Surrounded by a barricade of poison ivy, sat nearly creek side deep within the forest, sits the remains of Dr. Faymore’s castle. Like a forgotten medieval mystery, the castle towers loom from the overgrowth of forest that has come to surround the structure today. Dr. Faymore had ordered the building of this structure to begin in the 1970s, which was coming along quite smoothly, until Faymore was arrested on drug charges in 1982.
Leonard Faymore was a licensed doctor, who had graduated the College of Osteophathic Medicine in the 1960s, taking a job within a clinic in 1968; finally purchasing the facility in the 1970s. By 1980, Faymore had hundreds of addicts flocking to his clinic, from 9 different states and 99 cities in Ohio. The man was a well-known drug lord, and people from all over knew exactly where to go to obtain their prescription medications, including the DEA. Due to the constantly high visitation to his clinic, the DEA began watching over, and even selling him 21,000 Quaaludes, 7,200 Talwins, 7,200 TBZ+’s, which had finally led to his arrest; but it wasn’t just that easy.
Upon the doctor’s final agreement in this transaction, one of the two agents quickly pulled his revolver, tried to slap the cuffs on and was met with a struggle. The doctor had wiggled his way to freedom, but in this attempt to detain Faymore, the agent let off one shot, grazing his right ear. Faymore quickly made his way to a vehicle, beginning a dangerous high-speed chase with police. It wasn’t long into this chase that he had finally reached a dead end, resulting in his capture. Faymore was arrested on 11 counts of unlawful possession and intent to distribute the substances, along with 1 count of use of a dangerous weapon against a DEA agent. The doctor was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but was released after only 13 in 1995, dying shortly after.
Since 1982 this gothic-style castle has sat empty and unfinished, surrounded by forest on all sides, it’s easy to get lost within these walls. I looked upward towards bright green vines climbing the walls of a lost dream, inching their way towards the absence of roof where bricks have begun to crack and crumble. I felt submerged in a world imagined through fairytales, only these particular fairytales had been stripped of any innocence, covered by a dark blanket of decay alongside a strange history, as overgrowth began to destroy the land and reality came into play.
Normally, I imagine dragons to be delivered in the same package as castles, but seeing such desolation I wouldn’t be surprised if their bones simply just sat beneath my feet while walking these grounds.
Peering through the main entrance, a large bricked archway, I was presented with a glowing view of forest inside a floorless structure unlike any I had seen before. Carefully balancing on narrow brick walls, which would have held floors in place to stretch from one end to the other, I angled myself into position to photograph the different views. Most people would never imagine that such a mysteriously odd castle could lay buried so close to city life. One of my favorite parts of my photojournalism is this exact adventure, experiencing and documenting strange structures such as this. Perhaps hundreds of years from now, people will talk about these stories and a legend will be born, carried for centuries to come. I have to admit, it was quite a strange place to wander around, all the while, incredibly interesting and fun.
Remember those awesome arc lamps lining the streets during the late 1800s and early to mid 1900s? Thanks to Euclid native, Charles Brush, these were brought from vision to reality in 1876. A later advancement in technology led to a man by the name of George Sweigert, another Euclid resident, inventing the cordless telephone right here in the city. Sometimes when researching locations, some amazing and interesting information can be acquired, but there is much beyond that, and in this case, most of it lies beneath the streets we walk on.
The city of Euclid, Ohio – named after the Greek mathematician, Euclid of Alexandria, founded in 1796 by a man under the name of David Dille. Dille was a former lieutenant from the Revolutionary War and was the initial owner of the land. In 1808, Euclid was purchased within the 3,000,000 acres of land bought by the State of Connecticut, and only a short year after, under Moses Cleaveland and 41 other city employees, was incorporated as a township.
During the mid 1800s, when companies began setting foot in town, factories began rising up and industry began, the need for a large tunnel system arose. These tunnels were dropped into place under the streets to serve as a main sewage system, also later becoming connected to a water treatment facility. From information gathered, it seems that Moses Cleaveland may have laid out these tunnels, along with the other 41 workers.
Entering these tunnels was like being dropped into a completely different world, where all was dark and nothing but a long bricked tube surrounded us. Voices echo for hundreds of feet in front of you with each step you take, and void of any sight of what may lie ahead, you continue on in hopes of great discovery. About 1.5 miles into this system, we had found an opening where we were able to view light peaking in from the streets above. I could hear large, metal beasts rushing across the manhole overhead, clunking the grate, rubber tires creating a loud and deep “TH-TH” sound as they passed, like an urban heart beat of the life above.
Almost 100 years later in 1903, 94 to be exact, Euclid was pronounced a village and held a population nearing 10,000. Nearing the turn of a new decade in 1930, just as The Great Depression struck, Euclid was announced as an official city, then holding a population of 12,753 residents. Previously considered to be more promising than Cleveland, this was quickly shifted when the completion of the Ohio Canal helped Cleveland push for dominance in 1827. Euclid now currently holds a population just over 48,000 in the year 2014.
Not only do interesting places surround us above ground, but at the same time so much sits beneath our own feet, while most of us go on for years without even knowing that any of it exists. These 150+ year old tunnels stretch for miles underneath streets, opening into various rooms, most of these corridors dark, reverberating eerie echoes of the footsteps of explorers. Tunnels are strange places, beautiful, haunting, eerie and terrifying all at the same time. You become entrapped by the mystery pulling you in, throwing you into a place where not only are you cut from human communication overhead, but the cell phone service is zero percent, you’re on your own and the adventure begins.
The earth will start to consume the wooden foundation of homes left on its surface, swallowing floors in large pieces, bite by bite. Shattered windows create abstract patterns of light, and strange shapes through open holes in combination with dust floating through the air, sailing the silence of a sunset, hovering through beams to create a physical image of the path created by light from sunrays. Fogged fragments remain in place where they have not yet been knocked free from their frames; now a picturesque frame in itself. Moss, ivy, and even trees begin to grow in the lonely space that used to be a families kitchen, where mother would make breakfast every morning, dressed to start her day in the 1920s’. Now, nearly 100 years has gone by and her kettle, still sits in the same position as when they left; untouched by human, only altered by nature in a beautiful, and aesthetic way.
Nature will always take its course over our man-made arrangement of architecture. It will regain its space, and incorporate our forgotten structures into part of its natural artistic being, leaving a framework of our creations, creating an abstract representation of what once was. Our trash becomes the Earth’s set of tools to take over and create. What nature produces then becomes the muse of those intrigued by exploration.
I’m constantly searching for those scenes that can create a moment of nostalgia, which can be largely peaceful, and during summer days I think I find the most falling into this category.
A prismatic view refined by the aesthetic merging of nature’s rapacious, unforgiving beauty with our architectural craft. An alluring image of how the Earth will always take back what once belonged to it. Images like this pull both the viewer, as well as the explorer in.
Sometimes life seems similar to a paint bucket minus the lid, being so sensitive to any movement around it, and though I may not have completely learned how to take full control of my own, sometimes having a couple of bumps and spills, I know that I am still doing something right, I mean, I must be. See, every time I look at where I left off, all I can say is “right on,” because I write off the bad right off the bat. I keep the good memories for bad moments, and sometimes even these bad moments can create good memories of their own. See, life is a hectic and jumbled mess of shit and shining silver. Becoming sad in moments is great though, it shows you’re still very much alive and capable of human emotion and compassion, not only that, but more often than not, there is something to be learned from it. Kind of like when you leave your car under the wrong tree in summer, while birds nest above for hours.
The sad sight of these post-apocalyptic scenes is, at times not far off from such similar a thought. I find beauty in these sad and desolate locations, while a lot of people may find them rather unsightly, I look past the cracking faces to see beauty within them. We must find a certain charm within this great sadness to truly be able to find full allure and happiness through the entire world surrounding us. The forgotten are a unique collection, each one being different than the last, thus how we are as people. Everything might look devastatingly broken before your eyes, but picture the good times, wonderful memories and history. Remember that not everything around you is broken like this, and if you learn to find beauty in this destruction, it will be so much easier to find beauty and happiness outside of it.
People previously contained within these particular walls had not been given the same gift that you and I have; the gift of free will to roam our Earth. As we enter a small town nearly 2 hours from Atlanta, we find ourselves amidst silent destruction, sat centered atop a hill within a desolate Southern town. The sweltering heat made it a sweaty chore climbing the hill headed up to the sanitarium, but at least this time we had some decently fresh water accompanying us in our backpacks. The fact that such a large structure had been left behind to collapse under the Georgia heat was alone an odd sight, but yet stranger, how incredibly quiet the town surrounding it sat. The only sounds filling the air were the slow dragging of our feet along the dusty ground of cracking sidewalks and the constant buzz of cicadas echoing from an overgrown path leading directly to the woods, where a road had previously sat.
Doors fitted with rotating and locking food trays lined multiple hallways. These same doors had previously been containment for the most insane of patients, while still providing a grated hole near their top so that doctors could observe all actions and behaviors. This is the place nightmares are made of.
While most of this empty building lays in ruination through peeling paint, rusted doors and barred windows, a separate side, practically an alternate version of time itself remains sat at its top floors. In this alternate version of time, walls have begun to fall in, while the ceiling overhead resembles a naturally created sunroof, minus the glass, spanning entire lengths of numerous hallways and rooms, inviting the sun above to shine brightly inside. Many windows have abandoned their rusted bars, tossing most of them to a floor now covered in crusted ceiling and overgrowth, while trees push through sinks, vines find their way towards the holy ceiling and gardens reside vibrantly coating fractured porcelain bathtubs. As I observe life all around me reaching in through windows with a bright emerald glow, I realize something…this silence alone could drive one insane. Has it always been this quiet? Has the neighborhood always been so void of any other life, and were people subject to sit here, feeling completely alone? Since these dark days, this type of treatment and practice has been mainly phased out, but one can only wonder what it must have been like inside a madhouse such as this.
Now an odd jungle of destruction, the building will slowly deteriorate, years from now becoming nothing more than ruins. Sometimes I wonder though, am I truly part of this perceived reality, or am I stuck inside a room, picturing life in some altered frames of my unconscious mind? Any one of us could be so insane that we will never know it…perception is a strange thought.
“Watch out. The gap in the door… it’s a separate reality. The only me is me. Are you sure the only you is you?” – Silent Hills
The sun had already gone long before our arrival in Atlanta, leaving us with the task of finding a hotel room quickly and on the cheap. With the expert budget searching (okay, he actually did an awesome job) of a friend, we were able to find a great hotel not far from downtown, and at only $45 a night! This seemed like perfection. Considering this would be split between both of us, we were ready to make our way there and settle in for the night. As we pull into the parking lot, enter stage (or balcony) right; a young prostitute emerges from her pimp’s hotel room door. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being adventurous, and hell I even rummage through old abandoned factories in the hood, but I wasn’t about to pay a $200 hooker fee and receive a bullet to the leg while sleeping in the room next door. While debating whether or not to leave and find somewhere else, I looped back into the parking lot, and I’m pretty damn sure that hooker was headed straight for my car in hopes of a job. In conclusion, we settled on a Red Roof Inn for an extra 30 a piece.
Waking up the next morning, we were headed straight out to begin our adventure of the South and South East abandonments. Adjacent to a small neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia, we find ourselves standing directly in the middle of a large plot amidst the great industrial decay of a once booming operation known as the Pullman Train Yards. The history of these 25 acre yards is a full and rich one, dating all the way back to its birth in the year 1904 originally as Pratt Engineering. In the beginning stages of life, this space acted as a manufacturing plant for electric motors, not long before being converted to providing as a munitions factory during World War I. In 1922, the Pullman rail company decided they wanted to convert the site to a repair station for their rail cars. Not long after, come 1969, the company went bankrupt and was forced into passing possession onto the state. Since this change of hands, the only activity the yards have seen is a short-lived tourist train during the 1990’s; otherwise the space has been widely vacant.
It’s a strange thought, knowing that a company, which once served the entire Southeast has since become nothing more than a vacant shell, inviting nature to take root on grounds that at one point would be filled with the shuffling sound of the daily grind and hustle and bustle of many workers through industrial rooms. Some former machinery remains, practically covered by a canopy of green between two nearly empty rooms. I say nearly empty because that, which surround this otherwise desolate area, are nothing more than lush walls of heavy forest reaching in through crusted iron-framed windows, protruding the empty air and casting a warm green glow across the cracking concrete floor.
For a small amount of time, a line called the New Georgia Railroad ran a supper train ride out to Stone Mountain. Though the supper train ran shortly during the mid 1990s, most rest of the area had already been left untouched and forgotten for some years. Down South, the way greenery reclaims human construction is far different than here up North, near Cleveland. I enjoy seeing the shifts in scenery, with a lot of these abandonments displaying vines among other hanging plants, usually reaching from iron beams or even straight off of or through the ceiling, dangling toward the ground.
These alternate views of scenery are caused by the weather being much warmer, and with the weather becoming much warmer, being human we dehydrate much quicker. While standing in the middle of a large factory room, small beads of sweat dripped along the side of my face, some running to my eyes, causing that all too familiar the feel of a dirty stinging. I’m quite sure that not everybody knows exactly what I am talking about, but that is the only way I can figure to describe such a feeling. Dehydration had begun to set in. I was hungry, thirsty, and my bottle of once cold tea had already warmed in the hot sun and humidity. Perhaps a better decision would be to carry water, but when you wake up from a greasy sleep, ready to explore the moment you exit your hotel room, you don’t think everything through the way you truly should. Kind of like putting the root beer in first, followed by ice cream in your root beer float. Sometimes you want something to the point that you don’t think of how to properly prepare. Not that I just did that or anything.
Packing up, we were then onto our next location, a high school left behind for many years, falling to nothing but dust in the sultry Georgia heat…
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Through my adventures, I have experienced quite a bit, always getting a taste of something just a bit different than the last with every explore. Oh, and dust spores, you can often taste those as well, floating atop the stale air of a water damaged home. I’ve got to be honest though, it’s a wild sight seeing that large handfuls of former prisoners were jailed for grand theft…equestrianism? Yes, you probably thought right, stealing another man’s horse. Wait, prisoners? Oh, perhaps I should start from the beginning, my bad.
Welcome to the Ohio State Reformatory of Mansfield, Ohio. In 1885 it was decided that this site would be the official placement of the new Intermediate, and with the help of architect Levi T. Scofield from Cleveland, the project began under the laboring and construction work of F.F. Schnitzer, bringing this beauty to life during the years of 1886 through 1910. From its great Romanesque exterior walls to its interior filled with massive cellblocks, this incredible space remains a cold and dark reminder of the past lives lived out within it. A list of offenders turned to prisoners illustrates a vibrant history of crime during the late 1800s through the early 1900s, showcasing a very strange comparison to that of today.
From its beginning, finally opening its doors in 1896, when black and white striped prison suits were still general attire, the Mansfield Reformatory welcomed 150 prisoners of all types for a luxurious stay inside its cold and solid walls. These prisoners, who were carted by train from Columbus, Ohio, were immediately put to work digging holes where the plumbing came to be installed until completion in 1910. Looking down the main hallway, a grand stairwell stands monumentally, branching off on both the left and right sides as you reach the top. Though this stairwell may seem to be a grand hand-carved wooden masterpiece, there are some differences not easily recognizable upon first glance that may take you by surprise. This beautiful stairwell is in fact not wood, but carved steel, preventing it from becoming a possible fire hazard.
The reformatory still holds two of the world’s largest cell blocks, with the East block still clutching to a world record of a towering 6-tier free standing section of rusted, decaying steel. Paint peels from the bars, falling to the ground outside of each cell, which all lay equally as disturbed on the inside. These human cages were not always in such a state of rusted decay, but years ago held hundreds and thousands of criminals from all over the US, California to Texas and beyond.
Through 94 years of heavy use, so many moments had been witnessed here, leaving forever a large stamp of history. If the walls of this enormous structure could talk, I’m sure they could tell you all about the 200 plus deaths, which occurred within prison grounds, two of them being former guards who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time when they were murdered during the attempted escape of two convicted and jailed felons.
Due to years of overcrowding and inhumane living conditions The Boyd Consent Decree ordered the facility to be closed in 1986. Being that the chosen year was considerably too soon to have everything in order, such as the construction of a brand new facility, the schedule was pushed to 1990 when they finally pushed closure of the prison’s doors, welcoming prisoners to the newly built facility directly across from the now former. This newer facility can still be seen when looking directly from the West cellblock.
Like strings of a piano, the imagery inside this rotting structure resonated the most beautiful of melodies through pure scenery, progressing through progressions from room to decaying room, broken and detuned but filling the air with the shaking sound of a beautifully harsh dissonance, blanketed by light reaching in from outside, finally creating a perfect fusion to display the brilliance of these broken rooms.
Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, this area has one hell of a story behind it, and if there were a place to house spirits of the past, this would for sure be near the top of a great list. Before a prison inhabited a place atop these grounds, in the year 1861, a training center for soldiers of the Civil War was stationed in place. Over 4,000 soldiers were trained for action here at what was known as Camp Mordecai Bartley, named in honor of a Mansfield man who served as the governor of Ohio in the 1840’s. Spirits of past prisoners now wander these cells in peace, free to move about as they please. This got me to thinking however, as there is always the notion of “what if,” I thought to myself, what if some former prisoners are forever trapped behind bars, that even if in our world when the doors remain open, in their alternate world the bars are sealed shut, holding them in for all eternity? One can take away so much from wandering a massive place with as rich a history trapped between the walls of a space such as this.
In 1995, the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society was formed, turning the former prison into a museum offering tours to enlighten and educate, while also working to stabilize the building from further deterioration. Windows in the East block have been replaced, and efforts have been made to further stabilize the entire structure.
Nearing the end of my visit, as I wandered off towards the building’s exit, I overheard a man talking of what seemed to be past experiences inside the reformatory. I slowly closed in towards the conversation to realize that sitting right in front of me was a man by the name of Dave, a former guard of the penitentiary. I quickly became quite interested in all he had to tell of his time on duty during the year of 1947. According to Dave, the Eastern cellblock at that time was used for solitary confinement, until finally being relocated to cells residing in lower levels of the building, unknown until today to any of us! It was amazing just listening to this man speak of memories experienced while on the job, structures and rooms that used to sit in the depths of the building and more. Deep within the depths of this building, during the 1940’s there had been a small room of tiny cells measuring 4 feet by 4 feet creating a square where prisoners would be forced to curl up and sleep, as it was far too small to stretch out. Just outside of this section, for a short period of time, people had actually been chained to a wall and given the floor as a toilet. Shortly after this time, of course rules and laws had changed and the prison was forced to provide different means of living for inmates.
After sitting down for a while and talking to this man, I asked if I could photograph him, and his response was a very positive ‘yes.’ Him being honored to have his photo taken by gave one of the greatest feelings experienced during the day, as I was also honored being given the chance to take his photo. Dave is one of the few remaining from that time and seeing how happy he was to have shared his stories with us was beyond words amazing. It would be an awful shame to have seen so much but told none.
So there I was, I had just spent my day surrounded by cold, rusted steel and the crumbling of lead paint, chipping and curling from the curved surface of prison cell bars, not only content with a full history lesson and some greatly interesting photos, but happy with where I was in life. I’m happy that I am not in prison.