The Pandemic Blues, Part 2

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In my first post about Maybury Sanatorium I told the history of the institution, and showed you four old houses that used to be part of the hospital complex, which are now demolished. In this second episode I will show you some of the other ruins of the sanatorium that can still be found in the woods today. I had heard a rumor years ago that there was still an underground tunnel somewhere in the woods that had somehow escaped demolition in 1972 when the sanatorium was converted into a state park, and I finally found on. Just remember that when those other copycat websites start talking about it, you saw it here first. As usual. Without advertisements or cookies.

Here's one of the old overgrown sanatorium roads that can still be seen in the park:

I have always thought that this overgrown concrete path may actually have a steam tunnel under it, but I was never able to find any entrance:

This is probably the most visible and recognizable ruin of the old sanatorium still visible today, as it sits right alongside a very busy intersection of several trails:

I believe there used to be an old valve station here for the water system.

This whole area is rather interesting, as there are several small earthen mounds gathered here where bulldozers apparently pushed a bunch of debris during demolition, and it was left there until the forest engulfed it. It would be a good place to go hunting for artifacts. I found an old-school glass lid to a mason jar, without even trying:

The trunk of this old tree reveals that the forest floor actually used to be a parking lot:

Still bushwhacking, I came across a fire hydrant all by itself in the middle of the woods:

It was stamped as having been made at the Michigan Valve Foundry, Detroit, in 1937...

As it so happens, I explored the ruins of that foundry in another post.

Uh-oh, it looks like one of the electrical transformers from the powerhouse was just bulldozed into the woods next to a pond...

Don't worry, I'm sure they removed all the toxic PCB oil from it first, rather than letting it spill into our groundwater...

Continuing up the ridge where the huge old Ambulatory Building used to stand, I noticed a few chunks of really old concrete tumbling down into a bowl in the woods.

Not really sure what these could have been.

Here are the ruins of the old watertower...if you find nothing else at Maybury, you should at least be able to find this, since it's right in the middle of a trail:

There's a large concrete pad in the center where the pipes used to go, with four smaller footings in a square around it, where the legs of the tower were once supported:

The watertower provided the 60 million gallons needed by the sanatorium per year, including needs for fire protection, steam heat, laundry, cooking, hospital uses, bathing, landscaping, ice-making, and cooking. The water was pulled from artesian springs on the eastern part of the property and piped into the tower via a pump station next to the powerhouse.

For that matter however, I have to say I believe there are also artesian springs in the southwestern corner of the property, because when I hiked there with my girl recently, we found water seeping right out of the ground in some areas.

Then, suddenly, I found it--

Can you see it now?

It's an access hatch, slightly ajar...the massive lid weighs about 300lbs with all that soil and plant matter on top of it, but I was able to scootch it open just enough to get inside.

Still expecting it to be a short, caved-in tunnel, I looked around for a pebble to throw in, to see if it was flooded. Fortunately I did not hear a "kerplunk," or any startled animal sounds, but the long echoes of it hitting the bottom indicated that it must be a pretty damn big tunnel, much to my surprise. Excitedly, I began wrenching the cover back some more so that I could go in. The air didn't smell bad either...another unexpected surprise.

Here's the other side of the lid:

After clearing the cobwebs away with a stick, I began descending. Pretty soon I realized that this was no tunnel, it was a gigantic underground room! To my left was a wall about 25 feet away, but to my right the nearest wall was another 50 feet away or more, and it was apparent that the room continued around a corner for an unknown distance...

It was so dark that my flashlight couldn't even show me how far the room went, but judging by the long echoes of my footsteps, it was a massive space around me. The distance from the hatch cover was about 15 feet:

...I fired a flash photo to see what it would show me:

This must have been the water reservoir near the powerhouse that was used for steam heating in the sanatorium. Clearly it was not a tunnel. I had been inside water reservoirs like this before, at Traverse City Asylum, and the Wayne County Training School.

Wandering out into the black abyss, I was glad I knew my camera's controls by feel. Beads of moisture shone on the ceiling, and calcium deposits marked the high-water point on the walls and columns:

The fact that the only sign of human presence to be found in here was a single can of Sprite laying next to the ladder that looked like it dated from the early 2000s proved that no one really knew about this place. And honestly the can could've been tossed down here by people curious about what was below, but who were unable to fit through the gap or move the heavy lid to get in. So I might be the first person to have entered this chamber since 1972 or whenever it was sealed. The fact that there's not even graffiti on the walls is surprising, since when it was abandoned after 1969 plenty of people were exploring the sanatorium, prying into its nooks and crannies, and vandalizing everything.

Steady dripping had worn a geometrical pattern onto the surprisingly clean floor:

Having reached the far corner, I turned to look back at the access can see that the room continues at least another 50 feet into the darkness to the left:

I assume that the location of the powerhouse and this reservoir have to do with the artesian springs; i.e., it was because the springs were located in this area that Mr. Maybury decided to locate the reservoir for the steam plant and ice plant here.

Well, there you have it, my friends...finally proof that underground ruins do still exist at Maybury State Park! Now don't do anything stupid like get hurt or killed, to ruin it for the rest of us. Don't ask me where the entrance is, and if you figure it out don't go broadcasting it just to feel popular.

Maybe later in the year I will go back out to the park with a Sanborn map and a compass now that I have a hard reference point to work from, and see if more actual tunnels still exist out there. I have a feeling they might.

Sanborn Maps of Northville Twp., February 6, 1943

Little Indiana

Photos from April 2006.

The year 2006 was the first time Chisel and I were able to pull ourselves out of the Packard Plant's considerable gravitational field and manage to explore this handful of handsome buildings that sat practically next-door. We assumed that they were originally part of the Packard Motors complex, but I later learned this was not the case.

The white building on the far left was built in 1915 as the Remy Engineering Laboratory, at 1623 E. Grand Boulevard. The Remy Electric Co. was founded in Indiana in 1896, making magnetos, generators, distributors, and crank-starters for early automobiles. They were a competitor of Dayton Engineering Company Laboratories (Delco), founded by Charles Kettering, inventor of the first successful electric crank-starter, which was installed on a Cadillac. Eventually Remy and Delco were acquired by General Motors and merged into one division under the all-encompassing GM corporate umbrella. The Delco-Remy name was still seen stamped on components of GM cars well into the 1980s (if I recall correctly from the Buick I once owned).

The two buildings in the middle (1627 and 1637 E. Grand Blvd.) were labeled "factory" and "beer warehouse" respectively, although I am not good enough to deduce what the Sanborn map's abbreviation stood for, and I can't remember offhand what brewing company in Detroit started with a "C"...Anyway, perhaps then it makes more sense that the sign currently hanging from this complex says "COMING SOON: Packard Brewing Company."

The limestone building on the far right, at 1651 E. Grand Boulevard, was built in 1926 as "The Udylite Company Plant No. 1" and labeled as "plating equipment & supplies" on the Sanborn map. Some of the plant had already been demolished, and in true Packard form, there was a stripped camper outside:

Apparently there wasn't much on the first floor, because I only have photographs from the second. I guess I was just interested in getting photos of the Packard Plant from here?

The Sanborn says that Udylite's first floor was "laboratory" and that the second floor was "offices." These photos are from the "factory" building next to it, which has now been demolished. The small warehouse building (seen above) was also demolished.

I have to say, for a factory, this was kinda snazzy...I mean dig those windows!

Udylite was another company that was originally founded in Indiana (in 1919), and found its way to this particular block in the Motor City. They relocated here in 1927, when this building was completed. It was founded by Marvin J. Udy, "who developed a method of electrode deposition of cadmium on metal." His company went on to develop many new electroplating processes, and also later gave birth to the subsidiaries Process Electronics Corporation (PEC) of Roseville, Michigan, and the Oxy Metal Industrial Corporation of Warren, Michigan.

There is an article on that goes into great depth on the "History of Chromium Plating," published on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the American Electroplaters Society. It was written by a noted Dr. George Dubpernell, who spent 60 years in the field of electroplating in Detroit, beginning in 1919 with the Detroit Battery Co., and then with The Udylite Corp. in 1924. He was retired in the posh suburb of Huntington Woods when his article was printed. Dr. Dubpernell held at least 10 patents, and was an emeritus member of the American Chemical Society.

Most of the article is technical and a little over my head, but I discerned a few things: In 1927 the General Chromium Corp. and the Udylite Process Co. may have been merged, from 1927 to '28 Philip P. Hale was a plant superintendent; a few months later this firm became Nicholl-Hale Chrome Service, Inc. Simultaneously, Marvin J. Udy of the Electro-Metallurgical Company spent much of his time in the General Chromium plant (also in Detroit), fermenting his engineering ideas on methods of chromium plating. Mr. Udy and Mr. Hale developed the "Hale-Udy composite bus bar," an invention that allowed for more "convenient" electroplating at a single voltage for all components.

Dr. Dubpernell wrote that "Udy's employment with Electrometallurgical Company was terminated in 1931, and he did not return to plating work"...huh, sounds ominous. Anyway, Mr. Hale filed a patent on the composite bus bar in 1932. A successor (Clarence Peger) dubbed it the "Reversible Rack 2 Bus Bar System," and using it he "made a good contribution to chromium plating technology based upon its use."
The practice in hard chromium plating was to calculate the exact surface area of the part to be plated and to apply sufficient current to get the required current density for good plating at a known speed. Udy took great pleasure often times in starting a discussion by announcing in a loud tone of voice, "All chromium plating should be done at 4.2 volts and the current to the individual piece disregarded." This brought on vigorous discussion as intended, but all were unable to discourage Mr. Udy. He and Phil Hale built a huge composite bus bar about 12 or 15 feet long, so that a number of parts to be plated could be attached to the cathode bar and a number of lead anodes to the anode bar, and the whole operated at a single voltage.
Make sense? Good.

There was also something called "The Dubpernell test," apparently named after our distinguished author. "This extremely simple test has been poorly described in the literature due to its clandestine origin," Dubpernell begins...
A thin layer of copper is plated over the chromium deposit and microscopically examined to determine the extent of porosity and cracking. In the early days, the writer and others were employed under conditions of strict secrecy up until about 1940, and it was pure chance that the test was disclosed to Professor E.M. Baker in a discussion on the train from Detroit to Ann Arbor, late in 1927. It then formed a basis for the Baker and Pinner paper published a few months later. Brief descriptions of the test have been given in all four editions of Modern Electroplating. However, the most recent edition is by far the most adequate and includes a discussion of the effect of moderate heat treatment (e.g., hot water rinsing to bring out the normal crack structure of chromium deposits). An excellent recent paper by J.W. Manquen describes the use of an electronic thickness tester with the Dubpernell test in a non-destructive manner for quality control purposes.
I have to say, that is always a cool story when top-secret info is leaked during a train ride between cities...sounds like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Most of the other Google hits for "Udylite" have to do with patents, court cases, or the Toxic Substances Control Act. But hey, those chrome tailfins back in the day sure were cool, weren't they?!

You may recall an older article of mine dealing with chrome plating, and the Michigan Chrome & Chemical Co. on Grinnell Avenue.

The buildings behind this one, fronting on Palmer Avenue were originally an ice company in 1915, but later taken over by the Jersey Creamery Co.:

Of course, the Packard Plant is seen looming prominently in the background.

Packard's Building 90 is still standing along the train tracks, and Building 92 hadn't yet really begun collapsing yet:

As an added bonus, here's a couple photos that I drunkenly took late one rainy night as we wandered on foot from the Packard Plant, I intended to come back for better photos at some point later, but never did.

According to a Sanborn map (which I can't find now), it was originally the Central Overall Linen Supply Co.

Admittedly this one was not founded in Indiana, but by local Jewish immigrant Morris Shaver, who started by making laundry deliveries while using the streetcar. His company eventually "became the largest of its kind in Detroit," according to author Sidney M. Bolkosky. Apparently there were quite a few cloth or clothing trade related businesses in Detroit like this one founded by Jewish immigrants, a "logical outgrowth of the tailoring profession and the traditional European work of itinerant agents, known as Wocher..."

It was demolished sometime around 2010.

Sanborn maps of Detroit, Volume 7, Sheet 36 (c.1915)
Harmony & Dissonance: Voices of Jewish Identity in Detroit, 1914-1967, by Sidney M. Bolkosky, p. 142-143

Packard: 2006, Part A

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Welcome to the second chapter of my Packard saga. The year 2006 was the first year I used a digital camera. Contextually speaking, it was also the first year that "urban exploring" in Detroit began to get big, and we suddenly weren't alone anymore. Graffiti began to increase exponentially, and so did vandalism. The beginnings of serious metal scrapping were also starting to be seen, and roof-trees also really began to take over the Packard. This was the year that Building 92 began collapsing in earnest, and the Packard first started to become known as a worldwide icon of urban decay. It was also the year the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against the City of Detroit, affirming that Mr. Christini was in fact the Packard's rightful owner (despite being in prison for narcotics). Later in the year the security guards were subsequently removed, and we could explore more comfortably.

Packard: 2006, Part B

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Welcome to Part B of the second chapter of my Packard saga, covering the year 2006. If you missed Part A, CLICK HERE.

This was when we were becoming a little more brazen, since we never used to just walk around outside the plant. Again, 2006 was the first year that the Packard was not guarded by security men.

I remember coming across this Dodge Ram one day and being all weirded out because it was so random and unexpected...I mean this had just happened like seconds before we saw it. The tailpipe was still warm, and the keys were swinging in the ignition. After that the joke became "You don't have anything to worry about when parking at the Packard, unless you see your car start to drive into the plant."

If memory serves, there were only two times when we had issues parking at the Packard in the early days. The first time, we returned to find Chisel's car with all the doors and the trunk hanging wide open. Nothing was broken or missing, but it was the neighborhood's way of letting us know that they see us. Chisel wisely followed the protocol of leaving your doors unlocked and nothing of value inside, so that you wouldn't get a broken window.

On a different trip I warned my brother to adhere to this doctrine, but he didn't listen. We came back to find a window smashed out, and his CD collection missing.

This was Building 90's north entrance, where the railroad spur led into the building. It was adjacent to Building 92, which was the one through which we usually entered the plant.

This row of shed roofs comprised Buildings 47-50, 90, and 91, labelled as machine shop area on the Sanborn map:

I showed the interior of these buildings in my first Packard post.

The south water tower looming over the south end of the plant, which mostly made up Packard's truck and body departments:

Since the windows were all suddenly missing from Building 92 due to scrapping, I decided that now might be a good time to climb out a third-floor window onto the adjacent roof of Building 90...

The lower level, along the roof monitor:

I'm pretty sure not many people (except maybe a few graffiti writers) ever came out onto the roof of this particular building. It had a pretty cool view. I thought that this might make a cool nighttime chill spot, but I never made it back up there.

Looking back at Building 92, you can see that it had a bunch of those brackets for carrying electrical lines attached to its west wall.

You can also see that its upper floors had begun collapsing in earnest by that point as well:

In fact one of them had snagged one of the steel window sashes that had lately been cut from the building to be harvested for scrap, below:

The stairwells in the newer buildings of the Packard's north end and south end were generally wider and more open than those of the older buildings in the central core of the plant.

I believe this one is actually from Building 33, judging by this view of Building 47 from the windows:

In general, the older buildings of the complex were the ones clustered around East Grand Boulevard, and the newer ones were those on the north and south ends.

There were also these little projections that stood out, possibly for maneuvering a forklift or something...

...if I'm not mistaken this stairwell may have also served as a pass-through to connect to a freight elevator shaft?

The next several photos are from when the windows started to really disappear later in the year...

This is looking across Bellevue at Buildings 37 and 38.

These skinny little smokestacks are modern, vents that belonged to the Chemical Processing business that functioned here in Building 34 until 2010:

Come to think of it, it was so strange to have a functioning business in here while we were traipsing through the ruins around it.

Look close and you can see the old PACKARD lettering still showing in rust-shadow on the side of the water tower:

I believe I had climbed the south water tower as early as 2005 or 2006, but I don't have any pictures from it until 2007. So stay tuned, because the view from up there is off the chain.

Somebody once asked me why the Packard had so many buildings where rebar was seen sticking up out of the roof, as in the photo below. My assumption is that this was because the Kahn style of reinforced concrete construction allowed for pretty much infinite expansion and adaptability. You could add another floor onto your factory whenever you wanted, just by welding more rebar onto these stubs, pouring new concrete columns on top of the existing ones, and away you went:

The fog and the rooftrees on this damp, moody day made for quite the scene...

Welcome to the Packard National Forest...please keep all tire fires in designated campfire circles, and do not feed the tigers.

LEATHER JACKETS were big around this time too:

Notice the line of big humps on the roof in the next shot...those represent where the tops of the support columns were located on the floor below. With that and the rebar stubs, clearly another floor had been planned to go on top of this building, but it was never built.

This shot is from the roof of Building 37 or 38, looking back at Building 92. You can see the collapsed roof, and the covered conveyor that ran across the top of the Bellevue Bridge:

I did go inside that conveyor at one point, but it was really dark and dirty, and was sealed at one end if I recall right. If I have a picture, it wasn't in 2006.

Looking at Building 10 and the north water tower, over Court 4:

...those huge vent heads on Court 4's shed roof actually rotated themselves on roller bearings, to adjust to the direction of the wind. It was kinda creepy. For scale, they were about the size of a compact car.

Yes, there was a Civil Defense fallout shelter underneath the Packard Plant. The entrance was really unobtrusive, so not many people made it down there:

But it was located near the "Shoe Pit," under Building 12 where it met Building basically right under the executive offices (I'm sure it's not a coincidence that the big wigs wanted to make sure they got first dibs if the sirens went off). It was not connected to the regular steam tunnels, although if I recall correctly at the far end it may have been bricked up with some holes where pipes may have passed through from a steam tunnel? I do know that a steam tunnel did pass very close to it, from Building 1 or 13.

It was still full of boxes of rations from the 1950s, including Survival Cracker tins, Survival Water drums, and even some of the hard candy and medicine rations that my military history enthusiast friend Cavemonkey told me were really rare. He even deemed some of them worth stealing as collector items.

One thing about the fallout shelter however was that it smelled nasty as hell. It didn't occur to me for several years that the smell I was smelling, and the slime on the floor were rat excrement, stirred into a green soup by seeping groundwater. The containers of old rations lured the vermin in from the sewers, and they glutted themselves on the 50-year-old crackers, chewing right through the sides of the tins.

And here ladies and gentlemen, is probably the oldest graffiti tag in the entire far:

It says "MIKE ROZEN, '53," which I presume implies 1953, which corresponds to when fallout shelters began to become a thing in America. It was also before spray paint cans were invented, as you can see.

Back up in the north end, this is Court 17...

Same court, looking back from the other end:

Looking south, at Building 17:

Outside this window is a view of Court 19, which is marked as "Final Inspection" on the Sanborn map, making me think that it was the end of the line for the assembly line:

Building 21 itself (with the Ramps) was constructed in 1927 and pretty much from here north to Harper Avenue used to be the Packard test track, as shown on the un-updated c.1915 Sanborn map (this was before they built their test facility out in Shelby Township). So I guess it makes sense that the assembly line would end here at the north end, and then the cars would go straight to the test track prior to delivery. Inside the test track oval, the Sanborn map shows a baseball diamond. Back then every factory in town had a baseball team, and they all played each other in league competition. I think I've talked about this before in other posts.

Roof of Building 21:

The north water tower, and the Pyramid, with Building 19 in the foreground:

Court 19 again; Building 19 on the left and Building 21 (with The Ramps) on the right:

You might notice that it is a little wider than the other courts, and Building 21 was much wider than the other buildings. In fact it shares more architectural similarities with Fisher Body 21 (not to mention its number) than with any other part of the Packard.

Here's the top of the Ramps, and the gravel parking area on top of Building 21:

I must admit that as we got more and more brazen and lawless over the years, we drove our vehicles up here to hang out a couple times, instead of doing all that walking. There was one of those stubborn roll-down doors that had to neutralized first, however. Somewhere there is a video of Jeep vs. Door...

Down inside Building 21 there was this old motorcycle:

Recognize it from the Splattball City poster? Building 21 was another of Splattball's battlefields, and now that I think about it they had a camper or two sitting over in the corner to the right as well. One thing that always told you that you were in Splattball City was the fact that they covered the floors of their battlefields in a 6-inch layer of sawdust...I imagine this was to prevent people from falling and hurting themselves?

Anyway by the time 2006 rolled around it was starting to get pretty funky...all the runoff from rain and snow sat and festered in the sawdust and got moldy, raising a distinctive smell that permeated the north end of the plant. I think I have better pictures of Splattball's courses in my 2007 photos.

From a window next to the motorcycle you could go out on the roof of Building 22...this is the extreme north end of the plant:

Nobody ever really came out here this far, it was well off the beaten path. You can tell by the complete absence of graffiti.

Building 22 was originally built for the wartime aircraft engine production, which is why it is so much newer than the rest of the plant. It was also still in use to some extent, which is why it was untouched by vandals. We had a hunch that some mafia sh*t was going down in there, and the fact that armed guards known for randomly shooting at people (wish I could find that video on Youtube) were later placed here seemed to confirm that in our minds. There were some pretty good rumors as to what was being stored inside, as I recall.

Here is a great view of the Gemmer Steering Gear Co. Plant which I explored in an older will also notice the water tower that I climbed to photograph the Packard Plant back in 2004:

This was also the day we discovered that Building 22 had an alarm...when we tried to sneak into a stairway from this roof. The rest of the Packard looks so far away:

Okay, rewinding to Building 5, the Pyramid again:

I love that warm, dirty look of the Packard in you can see some of those slats on Building 4 again:

God I wish I coulda swiped these doors and used them for my own garage:

Building 5 was also good for having a lot of its original lights still hanging:

Chillin' in Building 5, looking at the back of Building 13:

...Of course with the high-gravity potion sitting nearby, also known as a "211 in progress."

Looks like we got a little bit of a prairie starting up here on Building 1:

You can generally gauge the floor-load rating of a factory building by looking at the thickness of the support columns. Those in Building 5 were relatively skinny compared to the rest of the plant, and they got skinnier as you went up higher in the building:

On the sixth floor of Building 5, there was a bunch of the old shop lights still swinging from the ceiling in the wind:

The lamps were really dancing in the wind today...

Notice now that on the 7th floor, the top floor, that the support columns are not concrete, but small steel posts:

Here is the turntable, on the 7th floor of Building 5, possibly used either for clay modeling or showing off new prototype was definitely big enough to park a Packard on:

The sloped sides were probably to make it easy to drive a car on and off of:

These nasty old bales of old donated clothing scraps were allegedly left here by some company that purportedly made stuffed animals or something out of them to give to third-world kids in the 1990s. Of course, this was a rumor I think, but I believe I also read it in that Camilo José Vergara guy's book American Ruins. Anyway, it was eerily reminiscent of that story about the bundles of old rags that burned the 5th and 6th floors of this building in 1959. It was against fire code to store such materials this high up in an un-sprinklered building.

HEY GUESS WHAT, these bales of rags caught fire in the 2010s. If I'm not mistaken that was what led to the eventual collapse of the top floor of Building 5. There may have been sprinklers added here after the fire in 1959, but they are no good when the building is abandoned.

...Now, you'd have to be pretty stoned to take a photo like that, wouldn't you?

Sitting atop Building 5, this elevator penthouse with the steel fire door actually served for a long time as our official barbeque spot, since in the winter you could go inside of it and be out of the cold. We had a grille and some charcoal stashed in there behind a large girder, so that it would always be ready when we showed up.

There was ventilation via the elevator shaft and a window, but I think we still got a little brain damaged, haha.

This next shot shows how high Building 5 stood over the rest of the plant. Those covered shed-looking things on the roof over there were actually part of the assembly intervals the conveyor track would pop up out of the building and then go back down inside.

There's the Skylight Room toward the center of the next shot, with its huge angled window:

Building 92 in the south end was now completely denuded of windows, and you could see right through it:

Notice that this photo from a few months earlier still shows windows in Building 92:

Row after row of buildings:

That's a helluva lot of buildings all compressed into one shot...

Counting from the foreground to the background, we've got Building 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 37, 38, and 39. That's the entire south end.

Here is the top of the "Pyramid"...I sometimes climbed on the window sash like a ladder to reach the ultimate roof of roofs:

Looks like Detroitfunk was here, I think that's his tag:

Standing on the absolute tippy-top of the Pyramid, downtown's skyline appears above the greenery of the cemetery:

I'm sure Stevie Y remembers this vent:

Leaving the roof of Building 5 for the roof of Building 3...

Looking down into the Canyon as the rays of evening slice through the plant:

Here's a story I barely remember, but I think it occurred in 2006. Anyway, I wrote it down a long time ago, so here it is. While wandering around the plant late one night drinking 40s of Steel Reserve, we decided to try and get to the top of the "Pyramid." From there the view is astounding even at night, as one can see for miles in all directions...

We had gotten a bit lost, seeing as we were kinda drunk, and had never really tried to navigate the Packard in the dark. Eventually we popped out on the roof of the office wing and noticed out of the corner of our eye a light being flashed from the top of the Pyramid—someone was signaling us with a flashlight! Strangely enough, that was exactly where we were trying to get to...we signaled back with our own lights, and then quickly headed back inside and toward the Pyramid as best we could remember how in our drunken state. Fifteen minutes later, we finally made it to the dramatic "Canyon" that wrapped around the Pyramid building, and walked across the skywalk that led into it, hoping that our new friends who had led us to it would still be there when we got to the top (and that they would not be waiting to jump us in the dark).

We hiked to the roof of the Pyramid and there we found them, two guys with beers and grins on their faces. They said they had watched us from above for about an hour as we wandered from one end of the plant to the other, tracking us by our flashlight beams. They were taggers, and had a lot of stories to trade. Mostly though, they were happy to finally actually meet someone face to face, as they said they had never in all their years of hanging out here actually run into anyone close enough to have a conversation...soon we realized that it was true of us as well (that would of course change in the next few years as the Packard became a major tourist destination).

We found a spot out of the wind and they filled a huge blunt wrap while we chatted well into the small hours of the night. Apparently they lived nearby and this was their main hangout, where they had spent countless nights such as this exploring the massive old ruin. I think this may have also been the night that I was introduced to deep-fried mushrooms, at Super Coney.

That orange glow...

For some reason the Packard had some of the best light of any building I've ever photographed...this was particularly the case during the "magic hour" before sunset.

The wings of the building were all perfectly positioned to let in the longest, most beautiful spills of perfectly golden light you can imagine. It was epic.

The dirty brown panes of the Packard sashes was one of my favorite things in the world, for some reason. It just embodied the the Rust Belt image in my mind.

And seeing them all lit up dirty orange from behind during the magic hour, with the silhouettes of the old shop lights hanging from the ceiling was just perfect.

The old Plymouth is still sitting out there in the distance:

It's a little blurry, but this is the entire north end of the plant compressed into one shot:

Arlan's Discount, in Building 27:

The astute reader will note that there was also an Arlan's location in the old Graham-Paige Motors Plant on Warren Avenue in Dearborn.

Twilight on the Boulevard:

Skybridge from Building 33 to 32:

Night falls on Palmer Avenue:

The Ramps after dark:

I got the idea to climb the north water tower in the dark, and take a panoramic night shot of the complex from above, using a long exposure. I put my camera on the railing and set the shutter for the longest exposure, so I thought it would be spectacular...and it would've been, if not for the fact that I hadn't accounted for the water tower moving! I kept retaking and retaking this shot, getting frustrated at myself for not holding perfectly still enough...but what I slowly realized was that it wasn't me shaking the camera, it was movement of the water tower itself...! The wind was just enough to cause the tower to sway, and blur my shot every time. So I'm afraid this is the best ya'll get:

I guess I could've sped up the ISO for a shorter exposure time, but it would've been noisier.

Remember those dirty old yellow sodium street lamps? That's the signature look I remember associating with the D at night from my young years.

Well that's it for 2006. Stay tuned for the 2007 installments.