The Glass Forest

THE GLASS FOREST

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The way each pane reflected images of foliage, mirroring the world within this glass house, created an abstract view of a separate world inside a different dimension, a scene so psychedelically mystifying, Alice would be jealous. The trees inside this enclosed space continued to push toward the sun, while leaving a beautiful destruction in their path. As time progressed, vines and other foliage had begun to wrap themselves around metal beams, which held the structure together, gripping them tightly with friendly winding hands, almost caressing them into an inevitable closure of ruination. Beneath the blanketing of vines now remains a rusting, rotting skeleton of a place that once provided food and decoration for homes, as well as a sizable amount of jobs to former employees.

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I listened to the flutter of flittering birds sweeping through years of overgrowth and found myself at peace with nature inside a world full of blight. Exit sunlight all around me as I sat beneath a green, glowing canopy shielding me from the sun outside. As I looked above my head, I could make out the smallest of veins, reaching like skeletal hands through leaves providing new life to an otherwise destroyed and forgotten place. Years of desolation had left everything in the hands of nature, which pushed its way through the glass ceiling, shattering pieces of glass sky to the dirt ground at my feet. As I walked along, I could hear the crackling of glass shards beneath my feet, crunching into the dirt. Throughout the entire span of these rooms, pieces littered the dirt, glittering in the bits of sunlight as they reached inside, as if I was looking on at a shimmering sea surrounded by a forgotten forest.

We are so familiar with the vibrant, lively look and feel of the average greenhouse. These large spaces, usually built of glass, invite the sun in, encouraging the growth of flowers, foods and more, but what happens when these structures are forgotten? What happens when we leave something of this nature in nature’s hands? We find quite a vibrant scene can be spawned from natural destruction.

 

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Considering the fact that these spaces are built specifically to motivate the growth of plants, I’m sure you could imagine that once left to rot, it might not be doing much “rotting” as it is growing.

Walking through places like these during the summer months, we find trees that have grown unruly, forcing themselves through glass panels across the roof, while vines twist their way around metal beams within the architecture, surrounded by a floor covered in knee-high grass. The life growing within these glass houses will never take a back seat, even when left untouched when the conditions are this ideal. They will always push,

 

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During winter months, we find a drastic change of scenery still unlike any thought of a “normal” greenhouse view when snow begins to fall into the glass forest, coating bare, twisting branches of trees, covering the floor and filling a space being reclaimed by Mother Nature. These winter months give a much more tranquil display of an almost post-apocalyptic stage.

Bringing back the summer once more, with each passing year, nature will continue its reclamation of these glass structures, as trees, moss, ivy and other various plants nibble away from the ground up, until finally swallowing the entirety of the structure from ground to roof.

These spaces show us truly how strong nature is, but simultaneously how beautiful of a destruction it can create. Welcome to the glass forest.

 

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Frames Forgotten – An Abandoned Film School Full Of Hidden Treasures

Home sweet home, or so it appears that way upon entrance to this large structure. Beneath the main floor sits a rather awkwardly placed theatre, serving an audience of none. I say that this was awkwardly placed due to what took up 90 percent of the floor space. After navigation through a near maze of halls beneath the depths of this rotting structure, we find ourselves tucked into the darkness of a comforting, yet very strange home. Normally, finding abandoned homes is just part of your average explores, but when they reside beneath a large body of numerous classrooms, it can begin to toggle your mind’s confusion level from none to a ton. As I crossed the living room, I found myself staring down a small walkway, containing a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, though I still wasn’t quite sure why this would be hidden below a school, the more I surveyed my surroundings, it soon all began to come together when suddenly, a note caught my eye hanging near one of many holes cut from the ceiling.

“Welcome to your set from the art dept. Good luck and enjoy yourself!” It all suddenly made sense, the holes in the ceiling, an entire living space room for room left to rot in the depths of a school…’a set for the theatre group!’ I thought to myself, and I was rather close…however, while that might be quite a considerable guess, still not fully correct to the big picture, and true reality of it all.

While navigating through the darkness just outside of this set, I had begun to notice a series of familiar names, stashed into box after box, littered across the cracking tile floors. Kodak, Olympus, Fuji…I was sifting through old lighting and camera equipment, sprawled randomly throughout this auditorium. Finding things like this would be any true photographer’s dream, as well as that of those with heavy interest in film, and while I thought I had hit the jackpot for explore of the year, I was immediately proven wrong, one room after another, while the grandeur of the entire explore continued to grow the more I scavenged these halls.

The very next thing I would come to find sat beside this decaying set, buried below the theatre’s original stage, a gold mine for hipsters and explorers alike…Okay, who am I kidding? This would be a gold mine for anybody in search of the mysterious, unknown and hidden places of this Earth. Below this stage, which used to provide as a platform for the arts, sits a vast, massive collection of history, spun onto wheels in the form of moving pictures, slapped between rusted canisters. If this was not truly what you would call “true underground cinema” I am not sure what else would classify. Within this underground room, boxes remain, stacked atop more boxes beside rows of reels and crates full of forgotten independent cinema, seen by only a handful, now left to be forever faded by the passing of time, forgotten as the rust continues to eat away from the outside in.

From the 1970s through days of the 1980s, this room holds numerous forgotten images into past lives, having sat collecting nearly no views since their creation. The thought that someone could simply leave so much behind is baffling enough, but as I expand my wonder, I come to think of how many cinematic masterpieces might be lying beneath the dirt and dust, never to be recovered, reviewed or cared for. The amount of work put into truly creating these to just forget blows my mind. I climbed back to the hallway from an adjacent hole within this room, finding myself staring towards my next destination, being a room at the far end of where I stood.

A viewing room, where students of the 1970s through the 1990s would study visions of their colleagues minds, expressed through the medium of film. Independent pieces that graced the screens within this room may have been perfect enough to win motion picture of the year in grand theaters all across the world, but have since been stored away, cast into darkness, never to be viewed again. The most influential, beautiful film to be created could be sitting buried in dust, rotting away until nothing remains and we will never know.

As I had previously stated, with the discovery of each new room, my exploration had only escalated in excitement, building rapidly with each room as I crossed from one end of the hallway to the other.

The first forgotten chamber that I had stepped foot into was a final deciding factor on what the sole purpose of this school was, and as I had the slightest inclination after finding the lost films, I now realized I was entirely correct. The crumbling halls I have been trudging my way through were indeed the rotting remains of a former film school, pushed aside and left to decay. The stale air was brushed gently every now and then by the momentary sweeping of fresh wind from outside through its open windows, and as I peered across the room from my current position, it all came further to light. Chemicals used to develop film, some bottles partially full, others laying empty scattered across table tops, the dusty surface of editing and splicing stations, all surrounded by outdated film gear in every way I turned my head…yes, I had found more than a simple “jackpot” for exploration.

Residing among massive rigs of equipment left behind, sat hundreds of various sound samples, stored in a format now lost in time. When you try to imagine that these samples could consume quite a large portion of your modern day hard drive, given that they were converted to a digital format, it really puts into perspective how much was truly just left, tossed aside. These sound banks were used in the creation of numerous films, collected and compiled over many, many years.

Two floors directly above, I later found myself in what appeared to be a break room for staff and students alike, only the fridge held no food, but the remains of an attempted preservation of 1992 films, alongside a couple of salad dressings. Miracle whip resided in the door, where it has for years, now turned a deep brown color, one could only imagine the smell…

The curiosity was peaking in my mind, now nearly bursting with intrigue, wondering how or why someone could leave so much behind, and as I sit here writing this, my mind still wanders thoughts of what could reside captured inside these canisters. For all we know, an original work completed with the help of Tarkovski could be buried in the depths, though nobody may ever know.

I have never in my life thought that I would feel such a level of curiosity and wonder for a single location, but there it was now directly in front of me, staring me in the face as I stared back at it, across numerous decades of film now collecting dust and mold, lost in the underground. The equipment, more than likely to never be used again serves as a beautiful, rusted reminder of a time that once was vibrant and full of life.

I wouldn’t mind taking a seat for one last showing in the musty theatre.

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- Urbex

- Johnny Joo Photography

A Forgotten US Armory, Now Buried by A Forest

For 60 long years, this large complex has sat crumbling behind the brush, hidden away in a field beside a rural West Virginia town. I’m always curious of brand new scenery, different locations and the like, and this fit perfectly into that bill. Not only have we stumbled upon an amazing hidden gem, but an abandoned US armory, previously housing ammunition and other goods for past wars. It’s strange how something that was once of so much importance has become an empty shell. While wars died out, and the screams for help were silenced, these materials were less needed housed in a bunker such as this. Supplies were moved to more useful locations and the armory was soon completely abandoned around the later 1950s.

If you were to find yourself face to face with this place, you may not even notice the entire complex, while some sits in the open, ivy covering its sides, much more lays hidden behind walls of forest.

Trudging through tall and heavy grass, swinging back branches and spiderwebs, we enter each building to find complete chaos and destruction. Time has done quite a number on this location, and as you will see through the photographs, it hasn’t held back one bit.

Two radio control towers sit at either end of the road, while stables are tucked behind the brush where the road branches off in different direction. Disused gasoline and chemical tanks are sprawled throughout the backlot, an American flag marked on each one.

Various living corridors a scattered across this plot of land, and it is uncertain where some doors are, being forested by overgrowth. Unintentionally, we made the mistake of entering boiler rooms, generator rooms, etc. thinking they were entrances.

This ghostly land is nearly a small, forgotten town simply left behind. Far from any type of traffic, the place remains quiet and all I could hear were the chirping of birds, the fluttering of tree branches while I felt the slight tickle of a tick…on my leg…wait…

Who knows how much longer this space may stand, but visiting it was one of my favorite experiences and surely something I will always remember.

Until it’s inevitable death, only the wind will pass through the walls and windows of this ghostly skeleton of what once was full of so much life. Those who love an adventure will visit before it says its final goodbyes, capturing a brand new memory of yesterday’s forgotten beauty, now bathed in a brand new beauty of its own, stylized in decay.

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A Dark and Deserted Insane Asylum Sits Quietly Falling to Pieces

If there’s something I have learned from waking my happy ass up at 3 in the morning to venture hours away and photograph a location, aside from the proverbial ‘the early bird catches the worm,’ it would be that 4 in the morning, through the back roads of Ohio’s countryside yields no traffic…not a car for miles. This was a fairly constant thought during my first hour of driving the morning of this explore.Tucked deep within the mountainous woods of Maryland lays a former asylum, once home to thousands of the District’s most mentally ill patients.

Erected in 1925, this large 200 acre, 22-building compound would welcome some of the most mentally ill that the District of Columbia had to offer. As years passed, institutionalization became more of a last resort, and as treatment methods advanced, this particular selection of wards sat still, falling behind. In the 1960s, funding was drastically cut for this institution, and with recreation and athletic programs dropping nearly out of the picture, residents began to suffer. As population within the walls grew larger and larger, patients would wander empty, padded rooms unfit for any type of living as previously planned. Physical, mental and sexual harassment was running rampant through these living corridors and everything began to fall apart.

Hundreds upon hundreds of deaths occurred within the asylum, where usually bodies were taken to a tiny morgue deep within the basement before being transported to their final resting place, an unmarked grave on asylum grounds. Now, 387 people lie buried below a headstone, which was purchased by families of residents in the 1980s. The headstone stands alone in a field, as a monument to the losses these families had to face.

In 1976, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the asylum for its grounds being unfit to house a patient of any type, noting that there was little to no treatment within these decaying, dimly-lit buildings. These spaces sat too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, abuse was at an all-time high and this center for education and treatment was turning to nothing but a center for abuse and decay.

In 1978, the Department of Justice joined the suit, forcing the District to relocate the hospital’s residents, and so began the largest overhaul, ever, of its mental health system. For the better part of the next 15 years, patients were transported to group homes, where they would finally get the attention and treatment that was always much needed.

For its final few years, the death toll continued to rise as more and more patients were dying of aspiration pneumonia, where food enters the respiratory system, due to being fed while lying down in beds. Though the District demanded the asylum to improve how patients had been treated and improve conditions for the falling population, nothing more was ever enforced within its walls, while “doctors” and “employees” turned a deaf ear to orders.

September 29, 1991 marks the final hours of the asylum’s life, when the final 15 patients were moved onto a newer, better location for treatment, leaving the 22-building complex nothing but a massive shell of abandonment.

With every piece of equipment, all tools, furnishings, records and all left behind, this massive section of land now sits as a time capsule of horrific memories accompanied by a very dark history.

America has since changed, and over these years, so has its health system. Insane asylums such as these have now become less prevalent in today’s society, as have such treatments, which you would see being commonly practiced in the dark days of what was then thought of as normal procedure. I grind my teeth at the thought of such practices once being heralded as modern medicine. I mean, imagine going in for a routine check-up where the doctor straps your head back to a solid metal restraint pallet, cold, itchy leather wrapping around your sweaty forehead. “Open up” says the dentist, while he grinds a sharp utensil forcibly into your mouth. This does not sound like a fun time, and I have to say I’m quite glad we have advanced beyond these systems.

What is it that brings a haunting, chilling feel to places such as this? Could it be the years of collected deaths, each stranger in their own stories, or a vibrant, gruesome history of medical procedures performed on insane patients, as some struggle to survive, while others attempt to end their lives? Rusted, rotting bed frames, where once lie the mentally ill, now consumed by the aging of time as the rest of the building warps into a state of decay around them. The fluttering, of swinging doors, scraping their way across a debris-cluttered ground, coming to a loud pounding halt could make anybody’s heart skip a beat while standing amidst such a dark destruction. Click-clacking and tip-tapping water drips to the counters holding medical equipment left behind.

At times, while tracing these long corridors back and forth, you may still catch a sterile scent lingering in the air. Examining these spaces is sometimes more than just researching the previous functions of a space, but immersing yourself in the fragmented remains of entire past lives. A cracking canopy hangs above us as we tread the destruction of time and nature, passing through the rooms where immensely insane patients were kept behind locked doors, with only the silence of their padded room to comfort them.

Examining the post-apocalyptic scene which stood before me, buried deep down in the basement’s morgue, I thought to myself ‘people have died here…people have literally gone bat-shit crazy and this was their final resting place before the dirt plot on these very same grounds.’ Needless to say, it’s always a chilling experience when you are face to face with the rolling trays, which used to hold fresh, cold dead bodies…Eh. So how could so much fall into such a monotonous mess of ruination?

Death was a common occurrence in these asylums, as it is in almost any hospital, for it is inevitable to all of us, and apparently our structures…but what is it about death that intrigues us as human beings so much? Think about it, most of us think about it more than any other aspect of our lives. We rarely think about our birth, before our birth, even our current living of life, but we seem to wonder about what happens when we die, how we will die or how soon. I feel that this is one piece that connects us to the dilapidated structures, in the sense that not only can we focus a strong interest on the lives lead through these spaces, or that we could have a history there ourselves, but we have a chance to examine the before, beginning, middle and afterlife of something that was once grand and full of life. We are given the chance to see what we have left behind, what we have forgotten, and how the afterlife has progressed it into natures play toy, while a full fern garden covers the church floor. This is no longer just photojournalism, it’s almost a post-apocalyptic artistic movement, and we can make a great impact on the minds of those around us, bringing them to attention that these fantasy worlds truly exist, though they are far from happy fantasy…yet a dark, dreary one.

When most people realize that something like this; a video game-esque post-apocalyptic scene resides directly across their neighborhood, they become baffled at how long it has slipped through their attention. As an explorer, I always wonder how. Where we once pictured a chrome skyline and hover cars now shows a dull, cracking city host to abandonment and these forgotten, crumbling structures.

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A Massive Tuberculosis Ward Sits Abandoned Since 1995

Welcome to the J.N. Adam’s Memorial Tuberculosis Ward, a hidden gem tucked deep within the backwoods of Western New York. This massive location was commissioned by Buffalo mayor J.N. Adam to be built in 1909, to house and treat carriers of “The White Plague” known as tuberculosis.

Most Western New York residents have not even set eyes on this massive structure, being surrounded by 500 acres of forest on each side.

This complex, is one of several buildings in WNY designed by architect John H. Coxhead, his most popular or well-known being the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church.

The sanatorium was modeled after southern plantations, complete with ornate columns, and open balconies every which way you turn your head. These balconies were used in the treatment of patients, letting them rest in the open air with high altitudes, which were recommendations for treatment of the disease.

The space ran as a tuberculosis ward from 1909 until the 1960s when it was then turned to the state of New York, who would continue to use it as a developmental disability center. By 1995, the end to treatment of such disabilities in an institutionalized setting had come to an end, and since then it has sat vacant.

Now sitting as an empty gem, full of nothing but stale air and asbestos, the ward welcomes nature, as large overgrowth overtakes the face of each structure. It is only a matter of time before nature swallows these ruins in.

We were lucky enough to be taken away by a beautifully radiant sunset, glowing through the empty streets of the property. It was like walking through streets of an entire abandoned town. People had lived out their lives here, and with enough space to do so. One of my favorite rooms would have to be the main dining hall. Resembling a chapel, this dome-ceiling room, complete with ornately designed stained-glass window atop its roof, was the main section for patients to join together in meals. Come to think of it, it may have been used by doctors, but good luck on finding one to ask currently.

Easily one of my favorite places that I have explored, and I would love to make it back some day. Upon our leaving however, we were stopped by a local officer who had questioned us about being inside. Due to dangers of asbestos, they try to keep people clear of wandering its halls.

A place like this, I could never leave untouched, unexplored, or unknown to my eyes. Standing within the beautiful destruction of such a massive complex makes me wonder more than anything else what went on through its life.

If you would like to help in support of further exploration, as well as represent your home state, come by and grab a shirt or sticker here:

http://bit.ly/1jmV8Mt

It would be a huge help and much appreciated. I will also offer a FREE e-book for each order placed. Simply show me your order number through a message to this page, and what you purchased. I will then send you a completely free e-book of my book “Empty Spaces.” I hope to continue bringing you more and more awesome stories of these empty spaces.

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A Colorful Home Now Just A Spirit

It’s very sad to say that this home has recently been demolished.

I found this house during a summer evening and was immediately attracted to the way the sun lit every single room. Each room was a different color, all bright, all happy.

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Peering up the stairs, I could see that the sun was consuming the bright walls which lie in the rooms ahead. It was almost blinding, the way the outside light wrapped itself up throughout the upper floor, creating a vivid display particularly within the yellow/green room, where the stairs initially had led to.

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The home was empty, all but two lone chairs residing in the chilled basement. Two chairs like I had not seen before in any other abandoned structure, and they were inside a basement of an otherwise empty home. This was quite strange, and got me wondering a but more about what previous operations had taken place inside the structure.

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The peeling of paint had revealed each room’s previous color, complimenting each other greatly in the radiant sunlight. It was a peaceful, beautiful place to be. The bathroom housed an old claw-foot bathtub, while a small, ornate chandelier dangled the living room ceiling.

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While passing through some days ago now, I saw nothing left of the structure, while bulldozers flattened the land as if they had filled the basement already with dirt. It’s always so strange seeing a place like this completely disappear, knowing that nobody will ever again have the chance to photograph it, yet I hold these images of its life before passing. I think that is one of the strongest feelings an explorer/photographer can feel about their work.

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My Book “Empty Spaces”:
http://architecturalafterlife.com/empty-spaces/

The Steele Mansion – An Incredible Restoration

Good morning world! I am finally awake and I ended up waking up to a great story published by The News-Herald, written by Devon Turchan, on the restoration of The Steele Mansion along with my photography inside its walls over the years! I want to thank Carol Shamakian and Arthur Shamakian for making this project what it is, and putting so much amazing effort into saving this historic mansion, built in 1863. Most of the original pieces, all of the fireplaces, wood work, etc. have carefully been saved and I can’t wait to see this amazing structure come to life once again!

I remember seeing this structure without a ceiling, without floors in places and mold growing up through the walls while moss and nature started taking over areas. I remember having to cautiously walk across the second story and climbing to where there used to be a floor, where the stairs had then ended at a tall drop off to the ground.

My friends and I had spent many nights wandering the halls of this mansion, and it has now turned into easily one of the best restorations I have seen. I can’t wait to frame and hang the skeleton key on the wall Carol and Arthur are so generously granting me to display my photography. This house will forever have so much connection to my work, including pulling me in even further to the subject of urban exploration (before I even really knew it was a “thing”.)

Without this mansion, I’m not sure my interest in urban exploring would have went full force into my chosen subject of photojournalism. As much as I miss the eerie, quiet and beautiful decay of this place, I love seeing it restored as it should be. Thank you to EVERYONE who is making this project happen.

So many memories spent here with great friends, and only amazing stuff to come from here!

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An Update On Books!

I am so excited to finally be able to announce (after trouble with the printers) that everything will FINALLY be ready to go out so very soon and the link to purchase a book post-preorder will be up on my website atwww.architecturalafterlife.com

There is also some big news I can’t wait to share with everyone concerning the book!

That being said, my e-book version will be taken offline very soon! If you are interested in grabbing an e-book version to read through, please follow this link!

http://www.amazon.com/Empty-Spaces-Photojournalism-Through-Rust-ebook/dp/B00J7ALXU0/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

If you have a copy already, and you have enjoyed reading through, I do ask that you please stop over and give it a short review on what you thought! Remember, once purchased this book can be lent to others who have the same devices to view it on! I do hope everybody enjoys!

In relation to this photo:

This is one of the oldest styled kitchens I have come across during an explore, along with one of the most fun explores I think I have ever had! The home from the outside was covered in so many trees, you could barely make out that there was even a house buried in there!

So what is it about country homes that creates such a calm, yet eerie feel? This now empty shell which once held life, while still containing every item feels so bare and quiet. An entire history of someone’s every day life lost beneath the weight of time…and collapsing rooftops.

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The Glass Forest

We are so familiar with the vibrant, lively look and feel of the average greenhouse. These large spaces, usually built of glass, invite the sun in and encourage the growth of flowers, foods and more. But what happens when these structures are forgotten? What happens when we leave something of this nature to nature? We find quite a vibrant scene of natural destruction.

Considering the fact that these spaces are built specifically to motivate the growth of plants, I’m sure you could imagine that once left to rot, it might not be doing much “rotting.”

Walking through these spaces during the summer months, we find trees that have grown unruly, forcing themselves through glass panels across the roof, vines twisting their way around metal beams within the architecture and a floor covered in knee-high grass. The life growing within these glass houses will never take a back seat, even when left untouched, for the conditions are ideal. They will always push, reaching towards the sun.

During winter months, we find a drastic change of scenery still unlike any thought of a “normal” greenhouse view. We find snow falling into the glass forest, coating the bare, twisting branches of trees, covering the floor and filling a space being reclaimed by Mother Nature. These winter months give a much more quiet display with an almost post-apocalyptic stage.

Bringing back the summer once more, with every passing year, the glass structure will continue to be consumed by trees, moss, ivy and other various plants until finally being swallowed entirely by our Earth.

These spaces show us truly how strong nature is, and how beautiful of a destruction it can create. Welcome to the glass forest.

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http://www.architecturalafterlife.com

The Forgotten Trucker’s Home

Yesterday, during our trip through to Buffalo, we made a quick pit stop near Erie when we saw the remains of an abandoned trucker’s home!

Upon entering, we found the location to be huge! We entered past one diner, straight into another one in the back, complete with a bar!

Truckers used to come here and stay for what seemed to be at least a night or two before heading back out. This location was complete with pay phones, 2 separate diners, a bar and much more!

Standing on that table to take the photo with the fan, I pretty much felt as though I might fall straight through…surprisingly it held me!

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