History Left to Hold Its Own
It is a historic structure in a city with settlement history dating back 230 years. The town became a force in the cotton trade and grew around textile mills, with much of the mill village still active and lively neighborhoods today. Pieces of history line the landscape: mills, homesteads, the rail depot. Structures built to stand the test of time, standing strong against time.
I’ve been a lot of places and I’ve done a lot of things, but this was my first time inside a vacant and abandoned building. It was thrilling – in the haunted house, horror movie kind of way. Or maybe it’s just my imagination.
This was my second trip to photograph this property. Two months ago I went with the assignment to capture the exterior. This time, I had the privilege of going inside and photographing its current condition.
I met the man with the key, and he opened the door for me, kicking up the stale and dusty, long-uncirculated air.
I stepped inside as he propped the door.
“Any chance there’s electricity in here?” I asked.
“Ha,” he laughed. “No.”
“I’ll warn you now,” I said. “If I see a snake or a rat I will scream.”
“What about the dead bodies?” he laughed.
“I’m pretending they don’t exist,” I returned.
Reality and imagination crashed into a suddenly pounding heart and shaking hands. Taking a deep breath only drew in the glittery dust settling back through the streaming sunlight.
I looked left, right, and up, and my guide joined me in the entryway.
We took a few minutes to adjust to the darkness and musty air, lingering in the last of the abundance of natural light and fresh air.
We turned on our flashlights and started in working through the southwest quadrant first. The building faces South. The front third of the building was divided at some point into two separate storefronts, leaving the majority of the mill in the back unoccupied. The open space of the mill is divided down the middle with the brick wall spotted with squares of open space, but previous windows or a design for circulation, I don’t know. I don’t have a picture of that wall. I’m so mad for missing that wall.
I was using a Canon EOS, and I used the hell out of the flash, along with what little light the flashlights offered. I went with auto-focus where couldn’t see past the end of the flashlights, which was most of the first floor at the front.
I won’t pretend these are my best work, but even with my inexperience with abandoned buildings, the serious lack of light, and heart and breathing rates that barely cooperated, I think I captured the essence of the building.
History Fighting Decay
We stepped through the door into the first of the two storefront sections. Small offices and narrow hallways led to a more open area.
It was mostly intact. Ceiling tiles had fallen and disintegrated. Paint had peeled and was peeling. Lights dangled. The boarded up windows allowed only a stream or two of sunlight, but only silence and emptiness awaited around each corner, through each door, down every hall. Some of the trepidation subsided.
We worked out way back, exiting that portion of the building and found a floor-to-ceiling, metal, sliding door dividing the office space from the industry space.
Coming out, feeling confident that it wasn’t as bad as it perhaps could be, I found the door to the basement. I made it half-way down the stairs. Neither confidence, nor my tour guide, went down with me.
“I’n not going any further,” I said.
“What? You scared?” he laughed.
“Yes, and my stupid expired a few years ago,” I replied.
“Probably a good thing,” he said.
“If these are needed, it’ll have to be with several people and several lights,” I said and came back up the steps.
I was facing the elevator shaft when I reemerged from what I was hoping was the only truly dark section of the building.
“I wonder if all this trash was out, and this was all cleaned up, if the elevator would work again?” I mused.
We walked next through the open area of the mill, pointing out floor dangers and obstacles as we explored, chatting and joking to ease the anxiety of walking across warped wood floors, between piles of pallets, and around walls, peeking through doors, and kicking broken light bulbs, chunks of wood, and the occasional beer bottle.
We made our way through both sections of the mill, talking about the lives that have come in and out of the building, from the workers of its heyday to the teenagers and occasional homeless person of today, and then headed towards the second of the storefronts. It was not as easy to walk through, and some of the second floor was on the floor of the first floor.
As we walked back through to return to the entryway stairwell, we found yet another set of stairs to the second floor. It looked to go nowhere, into the ceiling.
“I wonder where it goes?” I asked.
“You going to try to find out?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” I answered.
The second floor was much brighter, but most of it wasn’t conducive to walking.
“I don’t think I’m going to try to walk around up here,” I said.
“I wouldn’t let you try,” he said.
“There’s a whole section of the building I won’t have picture for?” I questioned.
“I don’t see how you could,” he answered.
“Me neither,” I said.
The front portion of the second floor was stable, and bright. As we stood before the open window, taking in the first seemingly tangible sunlight and fresh air we’d had for the last hour, a bird flew through the room and out of the very window we were mesmerized by.
“I thought you were only going to scream for snakes and rats,” he laughed.
“And birds, apparently,” I said laughing at myself.
Then we heard the tick-tick-ticking of claws on the floor, froze for a split second, and then turned back towards the stairs, left the building, and shut the door, leaving it to rest again in hands of nature.
Would you tour a vacant and abandoned building? Have you; why did you do it?
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2 – I’m not going to make it to Friday Fictioneers this week, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Check out this week’s picture prompt and all the great stories.
*Featured and Post Image – the building exterior from the northeast corner.
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