This morning, a friend and I were in Cleveland speaking about homeless awareness. As we stepped from the doors and were ready to head back towards home, I received numerous text messages saying “the duck factory is on fire!” Immediately, I told Ryan and we were on our way to capture what we could. See, the duck factory was much more than just an abandoned factory – it was THE abandoned factory – a well known place to local urban explorers, graffiti artists (sometimes), and photographers. This factory was one of the first factories I was introduced to through exploring, and it will be a shame to see it gone.
Recently in Cleveland, there have been a number of acts of arson spreading all throughout the city. It seems that many of these abandoned buildings have been targeted. Some want to blame the explorers/photographers, but arson happens regardless. For that matter, you could blame anyone who has ever talked of a place.
For years, the factory has deteriorated to a point of practically no return – ceilings crumble, walls shake with each gust of wind and almost every window now remains only an opening. It’s sad to see these places go, but to know that we have at least saved their life and story within these photographs is a good feeling – it is why we do what we do. These places will not be here forever.
The factory normally known as “the duck factory” was an abandoned branch of Woodhill Supply Inc. The building has sat vacant for years and continued to progressively collapse further and further in on itself. The factory was known for a mystery – an odd abundance of rubber ducks, which over years had been taken as souvenirs by explorers, photographers and others. I was never able to visit in the warm weather, and I’m quite sad I never did.
Woodhill supply occupied the space for nearly 50 years, before deciding that upkeep was far too expensive. The small streets issued further problems, being far too difficult for their large trucks to maneuver. The rectangular cut-outs in the floor showcase some of this buildings history, as in the 20th century, the space was used to perform streetcar maintenance. Once Cleveland eliminated streetcars from the transportation system during the 1950s, Woodhill Supply quickly took over the vacancy starting in the early 1960s. For nearly 50 years, Woodhill Supply operated out of these grounds until 2011, when the roof began to give way. This was when the upkeep costs were brought into the equation, the debate about small street issues following. Woodhill Supply Inc. is a distributor for plumbing equipment, HVAC, PVF and other tools.
15 to 20 years ago now, a company approached Woodhill to use part of the grounds as storage, storing hundreds upon hundreds of rubber ducks, meant to be used originally at a Red Cross event. This even was never documented, and most likely never even came to fruition.
Today – September 27, 2015 – the fire burned on as streets filled with smoke. An apocalyptic aura was drawn over the neighborhood surrounding as smoke billowed from broken walls. Teams worked hard to put out the blaze, and it was said that one firefighter was injured during the process today. A charred smell fills the air of numerous Cleveland streets, all the way throughout Little Italy. This factory will be missed, but may live on through the photographs. With only my cellphone available, I tried to capture today’s scene as well as I could.