Urban exploration (and failing stairs).

There are two things in life I can feel proudest in what I do, because I genuinely feel talented in them and it gives me joy like nothing else can. Writing, and exploring abandoned buildings. Simplistic? Unfortunately so. But, I love journalism, I love photography and I love trying to understand everything that goes on int he world today. Yet, I know that there is so much I lack at this point in time, that if I were to be graded, I’d easily be somewhere between a C- and B for journalism, and probably a D for photography.

But that’s besides the point.

I just really love abandoned buildings. I‘ve been through this before, and anyone who has even known for the past year should know I have a massive fascination with abandoned buildings, urban exploration (better known as urbex), post-apocalyptic fiction and anything that has to deal with urban decay.

I mean, seriously, how can you hate this? (Spoiler: you can’t.)

However, after exploring the same hospital twice in Amarillo, my exploration time came to a sudden halt when said hospital was boarded up due to druggie’s being caught stealing copper. I was heartbroken. And surprised. How they managed to steal any copper from what was left of the place was almost appalling. I almost have to give the thieves credit for even trying at that point.

Regardless, despite photographing (but not exploring) various abandoned buildings before I moved to St. Louis (and then some more here), today, I finally got my chance today to explore something new. (Last time I went inside a building was the Sunday before my baby brother was born.)

(In the off-chance anyone from around the St. Louis area is reading this blog, I will do my best to keep the anonymity of the location kept hidden as best as I can.)

Meeting with a group through Meetup.com, a group of ten others met at a coffee shop in the late morning, with the goal of distracting attention away from a large group of people going into a dilapidated, abandoned building all at once. We were lucky enough, however, to simply park our car(s) in the alley and literally just walk to the stair step leaning against a broken out window, a.k.a, our way in.

To be fair, I had been here before, briefly, and knew my way in.
To be fair, I had been here before, briefly, and knew my way in.

That said, this church is sits on the same sidewalk as a still-functioning (and almost brand new) school. It takes about twenty steps from the step ladder to reach the school. So, as we were sort of just talking before exploring, a man working for the school sees us, and asks me, “Who are y’all with?” and I freeze.

freeze.

I’m thinking, “Don’t lie. Just say we’re taking pictures. Just say we’re taking pictures. Just say that.”

“We’re, uhh, we’re taking pictures,” I tell him in a timid, alarmed tone.

“I don’t give a crap what y’all do in there, but if anyone gets hurt, it’s on you.” is what he told all of us, once the rest of the group realized someone had more-or-less spotted us. Obviously, we understood and a few of us started asking him about the history of the place. (Turns out the city refuses to give money to renovate the church. Shocker!) Before I knew it, I was talking politics and the pitfall of journalism with that man and an attorney who was exploring with us.

Unlike the hospital I had been to twice before, this church wasn’t creepy, nor was it eerie or anything close to being as such. Instead, it was beautiful. Just by climbing through the rubble, which lead to this beautiful opening where service was once held, you could see nature reclaiming what is rightfully its own property. Various plants have been clearly growing for quite some time, wood is becoming highly unstable, and the sound of life still existing outside these walls gave a reminder that society as a whole has almost no problem packing up and leaving in a moment’s notice.

Surprisingly, I personally did not see any trace of life. That sort of things goes hand-in-hand with abandonment, but it was definitely a nice surprise. With all the mold growing on the floors and the state of the building overall, it’s an unsafe place to stay long term. That, and I’m sure the employees of the school next door probably watch out for that sort of stuff.

The building itself didn’t have as much to offer as I had imagined, though. The first floor was utterly trashed out, with the toilets filled with dirt and mud and other various forms of eroding characteristics, the stair cases hanging together by a thread, and the basement near impossible to enter due to a gaping hole halfway through the steps down. (One of the guys repelled down. Yeah.  Repelled. It was that bad.)

Of course, there was the mezzanine, and the third floor, which belonged to the bell tower that now lacks a bell. A few people were adventurous enough to go to that and scour the attic, but that seemed like a death wish. The roof is most definitely on the verge of completely collapsing, and I dare not try to assist it in doing so.

IMG_7160 1

I believe we started sometime around 11:45 A.M., and we were all done with our photos by about 2:00 P.M. For a building its size, I’m so happy it took as long it did. I’m sure to anyone not interested in either photography or urban exploration, getting to see the general outline of the building would be enough, and out they’d go. But, for the ten of us, this was truly one of the most fun things I’ve done in ages. Because unlike the hospitals I explored, I didn’t get a thrill rush. Getting in and out wasn’t a problem, it was in daylight, and I was surrounded by people, rather than just a few of my friends. I’m not saying any of this is in a negative tone – because I actually enjoyed it more. Instead of trying to stay hush-hush and roam in the dark, I got to soak in the beauty of nature reclaiming itself for two hours.

On top of all this, I got to meet some incredible people and do something I guarantee I never would have done in Amarillo: socialize outside my comfort zone. Because like I’ve mentioned here before, this move was much more than physically relocating. I needed to start fresh, and essentially restarting my academic and social life is truthfully the greatest decision I’ve made in years.

(For those interested, here is the full album of the church. If for any reason you feel like using them, please credit me.)

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