Shipwreck of the Bloxom

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This big red tugboat is probably the most iconic wreck in the graveyard

Old ships don’t get much respect after they’ve been deemed obsolete. No matter how faithful, how old, or how historic, almost every ship will eventually find itself sold for scrap and broken down. The Arthur Kill Shipwreck Graveyard is home to around 100 ships, some of historic significance, doomed to meet this fate. The Bloxom is one of them

The wreck of the Bloxom is probably the most intact and most visible from shore. She was built in West Virginia for the US Army in 1944, originally named the LT-653. After her military career, she was sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad Co, where she worked until being sent here in the 1970’s. She was powered by a oil-fed steam engine, and was used for ocean towing.

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A rusty refrigerator aboard the Bloxom

Getting aboard the Bloxom was tough- i had to tie off my kayak and climb up a rotted hawser that was still dangling over the side. Holes have rusted into the deck in many places, with nothing but foul green water underneath. Sharp, rusty metal was everywhere. While i got out with only a few minor cuts, it could have been much worse.

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A crew member’s rack(bed) in one of the rooms: you can still see the uncomfortable looking spring mattress. The crew probably would have slept in shifts of 6 hours on, 6 hours off.

The Bloxom has separate quarters, originally designed to house a racially segregated crew.

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The tug’s galley, still filled with rusty equipment

Being in the scrapyard, I expected to find the ship totally gutted. I was pleasantly surprised to find a fair amount of furnishing still remaining on board. There were even some rusty old tools scattered around.

DSC_0320.JPG“Sir i think there’s minor flooding in the engine room”

Pretty much everything below the main deck is flooded. More is exposed at low tide, but i would strongly advise not walking anywhere that spends time submerged, as the rust is much worse.

DSC_0325.JPGOne of the huge stockless anchors resting on the deck

This is not where the anchor is supposed to be… I actually have no idea how it got up here.

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The bow

 

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The bridge seen from the bow

 

DSC_0319.jpgThe view from the bridge

Unlike almost all abandoned places, i found no trace of activity on the wreck: no graffiti, no footprints, no anything. I don’t know how long its been since someone stood on the bridge and looked out across the bow.

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The ship’s other anchor is still held in place

Although the Bloxom is in a scrapyard, she’s so rusty and full of holes that her scrap value is probably very low. Unless somebody decides to do something with her, she’ll sit there in the mud until she rusts away into nothing.

I would not recommend boarding the Bloxom. The floors are so weak and rusty that collapse is a very real threat.

 

 

S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse

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A large, open room filled with wooden support beams, top floor

The S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse was built in 1886 on the shores of Brooklyn’s vile Gowanus Canal. It stored grain and animal feed, both which were valuable commodities in a time when horses were used for everything from pulling the carriages of the elite and wealthy to plowing the fields of the farms still prevalent in the outer boroughs. The company’s fortunes were directly tied to grain,and when cars replaced horses on the city streets, the storehouse was forced to become a general warehouse, until it was finally abandoned sometime around the 1960’s.

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The very top of the factory. Those flimsy boards are the only things between an explorer and a 2 story fall.

S.W.Bowne, the storehouse’s owner, was not the standard rich person of his day. Instead of sitting in a comfortable office lavishing in his own wealth, he spent his time in the storehouse, doing manual labor alongside his workers. One day, while helping his workers carry lumber, his foot broke through the floor and was caught in a machine, which tore apart his leg. After the amputation that followed, Bowne was forced to sue for worker’s compensation, which was contested by his board of directors. He won, however, when the NY Appeals Court ruled that while Bowne was the owner of the company, he was also a working employee, and was therefor entitled to worker’s comp.

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Wooden beams and floors still stand strong after almost 150 years

While Red Hook is filled with abandoned warehouses, the S.W. Bowne Grain Storehouse is uniquely significant. Most abandoned industrial buildings, even ones older than this, are filled with modern equipment and have often been renovated or added to in more (relatively) recent times. This storehouse, however, looks pretty much the same as it did in the 1880’s, inside and out. Nothing has been added to it. The original wood floors were never done away with in favor of concrete. This old building may be the best look into industrial history you can still visit today.

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Before newfangled elevators were invented, pulleys like this were used to hoist heavy goods into the upper floors of factories and warehouses. This very obsolete piece of equipment still stands tall over the canal.

Wood floors are usually very unsafe for urban explorers. Wood floors that have not been maintained since the 1960’s have usually long since collapsed. However, bags of grain are very heavy, so the floors of the storehouse were built STRONG. In most places the wood floors still feel as solid as concrete. Time and the elements have created some weakness though, especially under the small collapse in the roof. On the top floor, you can still see two holes, one where an explorer fell through, and one where his friend fell through trying to help him. Watch your step, look out for water damage and stay safe.

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Signs in English, Italian and Yiddish can be found in the storehouse, giving a glimpse into who worked here long ago.
*Update: This is a no smoking sign written in Yiddish- thank you to Joseph Alexiou for the translation!

Due to ease of access, the storehouse has a lot of graffiti, a lot of which is beautiful and well done.

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Third floor, with pillars marked west and east. Notice how well supported the roof is.

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Factory door

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The first floor

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The storehouse from outside

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An industrial sunset

Next to the storehouse are two huge, empty warehouses. Getting in is easy, and there isn’t much inside, so the urban explorer would probably take little interest. However, they are filled with graffiti, so if that’s your thing stop by and check it out.

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The warehouses near the storehouse are huge but empty

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This one has an old boat out front for some reason

Pittsburg Plate Glass Factory

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Factory Floor

Most abandoned factories are associated with loss. Almost every one of them has a similar story: founded in the late 1800’s, profitable until the late 1900’s, and then shut down, leaving behind poverty and urban blight in the communities that once worked them. With this in mind, it’s hard to imagine that the complex of ruined industrial buildings between the Passaic River and a stretch of unused railroad track once belonged to a company that today makes more than one billion dollars annually.

DSC_0648A flooded ground floor in one of the buildings

The Pittsburgh Plate Glass company was founded in 1883, and became the first successful plate glass manufacturer in America. As cars and tall buildings grew more popular throughout the early 1900’s, the company expanded, buying new factories(this one included) and diversifying its products. It became one of the first American companies to expand overseas when it bought a plant in Belgium. In more modern times, the company is responsible for many things we see day to day, from the printing material used in passports to transition lenses.

DSC_0655Rusted Chemical Vats

The history of this particular factory is almost unknown, including when it opened, when it was abandoned, and what it made. My guess, from the number of vats, pipes, and the environmental investigation sign out front, is that it produced paint, varnish, or some other chemical product.

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I have no idea what these things did

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The inside stairs of the factory are falling apart. Use extreme caution, or better yet, the still intact fire escape outside.

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Most of the floors look something like this

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The roofs of the various buildings are easily accessible and provide a nice view of Newark’s skyline.

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Rusty ladders are often not intact enough to climb, but the ones here were still solid

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Pipes and the skyline

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Will the modern PPG Industries step up to tear this place down? I don’t really think so.

The Oil and Gas Building

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Since the later 1800’s, the prosperity of the city of New Orleans had lagged far behind other major American ports. After WWII however, the city experienced a boom, and rose back to the status of a major center of American money-making. Being a port near the oil rich Gulf of Mexico, many oil companies set up headquarters in the city’s downtown. In 1959, the Oil and Gas Building was constructed, with the intention of having different floors bought up by different companies.

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The lobby

The Oil and Gas Building still has its power on, even though it has been abandoned for a number of years now. Most lights are still lit up and you may even be able to feel an air conditioner/circulation system. Despite the benefits, like making a flashlight much less necessary, exposed live wires are some of the most dangerous things to encounter as an explorer, and i suspect there are many in here.

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A staircase still illuminated by the building’s power

The second floor seemed very utilitarian, with low ceilings, pipes and vents. Most of the doors were locked, the ones that weren’t seemed to be for storage. At the end of the second floor, a metal gate with a big lock stopped my progress into the rest of the building.

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Floor 2

Time to get out! The access point was very public, making getting in and out a risky process.

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Creepy hallway

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A busted exit sign still glows red

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The modern looking facade, uncharacteristic of abandoned buildings

Substation No. 3

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Substation No. 3 is one abandoned building that has truly been forgotten. While many abandoned places have names and extensive histories already written about them, substation no. 3 boasts no fame, recognition, or even acknowledgment. Even finding the name “Substation No. 3” required 2 days of research, finally turning up one old photo with “substation no3 at Kingsbridge NY” scrawled in pen on the bottom. While other Bronx substations such as Substation No. 10 have been noticed, explored, and even redeveloped, substation no. 3 still sits forgotten in a small lot next to the Merto-North tracks and Bronx River.

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Inside Substation No. 3

There were multiple of these substations, or converter stations, built around the city in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s as the city’s transit system started to grow. Their main purpose was to convert the AC power from power plants into the DC power that the trains needed to run on, which is what happened in the massive rotary converters that can be seen in these photos. The rotary converters were difficult and costly to run, requiring constant maintenance and supervision by a team of workers on station 24/7. Eventually, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the rotary converter was rendered obsolete by new technology that could do the same thing with almost no moving parts and no personal. The substations were obsolete, and were demolished or abandoned.

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A rotary converter

The main room of Substation No. 3 is large and open, with two massive skylights letting in the light and now the elements. Other than the rotary converters, there are massive control boards covered in buttons and levers.

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Mad scientist looking electrical controls

There is a small door right next to the entrance to the substation. Going into it leads you to a couple of storage bays, dark, dirty, and completely filled with debris. Having no respirator, i chose not to stay in these rooms for long.

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The gloomy and dark storerooms

The way into Substation No. 3 is huge, exposed, and obvious, although it does require a climb to get into and a jump to get down from. As far as i could tell, this is the only practical way in and out.

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Looking at the entry point from the catwalk on the other side of the substation

The massive skylights on the roof both let in light and the elements, causing the deterioration of the substation’s machinery and floor.

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One of the massive skylights

The grounds of Substation No. 3 are still used as a parking lot/storage area by the MTA. Be weary, as there may be security on site.

The Gary Screw and Bolt Factory

The abandoned Gary Screw and Bolt Factory is a testament to better times in the town of Gary, Indiana. In its day, Gary was home to many different industries, and economic success eventually led to beautiful architecture around the city. However, like in many American cities and towns, the industry left. Today, Gary has fallen on hard times, the many factories that once supported the economy are abandoned, and the beautiful old buildings that came about from industrial wealth are now ruins.

In 1912, the Pittsburgh Screw and Bolt Works opened up the Gary Screw and Bolt Factory. The factory was right next to the many steel plants in Gary, giving it a constant supply of quality steel without transportation costs. WWII brought 1,000 workers into the factory to mass produce parts needed on tanks, planes, and ships. As time passed, the Gary Screw and Bolt Factory was hit by the decline of the steel industry that fed it, and the rising world market that it competed with. The factory could take no more, and closed in 1986.

DSC_0320The Gary Screw and Bolt Factory Today

I spent a day exploring Gary’s many abandoned buildings during the summer, and the Screw and Bolt Factory was the last stop. There is very little machinery left, leaving a massive open space, which is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

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Sunlight at the end of a long row of columns

After its days as a factory ended, the abandoned building was purchased by a charity to store bulk textiles that would be sent to impoverished countries. When the owners of the charity were jailed on corruption charges, the factory and the huge piles of clothing inside it were abandoned again. In one part of the factory you can still see these rotting clothes.

Gary Screw and Bolt Factory

This factory had some of the largest open spaces of any abandoned building I’ve ever seen

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Orange cloth from the “charity” sits rotting on the floor

Thanks for the read!

Crab Island Fish Factory

Most abandoned factories are found at the ends of dirty old streets, often next to foul urban waterways or unused railroad yards. The Crab Island Fish Factory is an exception. It sits on its own island in New Jersey’s Great Bay, the only stain on a landscape that seems remote and almost untouched by humans. The factory was built in the 1800’s to turn an inedible type of fish called a bunker, or a menhaden, into an assortment of products, such as fish oil, fertilizer, and pet food. Locally, the factory was known as “the stink house”, due to the awful smell it would emit when it was in operation. The factory brought fishing in the area to an industrial scale. Bunker/menhaden travel in huge schools, which would be spotted from above by airplanes. The planes would then direct boats to surround the school with nets, catching thousands of fish with very little time and effort. Eventually, the factory’s efficiency led to its own downfall, as it dragged the once enormous bunker/menhaden population lower and lower, until there simply weren’t enough fish left to catch and still make a profit. It also had to ship product to the railroads, which were all a great distance from its remote island. After failing in its original purpose, and overusing the resource that it had thrived on, the factory still clung on to life by composting garbage from nearby Atlantic City. In the 1970’s, the factory’s atrocities towards nature ended when it became a part of the Green Acres program. Today, the factory has been reclaimed by nature, it’s warehouses are home to seabirds and its piers (ironically) shelter huge schools of small fish.

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The Crab Island Fish Factory from the kayak launch

Exploring the factory would have been fun enough, but i decided to go one step further and spend the night there. After loading very basic supplies into the kayak, I made the 1 mile journey through the marsh and across the channel to the factory’s island. Upon reaching the island, my little group dragged its kayaks into the most liveable warehouse and set up a small campsite of sleeping bags, backpacks, and lanterns. The sun was setting, but we set out to explore the island before dark.

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This is the warehouse we chose to call home for a night

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Huge machine pieces, my guess is they were for grinding up fish.

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A doorway into another warehouse

The island has many buildings and structures, all in various states of disrepair. Some buildings were just piles of twisted metal frames and pipes, which had succumb to the winds and storms off the ocean. Even the warehouse i was staying in was only half intact, with half of the roof caved in and collapsed.

DSC_0126 Sunset shining on the factory smokestacks

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The skeletal frame of a roof over the factory
The Atlantic City skyline was visible from right in front of the warehouse i was staying in, giving a small taste of humanity to a remote and forgotten place.

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This building was far away from the main factory. I’m not sure what purpose it served.

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A large water tower in the sunset.

Sleeping in the factory was creepy to say the least. Dripping water falling on sheet metal sounded like footsteps. Rusty metal creaked and moaned. At around 4am there was an ear shattering mechanical roar, far louder than any of the planes or boats that passed by. I don’t know and don’t want to know where it came from.

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This was my view as the night fell.

When the sun came up and made the place a whole lot less creepy, i finally got some sleep. After waking up and taking a few more photos, it was back into the kayaks to sail for home.

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My warehouse in the morning.

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Collapse and decay.

The Crab Island Fish Factory is a tough place to get to (you need a boat), but if you have the chance to go, i suggest you do it soon, as this place wont be around much longer. Also, pack bug spray. You’ll need it.

Thanks for the read!