Yes, that's right! On a recent adventure Silverstreak, White Rabbit and I explored the hell out the main St. Louis public Library! They had all these crazy books and crap!
Our mission, and one of our current focuses, is finding out as much as we can about the many historical (and these days, somewhat forgotten / legendary) caves that abound under the streets of St. Louis. At this point, we have been able to gain access to at least three different brewery caves, but we know there are many more that are still waiting to be rediscovered.
All of us becamse obsessed with this endeavor after reading "The Lost Caves of St. Louis" by Hubert Rother (is it Hubert or Herbert? I can't remember), or as we all refer to it: "The Bible." We know that many of the caves are still out there, so it was White Rabbit's idea to see what information we could find at the local library. Unfortunately, very little. I am sad to say that the local historical records at our main city library are horribly unorganized and incomplete. What we did learn, however, was that on cold winter days, the city library is a warming shelter for many homeless persons. It made me sad to see that nearly every chair was filled by a homeless person with a magazine in front of them. I'm just glad they had somewhere warm to go where they have acesss to the current issue of Cosmo.
After leaving the library a little disappointed we headed to a certain city park where it is rumored that one of the lost caves still exsists underneath. Recently, the water mysteriously drained out of the lake in the park (into the cave below perhaps?) and a number of sinkholes opened up in random places.
We didn't find the cave, unfortunately, but Silverstreak did find the biggest damn crawdad I've ever seen on part of the dried up lake bed.
We also investigated the back yard of a gentleman who lives near the park. One day this man had been trying to clean leaves from this drain with a metal bar. At one point, he lost grip on the bar and it spent four seconds falling before clanging against a soldid rock floor somewhere far beneath. He thinks that part of the sewer pipe had rusted away and the bar fell into some kind of void. We were optimistic, but then saw the pipe he was talking about.
We didn't find the cave, but the property bears more investigation, I think. We then headed to the wreck of the WWII minesweeper Inagural, which lies about a half mile south of the arch along the St. Louis bank of the Mississippi River. The Inagural used to be a floating museaum along the St. Louis Riverfront, but tragically came loose from its moorings during the flood of 1993. It now lies on its side in shallow water just off the shore, rusted and dented in many places by passing barges. About half of the wreck lies above water today, much of it filled with rubble and other river debris.
There is talk that Robert Cassilly, owner and designer of the St. Louis City Museum, has plans to raise the ship as a piece for his in-the-works project at the old cement plant on Riverview north of St. Louis. I certainly hope that this pans out, since the Inagural is such a historical ship that should not continue to rust in the Mississippi River.
We began discussing what would be needed to get closer to the wreck for pictures. Silverstreak began throwing rocks into the river, hoping to create stepping stones to bridge the 15 foot gap between the shore and the wreck. Before he could accomplish this, however, White Rabbit had removed his shoes and was wading up to his knees in the icy Mississippi! What a madman! He eventually climbed up onto and into the Inagural, even posing for some awesome photos sitting on top of one of the remaining guns!
I didn't feel like following, because I have this thing with frostbite.....I don't know, it's weird. Instead, I climbed to the top of the nearby cement plant-looking place. From there I got some cool photos of the downtown skyline and the wreck below. Silverstreak took some pics of me from below, but he is an unreliable bastard and hasn't emailed them to me (kidding, dude).
The good news is White Rabbit didn't suffer any long term damage, but he did piss me off by taking a long time to change his pants, socks, and shoes. I don't know, something about them being cold and wet and it being 25 degress out. What a wuss.
For those of you who don't know, I actually got my start blogging about St. Louis UE on blogger.com. I eventually met White Rabbit and he was nice enough to allow me to blog on his site, and I've been doing so here since then. However, there are quite a few really cool sites on my old blog that I don't have the time or motivation to transfer here, so I want to provide a link in case some of you haven't seen them.
It was kinda neat. A week after I first started posting on blogger, the Riverfront Times (St. Louis's free artsy magazine) made me their local blog of the week because of a post I did where I watched The Exorcist in the house that the actual historical exorcism took place in the 1950s. I eventually had to remove that post because the owner of the house didn't want the attention. I don't really know where I'm going with this at this point, so I guess I'll stop and go read some Chaucer before class.
I had no idea this building even exsisted until Chris told me about it one night. It's pretty easy to see why I didn't know about it: it's just the right age/color/architecture to blend into the surrounding St. Louis neighborhood undetected.
The People's Hospital, as it eventually became called, was originally opened in 1894 as the Provident Hospital. Its name was changed to the People's Hospital in 1918, and it was famous for being one of only three hospitals in the St. Louis area at the time that would treat African-American patients (St. Mary's Infirmary was, interestingly, another one of the three).
I visited the hospital a few months ago with Shortstack. This was one of her first explorations, and I made a mental not afterward to never take a female with me to a place that I had never visited before (the tend to get freaked out easily when you can't assure them that there are absolutely no bums inside). In her defense, the place turned out to be a little eerie at times.
We entered the hospital through a crumbling hole in the foundation into the basement, and immediately saw signs that someone had been recently or still was living there. The basement had no windows (as basements usually don't), so was extremely dark...adding to the eerie quality. In one of the first rooms we visited, we found an old surgical table, complete with a mild slant leading to a drain so the blood would have somewhere to go.
I have been so far unable to find out exactly when the People's Hospital closed down for good, but it is pretty apparent that it has not been used in some time. Many of the stairwells have been reduced to slanted piles of rubble, and floors in some areas are somewhat less than solid.
Despite a few details, the building hardly represents a hospital you would see today....it just seems more like a normal building that just happened to house and treat sick people. Only the room numbers, surgical tables, and call switches alluded to its former use.
In one of the rooms we found a surgical table that was a bit different from the others: it was only about two feet long. We were really disturbed since we could see it as nothing else but a table for babies.....or I guess maybe individual body parts. Either way, freaky!
The creepiest part of the day was walking into a stairwell and smelling something pretty gross. We looked to find the source of the smell, until Shortstack finally screamed. There was a cat in the corner that was in mid stages of decomposing. We assumed that it had gotten into the building and the recent extremely cold weather had been too much for the poor thing. In a room down the hall we found a blanket where someone had been sleeping. On the blanket we found a styrofoam container with some cat food, and around that were three other dead cats (probably kittens from the size). I was sad to see this. Someone had obviously been trying to care for these cats, and had probably been driven to find somewhere warm because of the weather. There, now I have sucessfully ruined your day. You're welcome.
And yes, here is a pic:
After a little more searching, we found or way to the roof. This required walking outside onto a fire escape in the alley. This was strange, since most of the escape below the level I was standing on had crashed to the ground below. Just pieces of the frame remained. From the roof, we were given a great panoramic of the surrounding city scape. Many of the buildings near the hospital were obviously being restored. It makes me wonder what is in the works for this old building.
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.
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.
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