Archives for: September 2006

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.

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