A small, run-down building in a light industrial district, I had never paid any attention to the former foundry. At least once a week, I strolled down the street past the front door, its sagging wood frame serving only to blend it among the other run-down buildings in the area. Never giving it a second thought, I would have missed it completely had a fellow explorer not told me of an open back door one day. At first, I didn't realize which building he was talking about; but it quickly dawned on me that I often wandered through my own backyard with closed eyes, following paths of imagined familiarity.
After that, it didn't take me long to head back to the foundry. Down the alley I never walk, back doors stood open and inviting beyond a snow drift untouched by footprints. I head into the darkness, unsure of what the small building holds. Crossing the threshold with a gust of windblown snowflakes, I enter a place of dust and silence.
As my eyes adjust, I see that I am in a large, open room that forms the majority of the back of the building. A rough cement floor, covered with bits of dirt and piles of fine black sand, reaches wall to wall and flows into an adjoining room. Immediately, I notice that the walls, the roof and joists, are all made of wood; stained dark by ages of exposure to airborne pollutants. A small catwalk runs under the curved roof, joining the front of the room to a raised balcony at the back.
I cross through a large opening into the smaller adjoining workshop. Here, windows allow more light, I am able to see that the wooden walls are actually painted a silver color. Doors leading to the outside are nailed or barred shut with boards. Silently, I wander through a doorway into an area at the front of the building; part of the room is crowded by a block of six sinks and I guess this was a locker/change room. The metal sinks seem ancient, chipped white enamel stained with black grease and dust, the taps made of brass. A small bathroom the size of a closet hides a shower and toilet within its dark confines, and I shudder at the thought of using such grimy facilities.
Through an open doorway I catch a glimpse of a mattress with a sleeping bag bundled on top- a sign of squatting! Cautiously, I peer around the corner, and am slightly relieved to see that no one's home at the moment. Other than the sleeping bag, a few scattered clothes and a bag of garbage, there's no signs of life. An empty desk sits in another corner of the former office. The room feels cold, and given the lack of footprints in the snow outside I suspect this sleeping bag hasn't been used in some time.
I move on into the other empty office at the front. The gray plank floor and bare wood walls almost give the feeling of a log cabin. On the back of a door are glued some old signs indicating the building used to be operated by Cessco, and some very aged girlie pin-ups.
I cross through a doorway back into the rear shop area, and find some stairs leading up atop the offices. The wooden steps are very worn, and I can feel them flex slightly under my weight as I ascend. At the top is a very dusty storage area, and the access to the catwalk. Judging the wooden catwalk to be sturdy, I step on and cross over the shop. The long wooden planks bend as I walk over them, and I have visions of breaking through and falling to the hard concrete below. I duck under thick wooden joists supporting the curved ceiling, and make it to the loft at the opposite end of the room without incident. The loft is mostly empty, aside from some rickety shelving and the top of a large iron tank. Out back, a shed houses the disconnected electrical system. A half-dozen breaker boxes with labels like 'Blaster', 'Brass Shop' and 'Large Furnace" crowd one wall.
On my way out, I take a few more moments to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the building. There are no pigeons, and only a few remaining signs of former use. The din of a nearby construction site is muted thanks to the wooden walls, and the building is a place of silence. I retrace my steps outside and head off through gently falling snow.
I had always planned to go back to the building, but recently the doors were locked up. 09 May, 2006: The building is now a wet pile of splintered wood and sawdust, thanks to a trackhoe. Out back, the large iron tank sits on its side, and a few steel beams from the overhead lift crane stick out of the debris. Condos will be built on the site. I wonder how contaminated the land is?
According to the metal letters once attached to the building, it was the "Norwood Foundry", "Brass & Alum Div", formerly used by the steel fabricator Cessco, I wonder how long it has been empty, and who the last tenant was? What was that mysterious black dust everywhere? Another building gone.