Tonight we return to St. Louis for the final entry in my record of our October adventure.
The party is indeed over folks, and soon the hunt will begin for yet more new locations. In the meantime Tabula Rasa and I have some plans to play in the winter wonderland while the snow lasts.
Sometimes I take a photo that I really hope will come out well but am convinced that I am just wasting my time at. Both of these images are exactly that. In the case of the arch and vaulted ceiling I was battling the annoying dust inside of my lens that tends to show up quite well when the light hits it at a certain angle. Of course, the ideal angle here was exactly the one which would show the most lens dust. After I don’t know how long shooting angle after angle of this little alcove I came up with the arch detail which you’ve all already seen but failed to show off the vaulted ceiling.
Then I found this little alcove on the opposite side of the altar (or stage, as I tend to think of it). I had to do a quick clean up of the floor, which is something I rarely ever bother with, but in this case I just couldn’t leave it. I was convinced that this shot was going to fail horribly but liked the idea so much I spent a good 10 minutes fussing about with it even after Tabula Rasa said he was ready to go. I’m glad I did too, because it is on the top my list of personal favorites for the whole trip.
I have a confession here, I had a really hard time admitting that I really like this shot. Normally I’ll avoid mentioning which photos of mine I like the best, because in my experience the ones I like the most are not the most popular shots among my viewers. Indeed I often find the shots I like the least get the most attention and I’m pretty sure that there is a trope for that, Old Shame is the closest thing I found to though given that it is the context of early work versus older it doesn’t quite fit. In the case of this trip the one photo people have consistently given an overwhelming positive response to is the water tower reflection[ on the rooftop puddle, and I actually really dislike that shot. A lot. Don’t ask me why because that is just how it is.
IP may have a bit more to share, but I will close out my contributions to the Detroit series with a look at some of the more “conventionally” pretty parts of the city. Though the gritty and the abandoned were our primary focus during our visit, there is more to the city than that. Not that Detroit’s reputation for blight is undeserved; entire swaths of the town have a post-apocalyptic look. But there are areas where, if you squint a bit, you can see the Motown of the 1950’s in all its glory. Those areas provide hope for the future: redevelopment and gentrification, though dirty words in some cities, may be the key to bringing the affluent back from the suburbs. Lest this come off too much like a neat little bow with which to tie up a photo series, I’ll add that it’ll take a lot more than nostalgia and hipsters to bring back Detroit. There will certainly be painful fiscal decisions, the recent municipal bankruptcy being perhaps the first. It may never come back, or at least not as the industrial juggernaut of the last century. But I love gritty American cities which are so unlike cities elsewhere, with their steel, glass and brick downtowns on display like a peacock’s fan; the ten-lane highways which seem like canyons; the neighborhoods which become home to a new ethnicity each generation; and the now rusted and neglected industries which propelled this nation to superpower status almost a century ago. Unlike some cities which grew up later and became nothing more than faceless sprawl (hello, Phoenix), these older towns have a character you can feel just by driving their streets. And none of these are more American than Detroit.
Goodnight, and good luck.
We really didn’t spend enough time in this location, perhaps in part because it was so close to where our car had been broken into the day before and we were feeling a little jumpy. We even went so far as to park inside of the building but still, paranoia is a powerful thing. Perhaps if it is still there next time we go to Detroit we’ll take a bit more time to wander properly as it really is a weird maze of building and there are a couple of smaller areas we never made it to.
Standing near the complex in Tabula Rasa’s last post was the old power plant that once served the factory. It was not totally barren inside, the ivy had made great headway across the floor.
The single most remarkable aspect of this building was the amazing light contrast between rooms.
A couple shots from the roof of the odd, castlelike factory in which the hallway shot from a couple posts ago was taken. In much the same way as Kafka’s novel The Castle is… well, Kafkaesque, such was the layout of this building. At one point, the Idiot Photographer was a floor above me, and called for me to join her. After much wandering, I was unable to find access to the next floor, became convinced the floor did not actually exist, and that my friend was quite possibly a figment of my imagination. All that was missing was a couple Czech bureaucrats to materialize and serve me with a summons for a vague and undefined crime. *sigh*
The rooftop was quite nice though. Once I found it.
Perhaps one of the saddest aspects of abandoned schools are the murals left behind on the walls. In the case of Best Academy, the hospital turned school, there were only three. First we have the the mascot, which is the most sheepish looking “fierce” bulldog I’ve ever seen.
Down another hall was a reminder that dreams can become reality. I was also a little ashamed that I can only identify a couple of these people.
But the one that made me smile the most and the saddest was this.
(feel free to enhance your enjoyment of this post with a suitable soundtrack by clicking here.)
On Detroit’s east side, just off Jefferson Avenue, we found a curious old plant. The ground floor was crisscrossed with dead end hallways, and the roof was so covered with sheds and outcroppings as to give the entire structure the appearance of a castle. This is an HDR shot of one of the few hallways that had a way out at the end.
Blown out windows, trash, ruin, but brand new condos visible in the window. Detroit is weird.
I had a really hard time placing how long ago Chandler was shut down. It was very obviously an elementary school and oddly enough I suspect it was closed because it was too small for the neighborhood’s needs. Just up the next block a shiny new elementary school had a teeming play lot full of shouting, shrieking little humans enjoy recess. It made for an odd experience; hearing the sounds of children playing while wandering a trashed and abandoned school.
The room in the building we explored was the gym, with climbing ropes still intact. It actually took a little doing to find it, as it was tucked away behind the main building and connected by a neglected hall. We actually made it down to the basement first where we found more evidence that overcrowding was an issue here as several basement rooms had been converted to classroom use. But the gym was still more interesting, as while I’ve seen some massive floor failures before this one was the most interesting.