Archive for the ‘ Urban Exploration ’ Category

I’ve Got The Power…..

Power D

Generations of families living near the Susquehanna River in Plymouth, or passing over the Carey Avenue Bridge, have grown accustom to seeing the huge smokestacks looming in the background. 

Power in the 50s

1950s (?) era picture with smokestacks in background

While the smokestacks have been dormant for many decades, and in some ways, have even changed with the times because, apparently, they now have something to do with providing cellular service, they still stand as a monument to a more powerful time—a time when humans first became God-like in their ability to provide artificial light, on a grand scale, during the darkest hours of the night.

"I've Got The Power......."
"I've Got The Power........"

In 1882, the first commercial power station opened in New York City.   Just two years later, The Wilkes-Barre Electric Company, along with Hildreth & Co. (Nanticoke), started offering service in some areas of Luzerne County.   

"I've Got The Power........”

Locally, it was primarily our West Side Communities that were the pioneers in electrical power and lighting for the area.  Nanticoke, Kingston, Wyoming, Forty Fort, Luzerne, Plymouth and Shickshinny all constructed power plants to meet the growing needs of this exciting, new industry. 

"I've Got The Power........It's gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic”

“I’ve Got The Power……..It’s gettin’ it’s gettin’ it’s gettin’ kinda hectic……”

"I've Got The Power........It's gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic”

Eventually, they all merged and consolidated into one big “light plant” that took over the responsibility for serving the entire area, which is what you still see standing today  at the river’s edge, on the corner of Bridge and Beade Streets.  Built in 1905, it was the fifth power plant erected in Plymouth.   

b Power

The very first power plant to operate in Plymouth opened in 1886 on Cherry Street.  During the early years of the lighting industry, commercial lighting was only furnished during “lighting hours” and only street lights were on the “moonlight”, or “all night”, schedule. I find it compelling to contemplate the notion that at one point humans had little control over darkness, and then we found a way to master the darkness by distributing artificial light. 

Abandoned Pennsylvania:  "I've Got The Power...."

"I've Got The Power........It's gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic”  {EXPLORE}Can you spot the wire hanger still in place on the wall?

Today, the Plymouth Light Plant still stands, in a state of semi-abandonment.  The front portion of the building, bordering Bridge Street, is used as a rental storage facility, while the back portion of the structure remains unused.  The grounds around the back, with all of the “High Voltage” electrical service structures, make up the UGI Electrical Service Plymouth Substation. 

Power I
Power A

A big “thanks” to the Plymouth Historical Society for providing me with the information about the Plymouth Power Plant!  I was unable find anything on my own…..

Power Ghost Sign

Luzerne County Gas & Electric Corporation “ghost sign” overlooking the Susquehanna River

Power H
a Power

Power 9

Power 7

Power 6
Power 5

Power 4
Power 3
Power 2
Power J
Power F
Power B
Power C
Power E
I've Got The Power
Power G

Power 12

Smokestack as it looks from the front of the home

that belonged to my grandparents on Beade Street

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
All Rights Reserved

And They All Came Tumbling Down

The event that I am most often asked about is the collapse of a pavilion at the (now abandoned) Croop’s Glen Amusement Park —during a baby contest, of all things! 

In April of 1917, a newspaper blurb announced that “A new picnic ground with every known amusement device is being built at Hunlock’s Creek and will be open on May 28th as Croop’s Glen”.  By the 1930s, the park became a very popular venue for civic group outings which were often publicized in the local newspaper. 

Between 1926 and 1927, two wooden roller coasters were added.

There was a full size coaster named Twister, and one Kiddie Coaster.

Both pictures  of “Twister” courtesy of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company

Roller Coaster Entrance

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Geisel

During an outing planned by the Nanticoke Unemployed League in June of 1935, as mothers were assembling on the pavilion with their children for a baby show along with observers, the floor of the pavilion, which was situated between 20 & 30 feet above the bed of Hunlock’s Creek, parted in the middle and then dropped.  A witness account described a “roar of furniture, crockery, glass and human bodies falling into the creek”.   

Croop's BAbandoned Park Picnic Tables in 2010

According to the newspaper ““The floor of the Pavilion broke in two, creating a large funnel into which tumbled men, women and screaming children, together with benches, chairs and tables and the paraphernalia   usually taken along by picnickers”.   Witnesses estimated that between 250 and 300 people were standing on the pavilion at the time of the accident. 

Dance Pavilion?  Could be…..

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Geisel

Fortunately, the sides and roof of the structure stayed intact, contributing to the fact that no one died during or after the catastrophe.   As a result of the collapse, 145 people were admitted to the hospital.  A local newspaper reported that “after the rescue work, shoes, purses, hats and bits of clothing could be seen in the wreckage, mute testimony of the horror that overtook the hundreds who were on the pavilion.”

The park was owned by B.F. Croop and the land was leased to Charles Shelly who was the park manager.  According to the newspaper, officials of the Nanticoke Unemployed League Council initially expressed belief that over-crowding caused the accident.  Complete details about the accident are available thru the Luzerne County Library System’s Sunday Independent online archives at “200 Picnickers Injured Here As Dance Pavilion Collapses”.

On July 10th, 1938, the newspaper reported that the park was being sued by 12 people for injuries sustained during the pavilion accident.  The majority were seeking $5,000 in damages, a few asked for $10,000 and the highest amounted to $15,000.  Visit “$96,000 Damages Asked by 12 for Injuries In Pavilion Crash” to see a list of the plaintiffs. 

While many people speculate that the accident and subsequent lawsuit led to the closing and abandonment of Croop’s Glen Amusement Park that does not seem to be the case.  An article from August of 1943 states:

 “Noted for years as one of the regions natural parks, Croop’s Glen this year is a complete casualty of the war effort.”

Carousel – photo by Croop’s Glen Art Studio

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Geisel

”The park has been renovated substantially since the dance hall collapse ten years ago, but the rollercoaster, whip, dodgem, merry-go-round and kiddies train, to mention the leading amusements have not turned a wheel this summer.”

Carousel

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Geisel

“They, as well as the penny arcade, refreshment and prize stands, are covered as protection from the elements.  The swimming pool, which for many years was one of the best patronized in the region, because of its mountain-fresh, ever-flowing water, has also gone to pot.”

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Swimming Pool Remains in 2010

“It was a favorite place for basket outings and still has excellent facilities, including a large outdoor oven and scores of tables and benches if people were so inclined.”

Croop's c

Concession Stand/Picnic Grove in 2010

The article also mentions that lack of public transportation was contributing to the decline of the park.  You can access the full text of the article at “Park At Croop’s Glen Complete War Casualty” 

I was unable to find anything stating when the park officially closed, by some accounts; it remained open as a picnic spot through the mid-50s, with the dance hall serving as a skating rink. 

Croop's AAbandoned Park Picnic Grove Structure in 2010

More Croop’s Glen Updates Here

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Abandoned Pennsylvania--Lost History Found:  Croop’s Glen Amusement Park, Hunlock Creek   Cheri Sundra © 2012 All Rights Reserved

 

 

The Ghost of Gangster’s Paradise

 

Al Capone’s cell at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia.

ESP:  Gangsta Paradise

Everyone knows that legendary gangster Al Capone’s reign ended when he was found guilty of tax evasion, but did you know that doing time for a minor charge helped the notorious prohibition-era crime boss lay low after he ordered the most spectacular gangland slaying in mob history?

In 1929, on February 14th, seven members of Chicago’s North Side Irish gang were lined up in a warehouse/garage by two men from Capone’s South Side Italian gang dressed as police officers.  Thinking that it was a routine police raid, everyone peacefully did as they were told as the rival gunmen removed their weapons and then proceeded to pump their bodies full of lead using two Tommy guns, a sawed-off shotgun, and a .45.  Each of the seven victims received at least 15 bullets, mostly in the head.  The event became known as The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Shortly after The Massacre, during what is said to be a planned arrest, Capone is picked up in Philadelphia for carrying a concealed weapon, and sentenced to a year in Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) where he could reside in safety behind bars in the “Park Avenue Block” of the prison. The warden and guards at ESP gave special consideration to Mr. Capone during his stay.   He was permitted to hang artwork in his private cell, was allowed to have tables, lamps, a velvet duvet, comfortable chair and even an expensive radio so he could listen to waltzes after dinner.  Capone was allowed to continue to conduct business.  The organized crime boss was able to use the warden’s office to make long-distance phone calls and to meet with his lawyer.  Capone was released from ESP two months early for good behavior!

While Capone’s time at ESP many have been relatively pleasant, he may not have left unaffected by his stay.  During the early years of the Twentieth Century, rumors about ghosts began to circulate at the prison.  While he was incarcerated at ESP, Capone began to be “haunted” by the “ghost” of James Clark, one of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre victims and the brother-in-law of his rival Bugs Moran.  Other inmates reported that they could hear Capone yelling in his cell begging “Jimmy” to leave him alone.  The crime boss even contacted a psychic to get rid of the angry specter.  Years later, Capone would say that Clark’s vengeful spirit followed him from Eastern State Penitentiary and would follow him to the grave.  Fact, fiction, imagination or was Capone starting to show signs of the full-blown psychosis that would eventually start to haunt him when he was later incarcerated in Alcatraz for tax evasion?

Can’t get enough ESP?

Don’t miss the rest of the ESP Halloween Tales:

1. Haunted ESP (ghost on film)

2. The Eye of God and The Mad Chair

And

3. The Ghost Cats

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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The UE Magazine Interviews: SCRANTON LACE FACTORY

Scranton Lace Factory: The Loom Room is History Now  {EXPLORE}

Speaking as one myself, I can tell you that urban explorers are vastly misunderstood and our motives are grossly underestimated.  I began photographing ruins in my community about two years ago.  What compels me to do it is a mixture of curiosity and a drive to capture the sense of abandonment in these beloved places where people once lived or worked.

As America moves onward during this current age of our industrial decline, and communities find themselves littered with more abandoned structures than they can financially deal with, urban exploration is growing in popularity.  Explorers are assuming the very public role of modern-day archeologists as they set out to document our downfall, one image at a time.
Abandoned Scranton Lace Factory:  Mass Production Breeds Mindless Repetition

Yet, Urban Exploration is a lot like Fight Club.  It is its own subculture filled with intrigue and drama; it attracts thrill seekers who are bored with the banality of modern ”consumer culture”  life, and it’s a very secretive fraternity.  In fact just like Fight Club, the first rule of urban exploration is that you don’t talk about urban exploration.

Luckily, while we gathered to explore the Scranton Lace Factory, I was able to convince a few “professional” urban explorers—photographers Kevin Brett, Jennifer O’Malia, Katherine Rogers and documentarian Erik Hummel —to participate in a group interview as an attempt to understand the driving motivation behind their passion for this way of life.

The article, “As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us”, is now available through UE Magazine  .

Grab your own copy today and enter the world of Urban Exploration!

Enjoy!

Cheri Sundra

~~ Taking one of NEPA’s most “Urban Exploration Worthy” sites to an international audience!

Extreme Bowling: Uncharted Frontier EZine

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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Kirby Park Ruins: The Video

For Those Who Want History Served With A Side Of Adventure

(An Unemployed Zombie Building Infiltration Specialist Production)

Remnants of a distant age whose memories are only vaguely preserved, you cannot deny the romance and intrigue surrounding “lost” ruins.  They give us a connection to the past that’s visceral, hinting at a tale full of both splendor and calamity. 

Over the decades, a sense of mystery has slowly enveloped the Kirby Park Ruins, blurring the line between fact and urban legend.  All that is left for history to do now is collect the few clues that can be found scattered about, and attempt to hammer them together to marvel at the stories they may reveal. 

Reclaimed by the grasping fingers of  nature, despoiled by human hands, and buried beneath the mud of the mighty Susquehanna River, these monuments to Wilkes-Barre’s days-gone-by have suffered the same fate experienced by all ancient monuments.

So why not cater to your sense of adventure, get your “Indiana Jones” on, and walk hand-in-hand with history and mystery by exploring the Kirby Park Ruins for yourself? 

You can also watch the video here:

Kirby Park Ruins: The Video

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And don’t miss the companion post:

Kirby Park Ruins: Walk with History along the Olmsted Trail

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For more information about these mysterious ruins, visit:

Kirby Park Zoo Ruins: Ooops!  Maybe Not!

&

The Animals Of The “Lost” Kirby Park Zoo

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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DEATH AND TAXES: Even the Dead Can’t Avoid Taxes and Abandonments

It’s been said that Urban Exploration Photography is ultimately about photographing failure.  Specifically, what we are capturing when we point our lens at a building in a state of abandonment and ruin is the inability of both individual owners and whole communities to maintain enough prosperity to support business, industry or redevelopment.  So what can be said when engaging in urban exploration exposes that you can’t even escape potential abandonment (and taxes) in death?

Because of that question, I consider this to be the strangest and most disturbing place that I’ve photographed to date.

This dilapidated mausoleum/chapel has notices taped to the front window that contain words such as “Tax Claim Bureau” and “Judicial Sale”, plus a figure in excess of $4,000.  The papers were all signed and dated during the summer of 2005, when they were evidentialy placed where they have remained since that date.   There are people interred on both sides of this deteriorating building as well as inside.  The roof obviously is in need of repair.  Two portions of the rear stained glass windows appear to be missing.  All of the flowers placed with the memorials are artificial, indicating that people are not allowed inside the structure on a regular basis, AND they were made aware of the fact that they would be denied access at some point.   There is also an obviously abandoned and overgrown cemetery office building located on the opposite side of the property.

Someone does periodically maintain the grounds by cutting the grass where people are buried.  Other than that fact, there is no indication whatsoever that any activity takes place on the property.  It seems dead as the proverbial door-nail.  It’s hard to even try to guess what, if anything, is in the works for the “residents” of “Questionable Fate” Memorial Park.  I find that idea haunting and I have more to say about this location at the end of the post.

Memorial Park Office

Looking for some input from the outside world while I was editing these pictures and thinking about what to write, I posted an image from this series on Facebook.  Almost immediately, the picture generated the expected “Where’s this at?” from someone unaware that urban explorers just don’t ask that particular question, at least not in a public forum!

In my response, I explained that I was not going to disclose the location.  Which is a first for me; much to the annoyance of some other photographers of the same subject matter, I usually post my pictures on social media sites like Flickr with all of the pertinent tags and background information included.  I just learned early on that people were more likely to take the time to look at, and comment on, my pictures when they know what they are looking at and have some background information to add context and depth to their interpretation of the image.  If those components are missing, I usually question the effectiveness and purpose of this genre of photography.  But this Memorial Park mystery has me even questioning that point of view, at least in some cases.

I still believe that each of us engaged in this activity is really bound by ethics to disclose location information to other legitimate photographers/historians/documentarians.   At its core, urban exploration photography serves to visually challenge America’s current state of amnesia about its past economic failure. Ruins don’t happen overnight—they require DECADES of neglect!

Hotel Sterling: The UnDead Days--Part 1 An Introduction
Hotel Sterling, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

I am aware that full disclosure is considered controversial by some people who explore on a regular basis, since many believe that all locations should remain top secret information.

After a few years of doing this, I definitely reject that point of view. There seems to be a growing consensus, at least among mature, professional explorers, that we are acting as the archivists of America’s age of post-war industrial decline.

The Loom Room, Scranton Lace {EXPLORED}:  UE Magazine
Abandoned Scranton Lace Factory

America is  a nation in transition.  For generations we have been running away from a much required correction to our economy, way of life and expectations.  Our cities and small towns are struggling to provide basic services to residents.  We are living in dire economic times befitting the fall of an empire.  Almost every community across the county is littered with more long-term abandonments than they can even begin to hope to restore and that is serving as our wake up call, reminding us that we can no longer pretend that we are able to continue to grow our economy exponentially.

While people like to believe that our current economic state is a recent and unexpected occurrence caused by one president or another, the truth is that America’s decline actually began decades ago. Some economists believe that it really started with the end of World War II.

Fast forward to today, after the big “preservation” push during the 90s, and the start of the new millennium, following the time when communities looked to “Savior Building” redevelopment/preservation projects to jump-start their struggling economy.  Those projects, more often than not, resulted in unmet goals and half completed endeavors. Now, those same proponents of preservation are singing a vastly different tune.  Quotes from a Preservation Pennsylvania representative in 2011, paint a grim picture for abandonments of historical significance in my state, when asked about the finding help to save the long-abandoned Hotel Sterling:

It's a Zombie Ballroom now at the Hotel Sterling

 Zombie Ballroom at the Hotel Sterling

The state is filled with historic structures facing demolition. These are difficult times economically. Private funders don’t have money. The government doesn’t have any money, and typically that’s where money comes for historic preservation,” – “Preservation Pennsylvania is monitoring Hotel Sterling”, Times Leader, April 3, 2011

 I know many explorers operate under the assumption that if they keep these locations a secret, they can remain our personal playgrounds forever.  As a collective group, we may give lip service to preservation, but that is not the case, as observed in an interview by journalist Len Albright:

 “I’ve interviewed people who have been to the same building 20 or 30 times, they just love it so much,” he says. “But when I asked them if they’d like to organize a cleanup or a preservation effort, they’d be indifferent. They might think that’s fine for someone else to do … after awhile, though, they’d be off to hunt for the next abandoned building.”

That pretty much sums it up, for the most part, we are “ruin porn whores” first and foremost, myself included.  But thinking that an abandonment can remain abandoned indefinitely is unrealistic.  The only reason an abandonment would exist in the first place would be as a direct result of a failed economy.  In order for these communities to move forward, they are going to have to eradicate these structures from their landscape.  To leave them sit there, just signals the slow death of their entire social structure.

Huber Breaker Ruins:  The Art of Industrial DecayLong Abandoned Huber Breaker, Ashley Pennsylvania

It’s obvious that in order for economic recovery to start, these buildings are going to have to come down, especially if they have reached that tipping point where just building a new structure is far more economical than restoring what is there now.  And that’s why I share location information, I recognized that the structures have historical value, and they are doomed (which is why they are beautiful), and I want as many photographers to photograph them as possible before they are gone.  It is part of the history of the building, and the community, and deserves to be documented as much as any other event that occurred on the site.

Which brings me back to the questions raised by my haunting discovery of this memorial park, “why not share the location”?  It just doesn’t fall into the same category, and because I’m sure that people with loved ones buried there would not appreciate droves of urban explorers flocking there to gawk.  Plus there are weirdos out there who vandalize both crypts and corpses, so we certainly don’t want to tell them where a mausoleum of questionable status is located!

I was also asked, more than once,  via private message, “if the location isn’t worthy of sharing, why even bother posting the picture in the first place?”

I posted the picture because it touched me at a core level, as it obviously did for the other people who took the time to “like” my Facebook post, to comment, or to contact me privately.  Many people were wondering about who is maintaining the property and why. My best guess would be that people with loved ones buried at the location may be going there to cut grass, or the county where it is located has taken on the responsibility.

The tax notices are from 2005.  That was seven years ago.  Maybe someone has taken it over since then & just lacks the funds to do any repairs yet (although I would think they would at least remove the notices from the windows!)  I kind of hope that the families of the people buried there would pull their resources to take over the park for themselves, which would seem to be the least upsetting option.

 The funniest message was from the wife a man, well versed in history, who was puzzled as to WHY a cemetery would owe back taxes. I shared a copy of the notice posted on the door with them, because I believe it contains a clue.  The Tax Claim Notice lists the former owner as “Blank” Memorial Garden INC, and I’m thinking that the fact that it belonged to a corporation and not a religious institution may play a role in the present circumstances of the location! It may now be incorporated, but I guess there is no money to be made in death unless it’s tax free!  😉

This is why I believe that posting these images is important; it adds another layer to our national discussion about the fall of our empire, even without disclosing the location.  What does it really say about society when corporations and taxation interfere with the ability to maintain the final resting place of our dead?

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
All Rights Reserved

(Video) Ghost Town: Post-Apocalyptic Chic “Concrete City”–another Unemployed Zombie Building Infiltration Specialist Production

To see my video featuring a fun romp thru a ghost town in Pennsylvania visit: (Video) Ghost Town: Post-Apocalyptic Chic “Concrete City”–another Unemployed Zombie Building Infiltration Specialist Production Abandoned in 1924, Concrete City is said to be the first example of modern-day cookie-cutter or tract housing.  This residential development, built in 1911, consisted of 20 buildings, each one housing two families.  Both halves of every structure contained a living room, kitchen and dining room downstairs, with four bedrooms on the second floor.  Outhouses were constructed behind the dwellings.  The homes were arranged around a central plaza that contained a pavilion, baseball field, tennis court and wading pool.  Concrete sidewalks illuminated by electric lights and landscaped yards completed this cutting-edge community, which was abandoned in 1924 because the owners did not want to install an expensive sewer system as required by the township.

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Cheri Sundra © 2012 All Rights Reserved

As The Vultures Picked Her Bones—A Hotel Sterling Video

 

I’ve attempted to make a video about the Hotel Sterling that (tries) to capture my sense of chaos about the place…It was made with just a cell phone camcorder & a movie making program that came with a laptop.  Far be it from me to allow the lack of proper equipment or skill to get in my way when it comes to creative expression!  😉

For a video tour of the abandoned Hotel Sterling, check out:

 “As The Vultures Picked Her Bones”

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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Huber Breaker Ruins: The Art of Industrial Decay

***Every photo also serves as a link to more of each photographer’s work

Photographer Scott Frederick, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Existing in a state of ruin and completely stripped of all functionality, the Huber Breaker looms over the bleak landscape of Ashley, Pennsylvania, a monument of the industrial revolution reduced to a useless scar, blighting the landscape.  A detritus of a bygone way of life, it has the power to tell us things about the past, while existing very much in the present.   

Photographer Jamie Clarke (aka RiddimRyder), Ontario, Canada

The Huber Breaker, a facility created for literally breaking chunks of coal into smaller bits, is a decaying piece of infrastructure from an industry that built an entire region.  Today the deafening noises and the human element of its function have been replaced by silence and total desolation as the abandoned breaker sits brooding on the landscape, now a decaying tomb in the post-industrial world.  Amazingly, it almost resembles something from a sci-fi movie set, in defiance of the fact that the machinery became outdated decades ago.

Photographer Dawn Robinson—Baltimore, Maryland

Photographer Stacy Shannon—Alexandria, Virginia

Photographer Enrico Fiore

History tells us that the breaker’s windows were designed for maximum use of sunlight, yet today the structure remains characteristically dark and somber, creating a compelling atmosphere for the photographers stopping by to ponder the passage of time and to bear witness to the slow destruction of this forsaken structure left behind by a long defunct enterprise.   

Photographer Enrico Fiore

Photographer Stacy Shannon—Alexandria, Virginia

Photographer LUIGI ROMANO (aka Egoista_73) with model Nicholas Bishop Michael of Model Mayhem #1634905

Machines often have a steampunk quality that can fuel the artistic imagination while the setting is comprised of titanic spaces that lend themselves to appearing like majestic ruins full of twisted metal and distant vanishing points. 

Photographer Jenn O’Malia—Groton, Connecticut

Photographer Dawn Robinson—Baltimore, Maryland

Blight itself can inspire all kinds of emotions in people because it is a display of failure that gives voice to the darker aspects of our communities. It can be shocking to directly confront the kind of neglect that sets in when the bottom falls out of a region’s economy. You are forced to realize that an industry once thrived at that location, generating wealth and opportunity for a privileged few, and all that remains for the community today is a massive hulk of neglect and decay, asking why the real estate that it stands on isn’t even valuable enough to warrant redevelopment.

Photographer LUIGI ROMANO (aka Egoista_73) with model Nicholas Bishop Michael of Model Mayhem #1634905

Photographer Cheri Sundra

 The obligatory history:

The Huber Breaker opened in 1939 to meet the bustling needs of the Anthracite coal industry and was able to process 7,000 tons of coal daily.  The company dyed the coal a blue color as a branding gimmick and it was advertised as “Blue Coal”. When demand for the mining industry declined, the facility closed in 1976.   Since that time, it has been left abandoned and open to vandals and scrappers. 

Photographer Geo Romolo, Toronto, Ontario

“This coal breaker, along with many others, is very special to me. They capture “Americana” at its best. The American Heartland could not be represented without these industrial backbones of our past. They represent to me the men and women that labored here. Our cities were and still are built on coal and steel. One image cannot even begin to capture the hard labor our forefathers put into pioneering the industrialization of America as we know it.”~~ Geo Romolo  

Photographer Jim Cook, Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania

“As a child growing up in the Wyoming Valley, the heart of the northeastern coal region,  I always wondered while passing by  that gargantuan structure on the highway what it would have been like to work there, or even be inside such a massive place. It wasn’t until I was older that I had an opportunity to step inside and take a look for myself. At that point in time the breaker had seen better days; the floors were starting to cave and the windows were mostly broken. However,  I really enjoyed exploring the breaker for various reasons, the most significant being the fact that it was such an integral part of the community where I grew up and its demise left the area and its occupants depressed. It is rich in history and that is why I enjoy photographing and documenting these forgotten places.”~~Jenn O’Malia

Photographer Jenn O’Malia—Groton, Connecticut

Photographer Stacy Shannon—Alexandria, Virginia

Photographer Dawn Robinson—Baltimore, Maryland

Photographer Cheri Sundra

Photographer Katherine Rogers (aka Dilated Pupil) , Tattoo Artist, Reading, Pennsylvania

“The Huber Coal Breaker was the first stop on our adventure this week and what a beauty it was!  ….This location is a bit unsafe because of the broken stairs and hanging debris, but we made our way up through the maze of death as I like to call it! The more time we spent in the Huber the more there was to shoot.”  ~~Scott Frederick Photography Blog

A Christo-esque Breaker Moment: I can’t help but wonder if this was a leftover background embellishment from a photo shoot, just a prank or was someone trying to make an artistic statement?~~Cheri Sundra

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I was recently interviewed for an article about the Kirby Park Zoo Ruins:

Times Leader

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Cheri Sundra © 2012
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Spontaneous Acts of Art: Concrete City Ruins

*(All photos are my own unless another photographer is credited.  If the photo is from another person, you can click on the photo itself to see more of their work.  All photos were shot at Concrete City) 

Old Skool: All Great Truths Begin as Great Blasphemies

 

Photographer: Dawn Robinson–Baltimore, Maryland

I love to explore the ruins of Concrete City, an honest to goodness ghost town  in Northeastern Pennsylvania that has morphed from a long forgotten hopeless abandonment,   into a frequently changing urban art gallery.   There is something amazing about a place that is left to disappear into history that creates a second life for itself.  At Concrete City you can feel a faint heartbeat and bear witness to the stirring of a soul thru the expression of the street art that people feel compelled to create on its decaying & crumbling walls. 

All We Know is Falling </3 Caution Cliff Ahead

By “street art”  I don’t mean misspelled racial slurs, poorly drawn genitalia, or swastikas (although you will run into plenty of that), I mean art that was clearly done by someone with talent or at least a statement with a deep thought behind it.  The purpose of this kind of art is to question the existing environment with its own language.  It is art that is unsanctioned and not sponsored by community or government initiatives.  “Street art” is art in its truest form—art for art’s sake brought to life in a public space.   

Concrete City is also a location popular with Paint Ball enthusiasts which helps to add a certain photographic ambiance to an otherwise dreary location. Photographer Katherine Rogers—Tattoo Artist, Reading Pennsylvania

Photographer Katherine Rogers—Tattoo Artist, Reading Pennsylvania

Old Skool: Imperfections Create Character

 I don’t just mean old skool graffiti in which traditional artists have primarily used free-hand aerosol paints to produce their work.  Today’s resurgence in street art encompasses many other techniques such as stencil art, sticker art, and installations.   And in a phenomenon that I find most interesting, this art renaissance that is spontaneously occurring at Concrete City has attracted the attention of photographers who are actually bringing models there to shoot on location!  At Concrete City!  😉 

Photographer: LUIGI ROMANO (aka Egoista_73)  from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

“I like to do photo shoots in this area because it’s the right amount of strange. It’s colorful, creepy and crazy, and there’s nothing better than having that combination with a mix of modern people.” —Corrine Klug

Photographer: Corrine Klug—Dallas, Pennsylvania

“I like doing out of the box fashion shoots, Concrete City is an amazing place, and pretty PRIVATE for the most part, it’s a place where you can clear your mind and just enjoy the art of it all.”– Sande Kaczkurkin

Photographer: Sande Kaczkurkin  “Pennsylvania Sande”—Springville, Pennsylvania with model Sarah Cugini of Model Mayhem–MM Number 2100887

With a little luck, maybe this creative energy can find a way to infuse itself into some other areas of Luzerne County if community leaders would allow it.  These are artists who clearly want to share their talents, why not give them some space somewhere to create community generated art?  Wilkes-Barre is a small community without a lot of money; it needs all of the free inspiration that it can get! 

Is it vandalism or Van-Dali’-ism?!

The history of graffiti/street art includes Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.  Graffiti was found in the ruins of Pompeii, on the walls of ancient Jerusalem, and in ancient Egypt.   It has always been used by mankind to express underlying social and political messages. One of the most famous and inspiring graffiti campaigns predating the modern street art movement began during World War II with the tag “Kilroy was here”.   Kilroy was a little long-nosed character with a bald head that began popping up in unexpected places across the theaters of war visited by American troops.  American soldiers engaged in competitions to inscribe the tag in obscure locations to help keep the battle-weary soldiers inspired.  Soldiers became so engaged by the graffiti art competition, that the mysterious Kilroy character had Japanese Intelligence Officers and Hitler himself worried about the “message” being propagated by the little ubiquitous guy. 

 

Photographer: Stacy Shannon—Alexandria, Virginia

Today, graffiti has become a rapidly developing art form that is gaining legitimacy.  The art world of curators, dealers and collectors are helping graffiti artists expand their audience on a worldwide scale, just as Luzerne County is gearing up to start its own War on Graffiti in the name of keeping our streets free from gang influence.  Our community leaders and law enforcement officers are telling residents to protect our children and our streets from gangs by reporting all graffiti to the police departmentIncidentally, there also happens to be a stream of funding available at this time for communities who can prove that they are plagued by the infiltration of gang-related activity. 

Sadly art is historically a casualty in any community where leaders try to create solutions to avoid an impending economic apocalypse.  I’d hate to see local Banksy wannabes get silenced during a campaign against little local gangsta wannabes just as graffiti art is sweeping the nation as a means to revitalize declining and blighted communities.  Cities like Los Angeles and Chicago are publically recognizing the talent of their graffiti artists by providing the means for them to do legal graffiti, which helps to foster developing street artists while lessoning the amount of graffiti that appears in their cities as vandalism.  One criticism often heard in Luzerne County is that we knock down our historic structures and do nothing with the newly created space, or worse yet, put up a parking lot— UNUSED parking lots

Our leaders need to foster more progressive thinking in terms of turning our dying community around and breathing new life into our often empty streets.  With price tags for the historic preservation and the economic development of our blighted structures reaching into the millions, as our community sits and waits for something to happen to reinvigorate the center city area of Wilkes-Barre, local graffiti artists have been creating a message (for free!) that is calling out to other creative individuals.   Local street artists are drawing visitors and compelling them to document a broken and deserted town sitting in the middle of nowhere in Luzerne County.  What can we do to get these people to travel less than ten miles down the road to breathe a little life and tourism into Wilkes-Barre using the same inexpensive method? Can the same medium be used to draw local residents in neighboring communities into the center of Wilkes-Barre again?  Maybe, if given the opportunity, at least temporarily until the millions needed for community redevelopment and historical preservation can magically arrive……Just as the Kilroy Graffiti Campaign gave hope to American soldiers fighting a war, perhaps a Community Graffiti Campaign is what the city of Wilkes-Barre needs to give citizens a renewed sense of optimism as they prepare to fight their own war–a war against economic blight.

Giraffiti in The Concrete City Jungle Room

 

Beyond Concrete City, people in the area are currently talking about the red cat stencil tag artist.  Who is this mysterious street artist and what is their message?  Can anyone out there offer any insight?

 

Gruesome Intermodal Kitty

Frank Clark Jeweler Cat

   

South Street Bridge Stencil Art Cats

Another South Street Bridge Playful Kitty

And this keeps showing up in the most unusual places also….who is he?

Graffiti IS happening in Luzerne County and very little of it appears to be gang related…..

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Visit Vimeo to watch my Concrete City mini-movie!

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