Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lonely Pullman

It's late. Storms are in the area, but it has just stopped raining. On the way home from visiting some old friends I decide on a lark to drive by Pullman and see what's brewing.

The Georgia Power substation development on the North side of the property appears to now be independently secured and fenced off. The open holes in the chain-link fence along the West side of the Pullman property have recently been replaced with new sections of fence. The property itself seem to have been cleaned up quite a bit with the addition of their new neighbor. It's as if the State of Georgia decided to clean up their house now that they are having company over.

I wandered in to see what else had changed - sans flashlight, camera, or even appropriate clothing. Once inside the main central rail building I wandered into the darkest corner I could find and just stood in absolute nothingness for a while to let my eyes adjust.

Abandoned buildings have a life their own to them. Anyone who explores knows this. They breathe, and shift, and moan. Much more than occupied buildings do. It's like the building knows it's dying and is struggling with the concept - whaling in the darkness to call out to someone to come and resuscitate it.

And they smell different too. Staleness combines with the native smells of the facility to create a unique blend of "lost fragrance." In this building it's grease, iron, ozone, and mildew. The latter from the lack of maintenance. There is clearly more water on the floor inside the structures than there was a year ago when I first ventured into this facility, and I visited once during a storm then, too.

Also, the building here has been cleared of all the scrap junk and equipment, and the power has been turned off. That should have probably been done a decade ago, but you know how the government works. Somehow this place sat for 12 years with full power and HID lighting, and even power to the 15-ton cranes, without being maintained or used. Now, it finally looks abandoned. A shell of a facility with only the largest structures remaining, a lot more graffiti, and no electricity.

I listen to the echoing sounds of water dripping into pools in the large, brick room. Occasionally the wind shifts one of the huge aluminum doors or some other piece of metal creating a clank, clunk, or thump that seems to permeate the impossible darkness.

My eyes adjust and I can start to see the outlines of the walls and, more importantly, the shape of the ground ahead of me. I navigate my way over the rails and pits into the central part of the facility with a familiarity normally reserved for one's home.

I find myself facing the shadowy outline of the diesel locomotive engine simulator. Even in complete darkness I can tell it has been graffiti'd since I last saw it. I wander around back and climb into the back section. I was hoping to find a spot to sit down in there for a while, but every surface in there was covered in a thick layer of grit that I really didn't want to get on my pants.

I used the dim light of the outside LCD on my cellphone to look at the gauges and dials in the simulator, and then hopped back out.

Now my eyes had adjusted fairly well and I could see nearly the entire room. The large windows at the top glowed orange from the outside street lamps. Each end presented the telltale silhouette of a large industrial fan. The iron i-beam columns and cranes were visible as dark lines across the dim orange lighting. Pools of water appeared black against the dark outlines of the ground.

The Amtrack sleeper car was still there, albeit much more artistically decorated. I announced my arrival to avoid catching any squatters completely off-guard as I climbed up into one end of the car. Alas, it was completely empty - although the evidence of a former squatter residence in the lounge end of the car was present. I'm sure the regular patrol took care of the local residents. Or maybe they were out at a cocktail party. Who knows?

I lingered in the car for a while... I always wonder where this car journeyed, and who might have traveled in it back in the days when railroad travel was more of a luxury than it is now. After sitting in one of the sleeper sections for a while, I headed back into the main building.

I wandered next through the interior offices. These, being located inside a larger warehouse, have no windows at all and were shrouded in absolute darkness. I challenged myself to stop and hang out in there without even the aid of my cellphone LCD for as long as I could stand. Absolute darkness, even the moans and creaks of the surrounding building were muffled in here. Here, you are truly alone. Inside an abandoned office of an abandoned facility in a forgotten corner of a large city. Buried in the heart of madness.

I hit a few buttons on the forgotten 1980's vintage Ricoh copier and headed back out the other end of the offices. Now that I'd wandered around and found no one else I was more at ease. It felt like my property. For the moment, this is my corner of the world. No one else can claim it. No one else dares enter.

I found myself wondering if squatters have that same sense of presence somewhere. It's very alluring, in a way.

I took in the sounds and smells and odd, dark shadows across the vast building some more and headed back out. On the way out I stopped momentarily in the track-switching platform control booth, from which I observed the contrasting liveliness of the neighborhood across the street. People were coming and going, there was a party in one house with a small crowd of smokers on the front porch. A flat-screen TV in another blared some cable show.

I wondered if the residents ever cast their thoughts to the decaying, 100+ year old buildings across the street.

Monday, May 12, 2008

1922 Elementary School

East Atlanta is home to yet another abandoned school. John C. Bordon school was built in 1922 and closed in 1995. I read somewhere that a developer bought it in 1997 to convert to condos but ran into problems and never started on the project. Thirteen years after it is closed it sits in ruin, surrounded by a now bustling community.