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

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

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.

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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!

The Wyman-Gordon Power Plant

“Keep your eyes peeled for tall red brick smokestacks, as there’s often something quite wonderful at the bottom. . .”
-Jeff Chapman

The Wyman-Gordon Power Plant once powered the massive Ingalls-Shepard Forging Company, which started out manufacturing parts for the auto and railroad industries. Built in 1910, the massive factory was sold to the Wyman-Gordon Company in 1920. During World War One and World War Two, what they now called the Ingalls-Shepard Division Factory  turned its industrial might to the war effort, and was in turn given dismantled German technology. The company claims to have produced more parts for the war than any of its competitors. In 1986, economic hardship forced the Wyman-Gordon Company to shut the factory down. Only two buildings of the once sprawling factory remain, the power plant and an occupied building across the street.

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It would be an overstatement to call what surrounds the Wyman-Gordon Power Plant a “fence”. The tattered, rusty, chain link is filled with holes and embarrassingly easy to walk right through. The building is mostly void of windows, but there were a few leading to the offices, and after a short climb, i was in.

DSC_0150  After climbing up the ledge, it wasn’t all that hard finding a way in

The offices were still in decent condition, with paperwork, binders, and ledgers rotting away on the crumbling desks. Reading a few of these papers helped me see what it was like back when this was still a hub of industry. One detailed a deal between a loading crane manufacturer and the Wyman-Gordon company, and a binder in the center of the room held inventory of replacement parts.

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The offices had seen better days, but there were still legible records all around.

Leaving the offices, i entered the heart of the Wyman-Gordon Power Plant .The main rooms were wet from a recent storm, and well ventilated, but the floors of some of the side rooms and hallways had a dry asbestos insulation piled a foot deep in some places. After pointing my camera into the dark, taking a photo with flash on, and examining it, i found out the stuff i was walking on wasn’t the normal abandoned building mud and grime. Yuck!

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Still water in one of the main rooms of the power plant

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Machinery rusts away in the dark

I could have explored the Wyman-Gordon Power Plant all day if given the chance. However, a man on a bike circling the building made me cautious, and i decided to beat a hasty retreat in case he decided to call up some friends and score himself a new (and free!) camera.
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The inside of the power plant is a mess of rusted machinery

The Wyman-Gordon Power Plant is a EPA Brownfields site. Although the main rooms are ventilated, open, and probably safe, anyone going to the Wyman-Gordon Power Plant without a respirator should be careful and avoid areas with clear signs of asbestos. The metal walkways have been taken for scrap, and I fear that it is only a matter of time before the last remnants of the once proud Ingalls-Shepard Division Factory are gone forever. 

Thanks for the read!

The McMyler Coal Unloader

The early 1900s, the sheer amount of coal needed for industry and other applications around the NYC and NJ area got inventors and industrialists thinking. Supplying the area with coal was no easy task, as it had to be unloaded from train cars and reloaded into barges, which would sail for wherever the coal was needed. Eventually, someone got to thinking about how to make this process faster and easier, and in 1917, the McMyler Coal Unloader was built on the shores of Arthur Kill in NJ. The way that this coal unloader went about its job was extraordinary: a loaded train car would be lifted into the air and flipped over, dumping the coal into a funnel, which would pour it into a waiting barge. It was only operated by 12 men, and could unload a railway car every 2.5 minutes. The Unloader was so efficient and timely that all other coal unloaders in the area were shut down. The McMyler Coal Unloader continued to faithfully supply coal to the industries of the NY/NJ area until its closure in 1983. Now its rusty hulk still stands tall, way out on the end of a crumbling concrete pier. 

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It was a long walk down the pier where the Coal Unloader stands. I finally reached the base of the towering structure, unstuck the thorny vines from my pants, and entered the machine room.

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Huge machines inside the heart of the McMyler Coal Unloader

The machine room’s floor was covered with coal dust and flakes of rusty metal. There were multiple massive wheels, which i believe turned to pull the train car up and dump it out. It’s hard to imagine the amount of power and the sheer size and strength of machines needed to lift a train car off the ground. The machine room was lacking any kind of controls, and the stairs to the operator’s box had been removed.

DSC_0490The Machine Room from outside

Sadly, even though this structure was built to last, strong winds from the multiple hurricanes that have hit the northeast recently have caused multiple parts of the loader to collapse. I can only hope that someone with the know-how and funding can save this piece of America’s industrial history before it collapses into Arthur Kill. 

DSC_0509  The funnel that dumped coal into barges has collapsed 

Newark Denaturing Plant

On The shores of the polluted Passaic River, on a plot of city owned land, sits a small abandoned factory. Back in its day, it was owned by International Metallurgical Services, and was most likely used to produce ethanol for the company’s other, more metallurgical uses. One aspect of the ethanol production that went on here was the addition of highly toxic methanol, which can cause damage to the central nervous system. Clearly this factory was using quite a lot of toxic chemicals, as it is is now an EPA brownfields site due to contamination by it’s many years of industrial discharge. There is little information on the history of this factory. Please contact me if you have more details.
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My exploration of the building started with a quick look for entry points, of which there turned out to be many. Passing a fallen stack of tires that i assume were intended to block out explorers like me, i proceeded into the dark remains of a reception area and offices. Past here was the loading dock, where trucks would pull up to load and unload materials and finished product.

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Old tires in the floor of the loading bay

Next, it was up the crumbling stairs to floor 2. Floor 2 was void of machinery and other significant objects, so it was probably used for storage, or maybe packaging There were some areas of floor 2 that were fenced off, I have no idea why…

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Floor 2 gloom

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Floor 2 Hallway

Floor 3 was filled with multiple, huge vats, packed tightly together in a confined space. Navigating these vats was like solving a maze, walking over old boards that previous explorers had left behind as makeshift bridges over uneven floors. Eventually, the seemingly endless vats ended, and I reached a small, open space.

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There were many more massive vats behind this one

Floor 4 had some ruined furnishings, including shelves and strange machines that i couldn’t figure out at all. After taking some more photos and trying(unsuccessfully) to find a way to the roof, i headed back down the stairs and out of the building. Right outside are a sunken barge and tugboat, which probably served together ferrying trucks and cars along the river. Now they rest together, rotting away into the foul mud of the Passaic.

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Tugboat and barge

If you plan to visit the Newark Denaturing Plant, please wear a respirator, gloves, and other safety equipment. The chemicals used in manufacturing here are nowhere near gone.

Thanks for the read!