Posts Tagged ‘ Scranton Lace ’

The Sexy Side of Abandonment: Scranton Lace Pin-Up Girls

Lace A

Giving New Meaning To “Scranton Lace”

Anyone who explores abandoned buildings eventually runs into evidence that suggests a whole lot of sex goes on within those dark, sticky and usually moist spaces. Like a passionate affair, ruins are exciting!  Standing in one makes your heart beat faster and the world outside fades from your consciousness as time stands still, and you’re thrust into another world.

Presently, many of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s abandonments are understandably being utilized as backdrops for music videos by local bands such as Astorian Stigmata, and fashion photo shoots by bloggers like Riss Vandal of Fashion Vandals.  And now, thanks to Sullivan’s Pin-Up Photography, the Scranton Lace Factory has a whole new visual image to ponder and appreciate!

Scranton Lace, a factory basically abandoned by the owner in 2002, when workers were informed that it was closing “effective immediately”, first became a popular site among people who engage in Urban Exploration photography, and photojournalists covering our nation’s age of industrial decline.  Now, with the facility currently under renovation in order to bring it back to life, photographer Bonnie Sullivan was able to secure the location in order to conduct one of her specialty Pin-Up Model photo shoots.

Knowing how much I loved photographing Scranton Lace, since I’d been there several times before, Bonnie graciously asked me to stop by during the event, where I was able to convince two of her models to give my readers an inside look at becoming a Pin-Up model for the day.  And after watching this process in action, I truly believe that every woman should do it at least once, just to be able to say they’ve done it.  Apparently, transforming yourself into a Pin-Up is one of those pivotal, life-changing experiences, in terms of confidence building! And in this hyper-connected, social media world, who doesn’t want to feel more confident while having their picture taken?!

Jennifer Walsh-Crosland was the first model to arrive. “This is fucking awesome”, were the initial words out of her saucy red painted lips as she strutted into Scranton Lace’s now infamous bowling alley, with her ruby “ribbon candy” pumps and Bettie Page store shopping bag.  Jennifer, who has done this type of thing before, was excited to finally see the interior of the Scranton Lace Factory.  It had been one of her ambitions for quite a while.  She said, “I was excited because the building and the company have such a historical influence on the culture of this city. It’s been around since the 1890’s, employed many of our area residents throughout the years, and holds so much energy.”

Lace C

And as an added bonus for her spouse, who escorted her to the shoot, Mr. Crosland was also able to get a private behind-the- scenes look at that history all for himself.  “He enjoyed being able to walk around the building while I was doing the shoot. He got some really great pictures from a place that we would have otherwise never had the opportunity to be inside”, Jennifer shared.

The next model to show up was Nikki Falcone, which seems like a name ready-made for an alluring Pin-Up bombshell.  This was her first experience, so her entrance was a little more subdued as she took in the entire scene, which could be a little intimidating for a first-timer.  But as Nikki watched Jennifer in action, under Bonnie Sullivan’s expert direction, she seemed to become more at ease.  It was clear that Bonnie, with the support of her husband Joe Sullivan, was running this show.  “Walk with a little swagger”, she instructed Jennifer, as she stood, in those spectacular red heels, in the middle of a post-apocalyptical looking bowling lane, with two weathered bowling pins grasped in her hands.  “Don’t hold them evenly”, she directed, “hold one pin by the neck and the other down further.”

At one point, while adjusting Jennifer’s dress by hiking it further up her thigh, Bonnie told Jennifer, “Yes, you ARE that kind of girl! Go with it!”, as she snapped her camera shutter closed several times in quick succession.  “Act like you own it”, she instructed Jennifer, “Lift ‘the girls’ (Pin-Up speak for boobs) and cinch the waste!”

Jennifer

Jennifer

When asked about the onslaught of posing instructions, Jennifer responded “The direction that she gives is what makes it so awesome! I mean, I’m just a normal chick; I’m goofy and uncoordinated, but with Bonnie & Joe behind the camera, all of that goes away. They just have a way that makes you feel so comfortable and so confident!”

I asked Jennifer if, after working with professional photographers, she had one posing tip that she would share with others to make their own pictures better. Her response was, “If it feels weird in the moment, more than likely, that’s going to be the best pose of the day!”

The next model to step into the spotlight was Nikki Falcone, who was doing the photo shoot as a gift for her husband, who is into all things retro, as a gift for their anniversary.  “He’s been looking up a lot of (Pin-Up) pictures”, she explained, “So rather than be jealous of those models, I thought maybe I could do just as well.” And do it, Nikki did!

“If you feel comfortable, your photos will look awkward.  So be uncomfortable”, instructed Bonnie from behind the lens, as she led Nikki through some shots on top of the roof of the massive industrial complex.  “Do you want to pretend like you are climbing the ladder in your heels?” Bonnie asked Nikki before telling her to climb up one or two rungs.  “Get your “girls” to the right (those boobies again)”, she shouted to Nikki before taking the picture.

During my time watching Bonnie in action, I couldn’t help but notice how often she mentioned “the girls” to her models.  So I had to ask her how important boobs are when creating a compelling Pin-Up image.  “The Pin-Up is all about cleavage, leg and facial expression”, Bonnie explained, “If you look at all the classic pin-ups of Vargas or Elgrin, they have elongated legs and/or lots of cleavage that go along with their curvy, and never waif-like, bodies. After all, pin-ups were used as a distraction back in the day, and if you’re going to distract the boys from their troubles of war, legs, cleavage and curves were just the thing to do it, no?”

Nikki

Nikki

If the purpose of the Pin-Up girls of the past was to provide a distraction from the horrors of war, I wondered if the resurging interest in Pin-Ups is a reflection of something about the times we live in now.

Bonnie offered her opinion, “Perhaps…and that just may be a large part of it. But I also think that a lot of women just want some “me time” for a minute. Women from all walks of life, have just become so busy these days. We get up in the morning and stand in front of the mirror, tossing our hair up in a knot, or quickly getting ourselves presentable for our work day. We don’t take time to primp and pamper ourselves these days like they did “back in the day”, because we don’t have the time with our busy work schedules, balancing the kid’s schedules, working, husbands, etc.  And I think some of the women who come to us for sessions just want to feel that “old school glamour” again, who want some “me time” and have photos to create the memory.  Because once they leave our session—BAM–they’re thrown back into their horrendous schedules and busy lives. So in a sense, this could be a “distraction” of another kind, not from war, but a distraction from our rushed lifestyles.”

“We’ve also become bombarded with sexual images in our daily lives — some tasteful and some not so tasteful”, Bonnie continued, “The Pin-Up image takes that notion and throws it back to “old school” when sexual images were fun, flirty and only hinting at “naughtiness”.  It takes you back to a time when society was more turned on by the curves of the female body underneath clothing than full on, in your face nudity.  That’s not to say we have anything against tasteful nude images.  We don’t!     Nude doesn’t equal pornography, though.  There’s a definite difference.  I think these are just a few of the reasons for the resurgence.”

I asked Bonnie what motivated her to start taking Pin-Up style photos in the first place.  “I’ve always enjoyed the Pin-Up image”, she replied, “A friend asked me to do a photo shoot of her for a “Pin-Up calendar” she wanted to give as a Christmas gift to her boyfriend. She emailed me and said it’s something she wanted to do, and just never felt like she knew a photographer who would pull off what she was looking for. She was familiar with my style of photography and had seen some of the work that I’ve done in the past. So, I agreed, and it was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had — that we both had, really! I loved editing her photos and seeing such beautiful images that I helped to create.   That’s when I turned to Joe — knowing this was something we just had to work on together out of our mutual love, not just for the classic Pin-Ups, but photography as well. I remember telling Joe that if I truly believe everything happens for a reason, then, that day was no accident and was meant to set us on a path of the business we have today.”

I wanted to know what motivated women to want to be photographed in this way.  “Several reasons”, Bonnie explained, “Some do it as a gift for their significant other. Some do it because they need a “pick me up” after a devastating event such as divorce–or in some cases, maybe that’s more of a celebration and not so much a “pick me up”! Ha-ha! Others do it to celebrate a weight loss or some other turning point in their life. Some want to take a minute out of their busy schedule and feel beautiful and glamorous. And then, others do it just because they love the art of Pin-Up photography and want to emulate their favorite Pin-Up models.  It really is a personal thing; we find that the reasons are varied.”

I wondered what motivate these particular models to want to do this. Nikki said that the idea came to her after seeing the result of a photo shoot that one of her friends did with Bonnie & Joe at a candy shop. Jennifer was also motivated to participate by a friend, who happened to share a post from Sullivan’s on Facebook.  “They were offering a photo shoot package at a great price, with a donation for Toys for Tots”, she said, “I thought it was a great way to be able to get a special Christmas gift for my husband and do a good deed at the same time.”

“I will be really honest”, Jennifer explained, “The first shoot I did, I was REALLY nervous, but after it was all said and done I LOVED IT!! Everything about it, going out and finding the perfect outfit to match the theme I wanted to go with, finding the right pair of shoes that were really going to POP in the shoot. Having hair & make up done–the pampering was one of my guilty pleasures.”

For this photo shoot, Jennifer opted to make a special trip to Philadelphia in order to find the perfect dress.  “It was AWESOME!”, Jennifer exclaimed, I made a trip to the iconic Bettie Page store because even though I had a ton of places I could order a dress from, I wanted to go to a place where I could try on several dresses, to make sure I got the perfect one, not only did I look great, but I felt very comfortable.”

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Nikki said that she fell in love with her dress at pinupgirlclothing.com.  Bonnie says that clients can always check with her to see if she has any Pin-Up inspired clothing on-hand that appeals to them.  “We’re still building our wardrobe”, she explained, but we have several dresses ranging in size from 4 to 18. If we don’t have their size yet, then we can definitely direct them to a few places where  great finds can be had.”

Bonnie encourages clients to consult with her prior to their scheduled shoot because she can help them with all aspects of preparation in order to create the perfect Pin-Up look. “We offer hair and makeup as a complimentary service, EXCEPT for venue shoots where there are multiple shoots, and it’s just not possible time-wise.  Shiloh Salon & Day Spa in Olyphant actually work with us and give all our clients a 20% discount when they go there to have their hair/make up done right before a shoot.  They are a fabulous team and a Pin-Up inspired salon with images of Audrey Hepburn, Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe adorning the walls.  If a client just doesn’t have the funds for getting their hair/make up professionally done, YouTube is a great tool for vintage/retro/pin-up hairstyles!”, she told me.

Of course models can also take charge of creating the look they want all for themselves, as Nikki did, “Stephanie Rozelle from Head to Toe Salon did my hair and makeup, she is a friend I’ve known since high school.”

Jennifer

Jennifer

The definition of a Pin-Up Girl is basically any model whose image garners wide appeal.  I wanted to know if, as a photographer, Bonnie thought that every woman has an inner Pin-Up Girl waiting to be unleashed.

She responded, “I think so. Some of the best sessions we’ve had were of self-proclaimed “tomboys” who wanted to embrace their feminine side for a day. You don’t have to be a “girlie girl” to want to feel beautiful as a Pin-Up for a day. Pin-Up is a genre that crosses a wide range of backgrounds and social statuses. We’ve worked with ladies who have their doctorate degree in education, to hairstylists, to the fast food employee, and the stay at home mom.  Ladies everywhere, no matter who and what title they hold, want to be a beautiful Pin-Up to some degree for one day! It’s fun! It’s something out of the daily grind! And it’s something you walk away with a memory of , as well as prints to hang on your wall or share with your significant other!”

Jennifer added, “There are a lot of women that secretly have a little Pin-Up vixen inside them.”  While Nikki said,  “Absolutely!  Every woman has their own style and appeal and some just need to find it and share it.”

I wanted to know if these ladies had any advice for women who secretly wanted to do this but didn’t think they had enough confidence to actually pull it off.

Jennifer responded, ” If you’ve ever wanted to go outside of your norm, break out of the box, yet do it in a really classy way–DO THIS!! I’m the first to tell you, I may have a big personality, but I’m really, really shy –I’m my own contradiction—but this experience took me WAY out of my comfort zone, and I’m glad that I did it. It brought me out of my proverbial shell – not just by having the pictures taken, but then again, when Bonnie & Joe share them on their Facebook page. It’s out there, for all to see – take it or leave it, like or not – it’s me.”

Nikki said that anyone can do it, with the right attitude.  “Own your pictures,” she said, “ The confidence definitely shines through and the more you think “I’m awesome, I’m beautiful, I can do this” the better the photos seem to be.”

Bonnie Photographing Nikki

Bonnie Photographing Nikki

Bonnie's picture of Nikki

Bonnie’s picture of Nikki

Bonnie explained, “I think we all feel like that to a degree, no?  But I would tell her that no one ever goes in front of a camera without feeling nervous.  Every woman is her own worst critic. A Pin-Up session is often a great way to empower yourself and embrace your body and all of its imperfections.  Pin-Up isn’t about being the perfect weight, the perfect height, the right size nose, or any of that.    You never have to feel as though you “measure up” in the Pin-Up genre! It’s the one genre that accepts and actually appreciates the curvier body over the less curvy frames.”

I wondered if the models learned anything about themselves by participating in this experience.  Nikki responded, “That most of my insecurities are in my head. And the pictures allow me to see what my husband sees in me all along.”  While Jennifer explained, “I’ve solidified that fact that when I want something bad enough, I make it happen, which makes me realize that I am stronger than I think I am.”

And of course we had to discuss the challenges of doing a photo shoot with models at a venue like Scranton Lace.  The first time I had the opportunity to take photos at this location; I was there with people dressed more like doomsday preppers, in army fatigues and steel toe boots, which is a far cry from pretty dresses and designer pumps!

Nikki said that walking around the debris in heels was the biggest problem for her, “My normal day shoes are DC Skater shoes, so heels can be a challenge on normal ground. The roof was interesting too since my heels sunk right in.”

According to Bonnie, “The debris is a challenge sometimes; you obviously want your clients to be safe as they walk around in their heels.  Not having electricity for our lighting can also be challenging.  You want the shots to be bright, crisp and well lit for the client.”

I asked Bonnie why she chose the Scranton Lace Factory as a location in the first place.  “I’m a fan of abandoned buildings because of the “beauty of decay” that I find appealing –which is why I like to put Pin-Ups in such places ,the contrast of the beauty vs. decay of something once beautiful”, she said, “Scranton Lace has some fantastic architecture and amenities  like the bowling alley  that just worked so well with the Pin-Up theme whether it be the classic retro Pin-Up or even the lingerie session we did there.”

Nikki thought the setting was a perfect place for a Pin-Up shoot, “The clash of beauty against the beast I guess you can call it. Here’s someone put together so well, against a backdrop of urban decay, something that’s falling apart, and it just makes her stand out that much more. It’s very visually stimulating.”

And Jennifer added, “What was appealing to me was the fact that here I was, all done up and looking HOT – standing in a beautiful ruin. I feel it’s the perfect combination of the two.”

Obviously, Scranton Lace is important historically. And unfortunately, we live in a time when many historic buildings exist as “zombie buildings”–a real world term that is being used to describe buildings that are not usable for their intended purpose because they are in need of repair, and are owned by entities that cannot afford to do so.  I wanted to know if Bonnie thought  that allowing photographers to use these locations for photo shoots could be beneficial in any way for the building owners in terms of generating renewed interest in gaining public support to try to save these buildings.

“Absolutely!”, she enthusiastically responded, “The general public often times only sees these buildings/structures from the outside and has NO idea of how absolutely gorgeous and stunning some of these buildings are on the inside! And by allowing photographers inside to hold shoots, once the public sees some of these photos — suddenly that building is no longer just the “brick building down the street”, instead they see the building in a whole new light.”

Jennifer said, ”These buildings may be skeletons of their former selves but they still hold so much beauty and that beauty deserves some recognition. I couldn’t wait to get inside to feel it. On my way out, I stood in a huge empty room, which I could only assume held looms at one point… it was so quiet, all I could hear was myself breathing , but the energy I felt was electrifying! That’s what I was looking forward to – that feeling – it’s hard to describe, unless you’ve felt it for yourself , but for that few minutes, I could close my eyes and feel the building.”

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

Scranton Lace Loom Room April 2011

Lace Blog 48

Scranton Lace Loom Room September 2011

I asked Bonnie to describe the Pin-Up Model experience for someone who has never done it before. “It is empowering”, she said, “ and addictive if I were to judge by how many repeat clients we have, and how they tell us their experience with us is like getting a tattoo.  Once you have one, you want more!    None of our clients are “professional” Pin-Up models, at least not to date.  Every one of them that does this for the first time, initially they’re nervous, and by the end of it, they’re beaming with excitement, confidence, thanking us and telling us how much fun they had and can’t wait to do it again. I think it goes beyond the “fun” aspect. I think they feel empowered and that’s what is addictive. The empowerment of embracing their bodies in a way that perhaps they never thought they could or ever would.”

I asked how a client should prepare themselves mentally before their photo shoot.  “Empower yourself by practicing some classic Pin-Up poses and/or facial expressions in the mirror. It’ll give you a chance to see how you look, what poses you find flattering to yourself, and it’ll put some control into your lap at your session”, Bonnie responded,” We always tell our clients that you really need to exaggerate everything for Pin-Up–if you feel foolish when posing the way we direct you to, or with a particular facial expression, then you’re doing it right and your photo will be perfect! And a glass of wine before your session doesn’t hurt either….. but ONE glass, not ONE bottle. Drunk isn’t beautiful, Ha-ha!  And expect LOTS OF FUN!  Joe and I are very laid back and like to have fun as well as make it fun for our clients!  Joe and I shoot at the same time, from different angles, maximizing photo options/angles for the client.  I usually do all the directing, so it’s not confusing for the client —- and while I’m directing, Joe is usually keeping an eye out for flaws in the shot like a clothing tag sticking out, a hem problem in a dress or whatever the case may be.  But Joe and I like to have fun and crack jokes.  There’ve been times when models have had a hard time making their “Pin-Up expression” because they’re laughing so hard at our nonsensical banter.”

I noticed that the models seemed to become more confident as their photo shoot progressed.  Bonnie told me that my assessment was 100% accurate. “I think the atmosphere that Joe and I try to create during the shoot helps our clients to loosen up and ease their concerns about their flaws”, she explained, “We’ll ask ahead of time if there is anything about their bodies they just hate –face it, we all have those issues!– and even what parts they love about themselves!  We’ll try to down-play that imperfection during their session.  I think our clients see that as we start shooting, and it helps to boost their confidence knowing that we are going to be sure we photograph their best and down-play what they’re not fond of.  We try to keep the atmosphere light and help ease their anxiety. We crack jokes; we try to involve them in the outcome of their experience by asking if there’s any particular shot/pose they want to try.    And even if they have shot with us before, I think the anticipation of having their shoot, sometimes planned months in advance, has them amped up and rocking their nerves, and once they begin the shoot they’re like “Oh yeah, I forgot how easy this groove is!”

I asked what Bonnie thought her husband added, as the male perspective, to the creation of the Pin-Up image.  She explained, “Face it, a man will see a woman in a completely different light and with a completely different appreciation than another  female does — it’s in our wiring, photographer or not. There are times when Joe will suggest something or add a little “tweak” to the shot or pose….. But just the same, it’s that suggestion/tweak that takes it from sexy to “WHOA!!” Joe appreciates the art in the female form and he uses that appreciation to help create some stunning images in our business!  I know there are Pin-Up photographers out there who tout themselves as an “all female team” and that’s great —  there are women who may not be comfortable with a male photographer. But, we’ve been told by a few of our clients they appreciate the “male eye”, particularly for boudoir sessions when the client is giving the gift to the man in her life.”

Boudoir Model at Scranton Lace

Boudoir Model at Scranton Lace

I wanted to know if a man should ever consider purchasing a Pin-Up photo session as a gift for the woman in his life.  Bonnie thinks it would make a great present because “what a fantastic compliment it would be for your significant other to say “Hey honey, I bought you a Pin-Up photography session!”     Wouldn’t that say that he/she already thinks you’re an amazing, sexy being and wants to see it brought to life in Pin-Up form??”

You can find more pictures from the Scranton Lace Pin-Up photo shoot on the Sullivan Pin-Up Photography Facebook Page and contact information, as well as other photos, on their website.

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Cheri Sundra © 2013
All Rights Reserved

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
All Rights Reserved

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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