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.
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.
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