Monday, September 26, 2016

The abandoned Rochester Subway of New York

Rochester Subway operated in the city of Rochester, New York from 1927 to 1956. Its history dates back to 1918 when the Erie canal was re-routed to bypass downtown Rochester. The empty section of the canal was used as the core of the subway. The train lines were built inside the canal while the subway's roof was turned into Broad street. However, of the approximately 7 miles (11.2 km) of the subway's length, only 2 miles (3.2 km) were underground. 

In 1927 Rochester Subway operations began under contract with New York State Railways. The line was also used by interurban railways with Rochester and Eastern Rapid RailwayRochester and Syracuse Railroad, and Rochester, Lockport and Buffalo Railroad running trains. 

In the aftermath of the Great Depression, New York State Railways fell into bankruptcy and from 1938 the subway was operated by the newly formed Rochester Transit Corporation. To cut costs, the company reduced weekday service and in 1952 Sunday service was eliminated. In 1955 Rochester's city council decided to end all subway service on June 30, 1956. Following the end of passenger service, the biggest part of the subway bed was filled in and used for the construction of interstate 490 and interstate 590. Freight trains kept running on the underground part of the subway until 1996. 

Rochester city officials have decided several times to fill the remaining abandoned part of subway, however those plans were controversial. Others have suggested to built a new subway system using the same tunnel or an underground walkaway. And some others would prefer to see the abandoned tunnel filled with water, by re-rerouting Erie canal to its original path. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The abandoned Family School Fureai in Japan

The city of Yubari on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, is known as the "Detroit of Japan". Back in 1960 it was the "capital of coal" and had a population of 120,000. By 1990, when the last coal mine closed, the population had plummeted down to 20,000 people and when the city declared bankruptcy in 2007, less than 10,000 people still lived there. To make things worse, it's also the city with the oldest population in the country.

As coal miners and their families were fleeing Yubari during the last decades, they left behind a large number of abandoned buildings. Asahi Elementary School opened in 1975 to consolidate 3 other local schools (Teimi, Fukuzumi & Daini) that already experienced a sharp decline in the number of students. Then, 413 students were attending the school. By 1982, only 60 students were left.

It was then when it was decided to close the school and convert it into a public dormitory under the management a semi-public corporation – Yubari Kanko Kaihatsu. The building became known as Family School Fureai. In 2006 the company went bankrupt and the school closed forever.

Since then, Family School Fureai has been sitting abandoned. The building has been damaged due to water leaks while it has also been heavily vandalized. Wild animals and occasionally people can be found living inside.

SEE ALSO: More abandoned schools around the world // More abandoned places in Japan // LIST OF ALL DESERTED PLACES 
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Inside New York's Letchworth Village: the abandoned mental institution of horror

Letchworth Village in Rockland County, New York was supposed to be a model institution for the mentally ill. In reality though, thousands of patients were kept in inhumane conditions, forced to work and were subject to horrific abuses and experiments. 

Letchworth Village, a "state institution for the segregation of the epileptic and feeble-minded.” opened in 1911. It was different from other mental health institutions of its time in that it was constructed as a village. Separate living and training facilities for children, able-bodied adults, and the infirm were not to exceed two stories or house over 70 inmates, a major departure from the almshouses of the 19th century.

The village's fieldstone, neoclassic buildings consisted of small dormitories, a hospital, dining halls, and housing for the staff. Until the 1960s, the able-bodied labored on communal farms, raising enough food and livestock to feed the entire population.

Behind closed doors though, the reality was much different. According to a report from 1921, patients were divided into three categories of "feeble-mindedness": the "moron" group, the "imbecile" group, and the "idiot" group. The last of these categories were admitted into Letchworth Village, because they were unable to "benefit the state" by doing the various jobs that were assigned to the male patients, included loading thousands of tons of coal into storage facilities, building roads, and farming acres of land.

The same report from 1921 mentioned that 317 out of 506 inmates were between the ages of 5 and 16, and 11 were under the age of 5 years. Visitors observed that the children were malnourished and looked sick. The Letchworth staff claimed in the report that there was a scarcity of food, water, and other necessary supplies. 

Children were also subject to testing and some of the most cruel neglect. Many of the children were able to comprehend learning but were not given the chance because they were thought of as "different." In 1950, virologist Hilary Koprowski tested his live-virus polio vaccine for the first time on a boy, inmate of Letchworth Village. As there were thankfully no side effects, 19 more tests were administered to patients.

Over-population was one of the harshest conditions at Letchworth. Barely ten years after being constructed, Letchworth's buildings were already overpopulated, cramming 70 beds into the tiny dormitories. Nearly 1,200 patients were present during 1921. By the 1950s, the Village was overflowing with 4,000 inhabitants. In the 1940s, a set of photographs revealed the terrible conditions of the facilities as well as the dirty, not well kept patients. Naked residents, highly neglected, huddled in sterile day rooms.

In 1972, ABC News investigative reporter Geraldo Rivera featured Letchworth Village in his piece "Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace". The documentary, looked at how intellectually disabled people, particularly children, were being treated in the State of New York. He found that residents of Willowbrook State School and Letchworth Village lived in awful, dirty and overcrowded conditions, with a lack of clothing, bathing, and attention to their basic needs. The facilities were incredibly understaffed, and there was little or no actual schooling, training or even simple activities to keep residents occupied.

Although the segregation of mental patient had long been considered wrong, and the inhumane conditions at Letchworth were widely reported, the institution was closed only in 1996. Many who worked at the Village refuse to speak of their experiences. Today, at the entrance of the abandoned Letchworth Village buildings there is a large memorial stone with the words "THOSE WHO SHALL NOT BE FORGOTTEN" for all the nameless victims who perished at Letchworth.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The semi-abandoned Kelenföld power plant in Budapest

The Kelenföld power plant of Budapest was built in 1914. Back then, it was the first boiler house and electricity-supply building in Hungary's capital, as well as Europe’s first electricity exchange.

The building is an incredible example of thoughtful industrial design from the prewar era with its Art Deco control room, with a massive glass ceiling, being one of the more recognizable features. It was designed by two architects around 1927, Kálmán Reichl and Virgil Borbíro, and was constructed within 2 years. Throughout the rest of the plant, corridors are decorated with tiles from Hungary's world-famous Zsolnay porcelain manufacturer.

The control room, as well as the largest part of the power plant shut down and was abandoned in 2005. A part of the the plant is privately owned and still in operation, providing power to Budapest. Today, the plant produces 4% of Hungary's energy and 60% of Budapest's heating and hot water. The main gas supply comes from Russia through Ukraine and in case it gets shut off, for whatever reason, the station has a liquid fuel-oil reserve on-site that can last for eight days.

Even though the largest part of the factory today is abandoned, it can't be demolished as it's protected as an 'industrial heritage' building. Sometimes, the building is used for music videos and movies while some rare tours for the public inside the facility have to be booked well in advance.

SEE ALSO: More abandoned industrial sites around the world // More abandoned places in Hungary // LIST OF ALL DESERTED PLACES 
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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Italy's deserted building sites

For her series 'Empire of dust', French photographer Amélie Labourdette spent a month travelling across southern Italy, around Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia to take photos of deserted construction sites.

The buildings and structures some of which were abandoned decades ago, are in various states of disrepair. They include roads and bridges built in the middle of nowhere, parks, aqueducts, swimming pools, railway stations, theatres, parking lots, and even a polo stadium. 

Labourdette shot the series at dawn and dusk, when the landscape is on the brink of consciousness and ‘the atmosphere seems to bring out the atemporality of the landscape’.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

The haunted Diplomat Hotel in the Philippines

Built on a hill with a panoramic view overlooking Baguio City, the Diplomat Hotel is considered one of the most haunted places in the Philippines. Its history dates back to 1911 when it was constructed as a retreat house by the Dominican Order in a 17-hectare land previously belonging to Americans. 

From its inauguration in 1915 and for 2 years it was used as a college "Collegio del Santissimo Rosario", but due to lack of students it was converted back to a retreat house. During World War II, the building gave refuge to people fleeing from the Japanese who bombed it and its surroundings. 

After the war, the old convent underwent a reconstruction which finished in 1948 when it opened as a 33-bed hotel, while retaining some components from the past, like its large white stone cross. During the 1970's the hotel was managed by Antonio “Tony” C. Agpaoa, an entrepreneur and faith healer who used the hotel to treat patients using psychic surgery"operating" on his conscious patients with his bare hands, without leaving a trace of any incision. While some considered him a fraud, people from all over the world would visit Baguio City to be healed inside the Diplomat Hotel. 

The hotel finally shut down and left abandoned in 1982 when Agpaoa died at the age of 42. Even since the Diplomat Hotel was open, people would report hearing strange noises and seeing headless apparitions and those sightings would continue after the hotel shut down, giving it the reputation of one of the most haunted places in Baguio City. People would experience screams, rattling and clanging sounds alternating with total silence while the derelict condition of the hotel added to the eerie atmosphere. Some said those were the spirits of Agpaoa and his patients while others believe it were the restless spirits of those killed in the war such as beheaded priests and nuns.

Since 2005,the Diplomat Hotel belongs to Baguio City which began a restoration project for the building and the surrounding area. In 2013 it was declared a historical site and today it can be rented for weddings and other events.