An Exclusive Relationship with Abandonment
We all have constants in life that we enjoy, and others we don’t. While indulging in Jameson and reflecting on where on earth the past few years have gone, I realized something; The most consistent thing in my life has been abandoned buildings. I realize this may sound dark, it’s not supposed to be. There’s nothing more enthralling to me than early morning drives before the sun rises, sneaking through small openings and shooting buildings the rest of the world has long forgotten.
That being said, I figured I’d write a throwback post to my first adventure to explore. Though I’d been in dozens of buildings throughout New England, I had never ventured further. When the opportunity arose to head to Philadelphia, 16 year-old me had her bags packed and excuses for her weekend absence ready for her parents.
Back in 2006, forums were still popular. Before Facebook consumed almost all forms of communicating, we’d talk in chat boxes on mediocre built forums that middle-aged men took serious pride in. On one of these forums I met what are now some of my best friends in the world, and my trip to Philadelphia was the beginning of those friendships.
Friday night, after I left school I swapped cars with a friend so I could head out to Philly. I picked up a fellow forum user in Connecticut and encountered my first traffic dance with New York City. To this day I still dread driving in NYC.
Upon arriving in Philly I piled into another forum friend’s room and curled up on the floor to get some sleep so early in the morning I could venture to a few smaller spots to explore. The feeling of being away from home was wonderful, but such is the feeling of being a rebel at 16. Hey, at least I wasn’t doing drugs?
Saturday was a wash, with an abandoned golf course and a few small buildings on the outskirts of the city producing a few okay shots for my Canon Rebel XTI to capture.
While the abandoned buildings weren’t winning me over, the city was. Our friend, and tour guide showed us his city with pride. West Philadelphia offered many abandoned high rises and hotels, all taunting me to return and sneak into. The city was even more beautiful at night.
The next day we ventured to Montibello, NJ, a few hours north of Philly and on my way home. We went to an abandoned hospital that had just closed, and the sheriff still actively came to check on it.
My new friends told me stories of their first visit to the building- how the power was still on, and you could watch TV in the nurses lounge. It blew my mind. Where I was from everything closed in the early 90s and everyone forgot about it.
The building was beautiful, and I wish to this day I had taken a tripod and some extra time to shoot it carefully, because my return trips would prove to be disappointing.
An enchanting breezeway connected two buildings, but had begun to be taken over by moss. The green contrasted against the white while vines worked to strangle the plaster from the walls. For some reason this is my fondest memory of this building, and still to this day remains to be.
Even more interesting, the basement had a morgue. I had never encountered a morgue before, and I quickly jumped in to take some photos of myself in them. (I believe kids nowadays call these selfies?)
We shot every building, and didn’t stop until the sun began to set and it wasn’t easy to capture the peeling paint and failing walls. I was disappointed when it was time to had back to dreaded Massachusetts.
Today, this building is covered in graffiti. It’s beautiful turn of the century marble fireplaces are smashed and tagged from thousands of trespassers who creep through each year. Morgue trays are stolen and unless you know where to look, the patient files are all gone.
I still visit this spot about once every year, whether while passing through or just out of habit. I remember the adventure that set the tone for the next ten years of my life; abandonment and adventure. I was inspired to live in Philadelphia later in life because of this trip, and I always make time to get out and shoot something with peeling paint, even if it’s that sketchy corner of my basement.
While some may cherish constants that are a bit more normal, I’ve been grateful for this hobby and how it’s consistently put a smile on my face. Who says abandonment is a negative constant to have in your life? Not me.