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.
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