Friday, September 17, 2004

The Meathouse

I'm starting to feel that this blog needs a bit more grit. Like expecting James Ellroy and getting Nancy Drew. I don't want to make it seem like all there is to do in Augusta is stroll pleasantly along deserted streets looking at abandoned buildings. Oh no. You can go in these abandoned buildings. Take this majestic wreck. Looks inviting, eh? Irresistible (har har). And they thoughtfully left the door open.

Located on the corner of James Brown Blvd. and Walker St., this building appears to have been a freezer facility, possibly used to store meat. Once we went through the door and up a short set of steps we waited 20 minutes for our eyes to adjust to the total darkness. After that, the scene above is the first thing we saw. The rail along the ceiling has some clamps in it and I assume that slabs of frozen meat were hung on these and then pulled in or out of the giant freezers marked "No Exit".

Immediately to the left is a large storage area and more freezers. This is right behind the truck doors seen on the left of the photo of the front. So, obviously, hunks of frozen whatever where loaded onto trucks here. People had been living in this room (or at least hanging out), but nobody was here on this visit, which is the way you want it.

Up on the second floor it became clear that this hulk had caught on fire at some point. We didn't know from below, but the torched timbers were a dead giveaway upstairs.

Incidentally, the land this building sits on is one proposed location of Augusta's new municipal center/courthouse. Right now there are some hang-ups. Chief among them is some type of skirmish about toxic soil. I guess the owner refuses to pay for tests, even though it's his responsibility. Um, it would seem to ME that the "owner" probably shouldn't be expected to be responsible for much of anything. Then again, the current municipal center is just around the corner and down a few streets, so why go to all the trouble of moving? Yeah, this broken and burnt building isn't much to look at and I'm sure it's not going to be "refurbished" anytime soon, but, I dunno, it's got some personality. Or maybe I'm crazy.

Since there wasn't much on the second floor, being burnt to a crisp and all, we headed up another set of stairs that brought us to the roof, which provided a nice view of the city. There was some drug paraphernalia lying around, so I suppose someone else thought the view was good as well. There were also nice skylights, picture above. Just because you're loading slabs of meat doesn't mean you shouldn't have a little natural light in your work environment. Yeah, I suppose they are mainly for ventilation...

There was also an elaborate refrigeration system on the roof, with pipes and hoses going all over the place and down into the building. I felt compelled to take this arty photo of a piece of it, but beyond this it extended all along one side of the building.

As you can see from the photo below, the building isn't much to look at from the back. But note the little entrance cut into the bottom of the wall by the door. This really seems like a lot of work to go through to enter a building that has no door. On the other hand, I suppose it might have been there for entry before the thing caught on fire.

I'm going to post some more photos from various urban explorations. But, right off (and despite my opening paragraph), I want to say that I DON'T advocate this sort of behavior. These buildings are dangerous, with rotted (or burnt) floors, broken glass, exposed nails, hanging sheet metal, etc. Also, you run into people on either extreme of the law in these situations and both are bad. If it's in your blood, you can't help yourself. I entered my first abandoned building (a bar) when I was about 10. A year later the police caught me trying to get into an abandoned liquor store (the alcohol connection is a coincidence, I assure you). So, I apparently have a clinical condition. I don't claim that it's a healthy thing to do and I would advise that YOU don't try it yourself. Instead, check out pictures taken by the lunatics that apparently have no choice. In addition to the aforementioned DETROITBLOG, I recommend ABANDONED PLACES, MODERN RUINS, STAHLART, and there's many others. These sites are all very impressive and I hope the folks I've linked to don't mind me providing links to their pages.

Hey, that's three posts in three days. I'm making up for lost time. Until next time...

2013 UPDATE: During my return to the Central Savannah River Area in 2012 for the Augusta Photography Festival I was told that this facility was owned by Swift Meats, makers of Swift Premium Brown 'N Serve. Also, I learned that the fire that gutted the building was started by a group of homeless people that were tying to stay warm one night. One man was killed in the blaze.

Nothing remains of this building now. A manicured strip of grass and the northern end of the parking lot of the new Augusta Richmond County Judicial Center give no indication that this place ever existed.

No comments: