When I was a little kid one of my favorite things to do was to go exploring. My favorite places to explore were inside buildings. Not just inside of buildings, everyone does this. What I am talking about is exploring the parts of buildings that the general public doesn’t have access to. There is something about finding and exploring hidden rooms, behind the walls, under the floors, inside ceilings, that fascinated me. BTW, I have never outgrown this.
One of the perks of my job is that I periodically get to lurk around inside places that are not generally accessible to the public. Throughout my career in maintenance and construction I have explored many hidden places. Most of the time these places are simple IT closets, electrical rooms, and mechanical rooms. But sometimes there are special places that exist that most people are unaware of.
I have a real soft spot for old buildings. Not only do they seem to have better craftsmanship in their construction than modern structures, but they just seem more substantial. There is also a lot more attention to details that seem to be lacking in modern buildings.
Anyway, I began to think more and more about my love of exploring the hidden secrets of buildings a lot this month. This is probably due to the fact that I recently changed jobs. While getting used to the new job I am spending a lot of time becoming familiar with the buildings which I am expected to help run at peak efficiency. There is one building in particular that I find fascinating to explore. It was an Army Hospital and was originally constructed in 1918 to help with soldiers returning from WWI, during WWII, and the Korean War. It was also used by Eisenhower in the 50s to treat a heart condition. In the late 90s it was removed from service as a hospital and is used now as an administrative building. While the building has been extensively renovated it still has a lot of history buried inside.
It still has many of the original features that make a building like this interesting and fun to explore. Even the service staircases have tile walls and art-deco hand rails. Some walls are covered in marble and the lights are art-deco style monuments to industrial engineering. There are still the old mail slots embedded into the marble decorated walls that lead down into an unused mail room. An incinerator stack still runs from the basement up through the roof many floors above the street. The elevators look like they use the same motors and cables as when it was built. I just love these motors. They aren’t like the motors made today. Modern motors seem boring and are hermetically sealed to protect workers from touching anything dangerous. These look like Tesla himself wound the wires. The brushes are exposed and every detail of their function is proudly displayed to the world. But no one can see them. They are kept in a magical place at the top of the building.
In what could be regarded as the Attic is a magical place that cries out for a mad scientist laboratory. It is completely unsuitable for remodeling into a penthouse suite due to the layout of the floor and protrusions of ducts, pipes, wires, and such. However, with a dozen different levels, ladders, stairways, platforms, and a high ceiling it is just perfect for a super-hero or super-villain to call home. There are lots of tall creepy windows, and steep stairs that lead to small platforms that may hold one motor or fan, or nothing at all. Some of the duct work was made out of copper, some stainless steel, others seem to be made of tile. Everything seems to be made of dark thick iron, cold stone, and thick glass. It is a dark, scary, and beautifully fascinating place. Like an unintentionally created movie set.
I am sure there are other places as cool as this one and I look forward to finding more as time goes by. But for now, this one will go down as one of my favorites along with the generator room of the Hoover dam, the missile silo in Windsor Colorado, and some of the abandoned parts of the old NASA launch facility.