The Deep

[Image: Binnewater Kilns, photo by BLDGBLOG.]

While I was over in New York State last fall, reporting both the “witch houses” piece for The New Yorker and the Middletown High School piece for The Guardian, I stopped off in the town of Rosendale, enticed there by several things I noticed on Google Maps.

[Image: The Rosendale Trestle, photo by BLDGBLOG.]

First was what turned out to be a satirical reference to something called the Geo Refrigeration Crevice, which, even on its own, sounded worth a side-trip. But, in the exact same area, there were also photos of an incredible-looking railway bridge converted to a hiking path that I wanted to walk across; there were these gorgeous, ruined kilns built into the hillside; and there were supposedly huge caves.

How on Earth could I drive past all that without stopping?

[Image: Caves everywhere! Photos by BLDGBLOG.]

Being—perhaps to my Instagram followers’ frustration—an avid hiker, I spent far more time there than I should have, mostly looking down into jagged crevasses that extended past the roots of trees, carpeted in fallen leaves, often hidden beneath great, shipwrecked jumbles of boulders slick with the waters of temporary streams.

I crossed the bridge and was ready to hit the road again, when I saw another site of interest on the map. I decided to walk all the way down and around to something called the Widow Jane Mine.

Having visited many mines in my life, I was expecting something like a small arched hole in the side of a hill, probably guarded with a locked gate. Instead, hiking into the woods past some sort of private home/closed mining museum, the ground still damp from rain, I found myself stunned by the unexpected appearance of these huge, moaning, jaw-like holes blasted into the Earth.

[Image: An entrance to the Widow Jane Mine; photo by BLDGBLOG.]

I walked inside and immediately saw the space was huge: a massive artificial cavern extending far back into the hillside. Excuse my terribly lit iPhone photos here, but these images should give you at least a cursory sense of the mine’s scale.

[Image: Inside the Widow Jane Mine; photos by BLDGBLOG.]

Several things gradually became clear as my eyes adjusted to the darkness.

One, I was totally alone in there and had no artificial illumination beyond my phone, whose light was useless. Two, a great deal of the mine was flooded, meaning that the true extent of its subterranean workings was impossible to gauge; I began fantasizing about returning someday with a canoe and seeing how far back it all really goes.

[Image: Flooding inside the Widow Jane Mine; photo by BLDGBLOG.]

Three, there were plastic lawn chairs everywhere. And they were facing the water.

While the actual explanation for this would later turn out to be both entirely sensible and somewhat anticlimactic—the mine, it turns out, is occasionally used as a performance venue for unusual concerts and events—it was impossible not to fall into a more Lovecraftian fantasy, of people coming here to sit together in the darkness, waiting patiently for something to emerge from the smooth black waters of a flooded mine, perhaps something they themselves have invited to the surface…

[Image: Lawn chairs facing the black waters of a flooded mine; photo by BLDGBLOG.]

In any case, at that point I couldn’t be stopped. While trying to figure where in the world I had left my rental car, I noticed something else in Google’s satellite view of the area—some sort of abandoned factory complex in the woods—so I headed out to find it.

On the way there, still totally alone and not hiking past a single other person, there was some sort of Blair Witch house set back in the trees, collapsing under vegetation and water damage, with black yawning windows and graffiti everywhere. I believe it is this structure in the satellite pic.

[Image: A creepy, ruined house in the woods, photo by BLDGBLOG.]

Onward I continued, walking till I made it, finally, to this sprawling cement plant facility of some sort just standing there in a clearing.

[Image: Cement world; photos by BLDGBLOG.]

I wandered into the silos, looking at other people’s graffiti…

[Image: “Born to Die”—it’s hard to argue with that, although when I texted this photo to a friend he thought it said “Born to Pie,” which I suppose is even better. Photo by BLDGBLOG.]

…before continuing on again to find my car.

Then, though, one more crazy thing popped up, sort of hidden behind those kilns in the opening photo of this post.

There was a door in the middle of the forest! With a surveillance camera!

[Image: Photos by BLDGBLOG.]

It turns out this door leads down into the massive document-storage caverns of Iron Mountain located nearby, a company whose subterranean archive fever was documented in The New Yorker several years ago (albeit referring to a slightly different location of the firm). I would guess that this is the approximate location of that door.

This was confirmed for me by a man sitting alone in a public works truck back at the Binnewater Kilns parking lot, near my rental car. He was smoking a cigar and listening to the radio with his window rolled down when I walked up to the side of his truck and said, “Hey, man, what’s that door in the woods?”

Infrastructural Sine Wave

[Image: As if a lighter-than-air geometric fluid became temporarily frozen between two gateways of masonry, it’s just a bridge over the Norderelbe in Hamburg, Germany; photograph by Georg Koppmann (1888) from the collection of the Hamburg Museum, via Hamburger Architektur Sommer 2015, as spotted by Wassmann Foundation].

Saltair

saltair_web[Image: Saltair, photographed ca. 1901, courtesy of the Library of Congress].

While writing the previous post, I was reminded of the old sprawling Venetian structure called “Saltair,” built on the Great Salt Lake atop roughly 2,000 stilts, the ruins of which remain visible.

posts[Image: Via Google Maps].

Although the original building, seen in the topmost image, burned down in 1925, it was replaced by another behemoth architectural complex that later appeared in the film Carnival of Souls.

But it’s the sheer nature of piers—those bridges to nowhere, promising endless extensions of dry land over even the most abyssal of drowned landscapes—that captures my interest here, with Saltair promising something like an American Oil Rocks, that labyrinth of platforms and elevated roadways that snakes out, and out, and out, into the Caspian Sea, only, in this case, styled like some Renaissance palace of cupolas and domes, with rumors that it’s so vast, its furthest rooms have yet to be visited.

Under the Bridge

Photographer Gisela Erlacher has been documenting “the spaces found hidden underneath highways and flyovers across Europe and China,” as seen in the many photos posted over at Creative Boom. “Each photograph reveals not only her own fascination with these massive concrete monstrosities, but also her interest in how they’re now being used by the people who choose to wedge themselves into these forgotten areas.”

From Guns, Bridges

[Image: An otherwise unrelated shot of rebar used in road construction; via Wikipedia].

A quick news item from last month seems worth mentioning: “approximately 3,400 confiscated firearms” are being melted down and turned into rebar to be used for bridge and highway construction projects throughout the American Southwest.

As Global Construction Review reported, “The weapons will be melted into steel reinforcing bar, better known as ‘rebar,’ and transformed into elements of construction for upgrades in freeways and bridges in Arizona, California and Nevada.”

The event where this occurs is known as the “annual gun-melt,” and its future byproducts will be coming soon to a highway crossing near you: former armaments, from swords to plowshares, embedded in our everyday landscape.

Carry That Weight

From the annals of moving large objects come two stories, one of a rock, the other a bridge.

[Image: Photo by Monica Almeida, courtesy of the The New York Times].

A very large boulder is on its way to Los Angeles, we read in the New York Times this morning: a 340-ton rock on a journey moving “through the heart of one of the most congested urban centers in the country: nine nights at six miles an hour, through 120 miles of roads, highways, bridges, overpasses, overhead wires, alarmingly low-hanging traffic lights and sharp turns.”

The rock is going there for an installation by artist Michael Heizer, called “Levitated Mass,” and it was “dynamited out of a hillside” 60 miles from Los Angeles.

[Image: The rock in question; photo by Monica Almeida, courtesy of the The New York Times].

“The effort, nearly five years in the planning (though Mr. Heizer has been making sketches of it as far back as the late 1960s), feels nothing short of a military movement: an incursion through a bewildering thicket of state, city and county regulations and a region with a notoriously difficult street grid,” Adam Nagourney writes in the New York Times.

In fact, the rock’s specific route never relied on one path through that “bewildering thicket,” but has been constantly updated and changed; as Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Heizer’s rock will be displayed, points out, “the State of California is always reviewing the state of its bridges and roads. So a route plan that would have worked a couple of days ago doesn’t work today.”

This has the effect of doubling the distance covered: “Door to door,” Nagourney writes, “the distance is 60 miles, though the actual drive is going to be closer to 120 miles, as engineers plot a route that can accommodate the huge size of what is known as the Prime Mover, and one that steers clear of low bridges and wires. Any route must have stopover spots to park the rock as it waits for night.”

[Image: Photo by Monica Almeida, courtesy of the The New York Times].

The museum’s $10 million boulder-displacement project has, of course, faced some public criticism—but Govan has a response for that: “we are putting more people to work here in L.A. than Obama,” he quips. This includes “teams of workers… deployed to lift telephone and power lines, swing traffic lights to the side and lay down steel plates on suspect patches of roads or bridges.”

Read more at the New York Times.

Elsewhere, meanwhile, thieves have dismantled and stolen an entire steel bridge near Pittsburgh. “Pennsylvania State Police are looking for a steel bridge worth an estimated $100,000 that was dismantled and taken from a rural area in Lawrence County,” we read. “Police said they believe a torch was used to cut apart the bridge, which measured 50 feet by 20 feet, near Covert’s Crossing in North Beaver Township.”

If you see the bridge—or its parts—moving slowly down a remote Appalachian road somewhere, I’m sure the police would appreciate a heads up.

(Bridge story via @wired).