. The only thing remaining that showed that it was anything but a parking garage was the center escallator. I would've went upstairs, but unfortunately it must've been turned off at the time.

Once I was inside, I headed for the part of the mall that I most wanted to visit: the basement bowling alley. It's amazing to me that when the place closed down, all of the pins and balls were just left there. Now they lie scattered about, many of them in the flooded areas at the back of the lanes, where one can peer into the murkey water and see old muddy bowling balls peering back. If anyone has photos of this place while it was in operation, I would love to see them!

From the bowling alley, I entered a room where many of the mall's seasonal decorations were still stored. However, multitudes of four feet tall toy soldiers had been thrown into a large pile, decapitated. Some of them had even been pierced with spears and hung from the walls. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that some pesky kids had found their way down there and wreaked a little havoc!

Before I left the mall, I wandered the main hallways for awhile, taking extra time to take my last photos of the place, and especially the famous clocktower in the center. Yes, it is still there, and like the rest of River Roads, it will soon be nothing but a pile of Rubble. It is such a shame that an icon that so many remember from years past will be lost. I almost wish someone would steal it, if only to preserve one small piece of St. Louis's recent history. Seriously, someone take it. I don't have a truck.

05/10/06

Permalink 10:29:13 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 500 words   English (US)

Cotton Belt Freight Depot

A couple of weeks ago Chris, Tunajive and I got together with a photographer for the Riverfront Times who wanted to get some shots for the article that came out last Thursday. We first took him to Armour Packing Plant in East St. Louis, where he took many shots that felt to me like band photos. It made me feel way cooler than I actually am. That is, of course, until I took a step in an unstable area of one of the upper floors and my foot went clear through. Had I not caught myself and had continued to fall, it could have been 30 feet or so of very bad. I should have been more scared than I was. I just calmly lifted myself up and said "Wow, that sucked." I think it severely damaged my cool factor, though. Falling through floors is never cool.

After Armour, we met up with Rob and Brian and visited the Cass Street Tunnel briefly before attempting to check out an old rail depot I had driven by the previous weekend. The building, previously known as the Cotton Belt Freight Depot and the St. Louis Southwestern Railroad Freight Depot, was massive. The Cotton Belt route was formed in 1891 and connected Texas to Arkansas and southeastern Missouri. I can not find very much info on this depot inself, only that it was probably built around 1900 and operated in some function until 1974. I would love to know exactly how the four stories of the building were used when it was an active rail depot.

The group of us began walking around trying to find a way in. On one side of the building, pieces of broken up asphalt had been arranged into a large circle for what I could only assume was ceremonial purposes.....or for hippie sing alongs. We had made a complete trip around the building with no luck, until I went back to a spot where I had a hunch, and found a way in.

The inside of the depot has area that are barren and clean, and areas where strange stashes of toys, tires, or magazines can be found. I was quite excited about the large amount of really old Star Wars memoribillia we found, although I couldn't bring myself to take any of it........even the Boba Fett figure..... Much of the building is still very secure, and we were not able to find any way to access the upper floors. I was almost about to follow Brian who was attempting to climb the elevator shaft, when I noticed that there was a large couch suspended directly over my head in the shaft. The last thing I wanted to do was something that might dislodge it and give me a nice couch-sized bump on my head.

The Cotton Belt Depot was an interesting site, and one I hope to return to in the hopes of seeing the rest of it that I was not able to explore on this trip.

05/08/06

Permalink 10:53:05 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 570 words   English (US)

Gumbo Jail

A few weeks ago, Tunajive and I decided to spend our evening in the most productive way we could think of: checking out some of the abandoned sites that West County has to offer. First we visited the old Nursing Home, but eventually made out way to the old "Gumbo Jail." I assume this jail got its name because of it's location on the Missouri River floodplains of Chesterfield nicknamed "Gumbo Flats," not because they used to serve a kickass cajun seafood stew. But who knows, maybe their gumbo was outstanding. Gumbo Jail was a fully functioning penitentary for St. Louis county until 1993, when the great flood caused it to cease operation and a new jail was built in Clayton. The jail was in the news again recently after Hurricane Katrina, when it was cleaned up and prepared to house victims that never showed up. The site was recently aquired by Duke Reality Corp. for $6.74 million, with the intention of constructing a number of large office buildings.

On this night, we had additional company for our adventure: Fellow explorer Slim Jim and a group of his friends from the Minneapolis area had made the trip down to St. Louis, and were meeting up with us for the first time. The first part of our exploration took us to the bowels of the jail's utility tunnels, which stretch a long distance under the site. As we made our way up into the upper parts of the jail, the work that had been done for Katrina was apparent. Obviously, it had been vacant for some time, but there was none of the usual rubble and grime that one usually finds in abandoned places. In certain areas, the cells had been dry-walled over.....apparently so the victims living there wouldn't feel like they were living in a jail.

Despite how clean the place was, signs of its former use were everywhere. Many cells had names and graffiti scribbled everywhere. I was surprised when I found a number of different places where inmates had placed tic-marks, I'm assuming to count down their remaining days of imprisonment. That is the kind of thing that one sees in the movies, but that hits a somber note when you see that it really happened, and think about the many people who lived out long portions of their lives behind the barred doors of the building.

All of the usual "jail areas" are still intact, including the visitation room with two-way phones, the cafeteria, a large auditorium/gymnasium, and the guard tower outside. I couldn't believe that we were actually able to gain entry into the guard tower, and couldn't help but have someone snap a picture, despite the fact that the flash would be incredibly visible through the glass windows lining every side of the tower.
Although plans for the site seem to be in the works, nothing has been done yet. It will be sad to see this place demolished. I know that, compared with other St. Louis sites, this one does not have anywhere near the history, or even interesting architecture for that matter. It is a bland, two story grey shack looking building. I remember, though, watching the inmates in the yard from my mom's car on the highway when I was a kid. This is something I am able to think about every time I drive by today. Not for long, I guess.

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