|Abandoned Stove Factory, East Cleveland|
When I lived in Ohio, my pal Bob and I would go on these wonderful little exploration trips to run-down small towns across the state. Abandoned sites were most prevalent in these small towns since the economic downturn of the last few two decades has caused factories, schools, and other businesses to close. This was an ongoing project with Bob and myself — photographing the spaces quickly and leaving. We saw a lot of beautiful, rotting buildings that can be interpreted as both wastes or opportunities.
Recently I was discussing urban exploration with a friend and started digging through old photos. It's rare that I share my work from my past photographer life, but these are literally sitting on an external hard drive getting no love. Enjoy.
This was the first floor of an abandoned warehouse on Mansfield, Ohio. The windows were filthy, creating a really great diffused light. I had the toughest time figuring out what this place used to be — the first floor appeared to be storage (there was even a boat in it), second floor were offices, third was a dance studio (with some of the most amazing wooden doors I've ever seen), fourth seemed to be a furniture maker and the fifth floor was empty and riddled with holes. The place was huge and had railroad tracks and docking outside. It was once of the most difficult places I've gotten into.
This is technically no longer abandoned. The Ohio State Reformatory is now owned by a preservation society that does tours of the site. It's gorgeous — and what originally drew us there was that it was used to film many scenes of The Shawshank Redemption.
This, on the other hand, is one of the scariest places I've ever been in my life. Behold the crown jewel — The Ridges Tuberculosis Ward in Athens, Ohio. It was difficult to get into, it was a very unhealthy atmosphere (history of TB, peeling paint, etc), and there were cops. Yep. This is where I almost got busted. I didn't stay long because I was freaked out by the winding dark hallways and staircases. Bonus creepiness: The Children's Ward and gymnasium.
I stumbled upon this half-burned, half-rotting elementary school in Trimble, Ohio. Truth is, we got lost and drove by it, stopped a hundred yards up or so, and walked back to it. It was placed oddly in front of some residential trailers, so we snuck around one side and walked right in the collapsing, overgrown gymnasium.
There's this old brick factory that was on the way to my grandparents' house as a kid. These trains have been sitting out there for as long as I can remember — they're open, so we popped in to see them. Some had been obviously set on fire, and others were used for squatting.
And finally, the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful place. Aptly named "The Church With No Floor," this epic church has amazing paintings, architectural detail, balconies, and color. From what I've read, some kids knocked out all the floor boards, leaving it in the state it's in now. We found this in East Cleveland where we were literally able to waltz right in. The surrounding residents didn't even care nor notice.
And of course you have to take some goofy selfies with your bestie if you're in the balcony of a beautiful and destroyed church, right?
How do you guys feel about urban exploration? Is it important to document