Indiana Tag

Indiana Ammunitions Depot
Walking Dead

Exploring a disused military ammunition depot brings back thoughts of the Walking Dead. Perhaps it is because I have been binge watching the post-apocalyptic horror series on television, or rather that I have a fascination with post-human interactions. And because of that, I went through my archives and found some great images that I have never shared that evokes that resemblance. Read More

Indianapolis City Market
Tour the Indianapolis Catacombs

Indianapolis City MarketTo be offered beginning in June, the Indianapolis, Indiana Catacomb tours will take the public beneath City Market into mostly unknown catacombs that date to 1886. The cavernous walkways, featuring brick archways and columns of limestone, encompass more than 20,000 square feet and were part of Tomlinson Hall, a structure along Market Street that burned in 1958. Read More

Biggest Population Losses

After a recent drive through Cairo, Illinois (article forthcoming), and seeing the effects of decades of racial segregation and violence, and then economic decline and population loss, I wondered what other major and minor cities in the United States has experienced such steep and dramatic losses? Besides Cairo, Detroit and Wheeling, I asked my Facebook readers of other examples. Read More

Indiana Ammunitions Depot
A Year of Little Change at the Ammunition Plant

It has been a year of little change at the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. A few buildings have now be emptied of their contents, cleaned and prepped for eventual burning and subsequent demolition, and some more ground has been cleared of vegetation, but all in all, not much has changed. This is the second post in a series on the ammunition plant, which ended with the Ether-Mix House. This thread continues on, traversing somewhat in reverse in the powder production process with the Dehy Press House (Building 202-6) that pressed the cake of nitrocellulose into a powder form.

The Blending and Wringer House (Building 113-3) was part of the nitration process and was located a step backwards in the powder production process. In order to obtain a uniform propellant and ballistic characteristic, portions of batches that have a high nitrogen content are mixed with portions that have a low nitrogen content. Slurry from the poaching tubs in the Poaching House were fed onto vibrating screens where nitrocellulose was blended, which passed into collecting boxes. The boxes were then emptied into tubs where guncotton and pyrocellulose were blended. If the sample from the tub had satisfactory nitrogen and solubility content, the slurry was pumped into the Wringer House. At the Wringer House, the large amounts of water that were used throughout the process to move the nitrocellulose is removed. The containers of partially dry nitrocellulose are transported to the Dehydration/Press House via lag cars.

The poaching process was conducted to reduce the acidity of the nitrocellulose. It also reduced the fibers remaining to minute fragments in a mechanical operation. Hot water washes in sodium carbonate, an alkaline solution, further reduced acidity. The nitrocellulose was then bathed in cold water under mechanical agitators to purify the nitrocellulose and ensure for a longer shelf life. Samples were sent to a nearby laboratory to determine the percentage of nitrogen, the solubility of the ether-alcohol mixture and the fineness degree. The following are from the Poacher House (Building 112-3).

The Pulping House, located adjacent to the Poacher House, features machinery similar to that found in paper mills. Nitrocellulose fibers were cut into short segments to open the embedded fibers which exposed any remaining impurities in the capillary channels. During this process, a very large amount of water was used, which resulted in a slurry that was pumped into the Poaching House.

Skipping over some buildings, we made our way to the Nitrating House (Building 105-1). With shredded cotton being blown in from the Cotton Dry House, 32 pounds of cellulose fiber were mixed in stainless steel nitrators that contained 1,500 pounds of nitric and sulfuric acids that were blended together. The treated nitrocellulose and spent acids were then discharged from the bottom into centrifugal wringers that removed most of the acid through the exterior of the wringer. The acid was used in the production of pyrocellulose or fortified for reuse. Wet nitrated cotton was then immersed in water and the slurry transferred to the Boiling Tub Houses.

The Cotton Dry House (Building 104-1) is where cotton linters, or short fibers that cling to cottonseeds after the first ginning was delivered in 150 pound bales, or wood pulp delivered in rolls of 700 pounds, where they were shredded. They were then pretreated in large ovens to reduce the moisture to less than 1% before being blown in ducts to the Nitrating House.

Next door was the Warehouse (Building 101).

The Process Engineering Division (Building 706-2) has been fairly recently cleaned out.

The Sulfuric Acid Concentration Plant (Building 303-2) produced sulfuric acid by melting and burning raw sulfur, which produced sulfur dioxide gas. The gas was then passed over catalytic beds that produced sulfur trioxide gas, which was absorbed through distilled water that produced sulfuric acid.

And no visit is complete without a stop to the Power Plant (Building 401-1).

This is part two in a series on the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant.

Farmers Grain Company (Carlos, Indiana)
Exploring rural Indiana

Despite the overarching theme of Abandoned to explore an abandonment in urbanized areas, there is a lot to be said for getting lost through the rural, blank landscape of the Midwest.

More typical, though, is to explore the common and photograph what has been said and done. Gary, Indiana is one of those locales, home to City Methodist and its ever sterile and deteriorated core. Located within the Rust Belt of America, a region pockmarked by dominant industries on the general decline for nearly half a century, high unemployment has led many cities and townships astray. Poverty and crime correlate well in these areas, brought about by a lack of opportunities and a general sense of despair.

But for what Indiana is known for best, the ever-declining Gary and some mental institutions in its larger cities, most of the state is simply comprised of farms and timber. Subdivided into counties and then townships, each contain their own distinct nature, and my journey took me to the hinterlands of Wayne and Randolph County. It is near no large city, and the county plateaued on population in the early 1900s.

I drove northwest from Richmond via U.S. Route 35 and had no intended destination. Following the tracks of the defunct Cincinnati, Richmond and Muncie Railroad, later part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and today’s Cardinal Greenway bike path, I came across the unincorporated town of Williamsburg. Known best for the Lion’s Club community park, its focal point was the former Green Township school.

Constructed most likely in the 1920s, the tri-level school features a typical symmetrical design common in many rural designs. The standardized design allowed for typically six to eight classrooms and administrative offices on the upper two floors, and workshops and storage in the basement. A small auditorium was located in the rear center. Notable to the design is the addition of two small concrete reliefs and patterns on the front towards the outer edges. The front entrance was fairly unadorned, sans the etched “Green Township Public School” marking in the concrete above the doorway.

The interiors were fairly spartan, as were most rural schools. The plaster walls were unadorned with any moldings or reliefs, and broken up only with the addition of decorative brick blocks that extended approximately five feet from the floor. The classrooms contained hardwoods and what appeared to be pine moldings and trims, all darkly stained. The administrative office featured a fireplace.

Supposedly, the pride of the new gymnasium led the newly formed Yellow Jackets to an undefeated season, with fans packing the bleachers to capacity. Just outside the gymnasium doors was an interesting find: a concrete horn.

Williamsburg’s first radio came in 1927 when Clifford Duke built this gigantic loudspeaker from concrete, sanded down to an alabaster-like smoothness. Modeled from a “Baldwin Grand” horn, the speaker stood 9 feet tall with speaker bell diameter of 30 inches. It could be heard for up to 3 miles as it broadcasted news, game scores and other things of interest.

Although the school closed years ago, the building is home to the Williamsburg Community Center and is still the pride of Green Township. Several classrooms are dedicated to the local history of the region and the basketball court – which was just refinished in 2002 by the Cincinnati Floor Company, hosts events and gatherings.

From Williamsburg, I departed northward towards Modoc, which was in Randolph County and along the former Indiana, Bloomington & Western Railway (IB&W). Although the railroad was later merged into Penn Central, it had been abandoned since the 1970s and any business dependent on the line was along gone.

The saying goes that Modoc was named after a cigar box that contained the name Modoc, which had been pitched by a man traveling on the railroad. Another legend was that Modoc was named after the Modoc Indian tribe of northern California. Which ever the story goes, the town is home to less than two-hundred residents today and its downtown is a ghost town today. Below are photographs from the former bank, later converted into a storefront and then a residence.

Little details of its past remain today. There is no etched name, most likely hidden behind a false panel, and the only remnant is the night depository drop box next to the front door.

With the evening sun fast setting, I departed eastward and began tracing remnants of the former IB&W and came across Carlos, an unincorporated town set amongst vast empty plains. It is these quiet communities where a strong bond is settled and not much if anything changes for decades at a time. Much is preserved, such as the discovery of what may have been the IB&W freight house, apparently used for storage today. A rusting sign outside, incorporating the logo of a chevron – which I mistaken at first for the petrol station Chevron, stated “Feeds.”

It isn’t hard to travel to Carlos, however, and not be fascinated by the Farmers Grain Company silo which is by far the largest structure in the county. The top featured a castle-like motif.

From an outward appearance, and a lack of information from the local libraries about the Farmers Grain Company, it has most likely been abandoned for 30 years or more. The silo was also most likely dependent on the IB&W, which has been disused for that time period and longer.

With sunlight fast disappearing in the cold March month, I trekked eastward to Lynn along the IB&W and southward along the former Penn Central to Richmond. It was fascinating to find more to Indiana than its urban decay, for its rural closures and abandonments can be just as interesting if not just less saturated. There is no suffrage of ruin porn out here.

A foggy morning at the ammunition plant

Camera bag? Check.

Tick repellant? Check.

Light? Check.

I set out one night with another photographer to capture the early morning scenery at the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, the largest abandonment in the United States. It’s not an easy hike into the facility, with tall grasses and vegetation overtaking what used to be manicured grasses and a flurry of activity.

What surprised me, in the year since my last trip, how little much of the complex has changed. While some of the buildings have been cleaned of their contents, and more ground has been scraped of their vegetation, there has not been a wholesale demolition that I had envisioned. Most buildings remained a testament of pre-World War II construction. Hand painted signs warn the dangers of spitting. Goodyear tires supporting frictionless carts. Brick layered buildings. Slides for emergency escapes.

This is part one of a series that will cover the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. And for this, I begin as I came into the plant, starting at the Control Circulation Dry House (Building 220), which dried the remaining solvent out of the powder before it went to the blending tower, where it would be blended with water to achieve a set burn rate. As these photographs were taken from the rear of the plant towards the front, they are not in order of production sequence – that will be detailed out in this series later.

The fog that morning was fairly heavy due to the nearby presence of the Ohio River. Most of my prior excursions into the plant were during the day, but I figured with the high heat of the summer and the ticks that cling onto dry vegetation, going in on a moist morning would be more beneficial – for my body.

The Water Dry Houses (Building 219), shown below, was where powder that arrived – containing 3% to 5% of the solvent, was aged and freed of any of the remaining solvent. The powder was soaked in water.

The Solvent Recovery Houses (Building 214), where the solvents, ether and alcohol were extracted from the black powder, lie in endless rows. There were two architectural styles, brick and concrete, but were identical in function.

The Mixer Houses (Building 208) mixed and kneaded powder. A Baker-Perkins mixer and kneading machine had a 100-gallon capacity.

The Dehy Press Houses (Building 202) pressed the cake of nitrocellulose into a powder form.

The Scrap Rework House (Building 209-2) contained several dozen wooden barrels, presumably containing black powder.

The Ether-Mix House (Building 206-3) was where ether was mixed.

One of the new features that is being worked on for later this fall, is a large scale map of the ammunition plant showcasing all of the buildings and their respective functions, along with a process diagram – how black powder was developed.

This is part one in a series on the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant.

Moser Leather Company
The Moser Leather Company

The Moser Leather Company was one of New Albany, Indiana’s five leather companies during the early-20th century. By the beginning of the 21st, it was the lone survivor.

The Moser Leather Company was founded in 1878, and produced high grade leather for harnesses and collar manufacturers. Moser was attracted to New Albany due to the abundance of native chestnut trees, which have a natural tannin in the bark and nuts that were useful in the tanning process. The natural materials used resulted in a vegetative tanning process, which would take four weeks to complete from start to finish. The hide would be treated to a solution of water and tree bark, which resulted in higher quality, leather that lasted longer and a process that was not environmentally damaging.

Moser later expanded into the wholesale leather business, and bought out Caldwell Leather Company in 1985. By the 1990s, leather from Moser was used by Harley-Davidson and Bass shoes. But cheaper leather processes in Mexico and overseas, nearly all of which used chemical-based processes, produced a cheaper product that led Moser to shut down in 2002.

Not long after Moser closed its doors, it was proposed that the site be renovated into a senior citizen housing complex. But a partial collapse of a roof in one building has led to a setback to the redevelopment proposal.

Read more about Moser Leather Company’s history, and view 15 photographs from a mid-summer excursion to the site »

Ammunition Power Plant

There is something to be said for hiking in before sunrise into the largest collection of abandonments in the United States. The photograph below is from Power Plant, Building 401-1 at the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, which was the largest smokeless powder plant in the Industrial Operations Command. INAAP, as it was referred to, consisted of Indiana Ordnance Works 1, Indiana Ordnance Works 2 and Hoosier Ordnance Plant.

The buildings are scheduled for demolition, and work has progressed on some of the outer structures in the Propellant and Explosives Area. Read more about the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant and view hundreds of photographs »