A last look inside the former HQ and factory for Johnson Motors; a massive facility with sections dating to 1928. Filmed before it was locked-up for asbestos abatement, and eventual demo.
TL;DR: Century-old portions of a partially-abandoned hospital.
History: Construction began in 1910 and would remain unfinished until late-1914. The facility became the city’s premiere medical center, peaking around 300 beds following decades of expansions and renovations. Postwar economic and industrial changes drastically affected the population of the city, which trickled down to financial strains on the hospital, itself. The last capital project came in 1974 with the demolition and replacement of a large wing, and for the next two decades the place slowly went into decline.
The aging facility was sold and became corporate-owned in 1993, but layoffs continued as the city continued to falter, and the inevitable shutdown drew near. Drowning in debt, and following the collapse of a desperate “one-dollar sale” attempt: the hospital finally declared bankruptcy and shuttered for good in late 1995 – leaving its remaining 150 staff members jobless.
A year later, liquidators were hired to sell everything left inside to the public, down to the bare walls, in an attempt to repay some of the massive debt. Political hurdles kept the place shuttered until about 2003, when the 1974-addition was repurposed as a public service facility that now houses the city’s courts, tech departments, and police headquarters. The long-shuttered nursing school was also briefly used during the planning stages of a nearby Minor League Baseball stadium. The housing collapse of 2008 officially put an end to any revival efforts for the remaining, historic part of the structure; while the financial turmoil of the city has also – for now – prevented its demolition.
Explore: We’ve made recon passes here over the years, but held-off attempting it due to having an even closer proximity to a cop shop than the late-great Dixie Square Mall. That proximity has, however, also kept most of the riff-raff out; and our patience recently paid-off upon finding an unsecured window that allowed us to jump-in right off the street. Seeming to take a page from a few notable Chicago hospitals that have closed, our entry put us in a moldy room full of what may contain patient records or some other kind of sensitive paperwork. More of which were later found in boxes, upstairs.
For the next several hours, we owned the place…
Save for a few remaining signs, syringe disposals, a room with a lone curtain fluttering in the breeze, and some cabinets: few things remain that would identify it as a hospital. In fact, the only piece of serious equipment left is a sterilizer on one of the upper floors, which is so big it probably would require the demolition of a few walls to remove.
A pedestrian bridge connects the remnants of the hospital to the nursing school and boiler area, and requires a little extra stealth to remain unseen by the neighboring police department. Once across, a stairwell leads you underground to the boiler room. One can then find their way either to the dead-end tunnels which formerly led to the wing that was demolished in ’74, or back upstairs into the few remaining classrooms – guarded only by the rotting corpse of a raccoon.
Up until about 2010-11, the abandoned parts were still hot… some of the lights, ceiling fans, and fire alarms still worked. This is no-longer the case; however one door in the basement remains locked with something buzzing behind it; and of all the places I’ve been to, I can see an idiot scrapper getting cooked at this one.
A few weeks later we came back and it was still wide-open. Knowing the exploring climate around here, and with nearby high-profile locations dropping like flies as of late: it won’t stay clean for long.
A good friend of Pat Sullivan, whose studio created Felix the Cat in 1919: Winslow Felix established Felix Chevrolet in Los Angeles in 1921, and in exchange for a new car was granted the rights to use the popular cartoon character in marketing and advertising, beginning with the 1923 Los Angeles Auto Show. The dealer has since gone on to become an icon for west coast car culture, and one of Chevy’s longest-running dealer franchises.
The dealer relocated from Downtown Los Angeles to Jefferson and Figueroa in 1958. Correlating with the character’s then-current revival, a massive neon sign topped by Felix the Cat was added in 1959, and has become an unofficial landmark for the area that can be seen from the nearby 110 Freeway. To the dismay of some, however: the sign underwent a recent overhaul that replaced the original neon tubing with LED lighting, giving the glow a somewhat “cold” feel.
Top three: Polaroid
Last week I participated in Flickr’s ‘Polaroid Week’ (aka ‘RoidWeek) for the first time… meaning I actually caught wind of it beforehand, for once. This round happened to also be the 10th annual. It was finally an excuse to not just burn off aging film, but also to stretch my new-to-me 195 Land Camera‘s legs for the first time since it had been shelved by its previous owner in 1988 (the last pack of film, still in it and completely unused/no-good, was dated so). All packfilm images were taken with it, and I’ll be talking more about this amazing camera here, soon. The rest come from my trusty folding SLR’s.
Testing the portrait kit (rangefinder “goggles” from Polaroid Portrait Kit #581 and a +1 diopter filter mounted to a 45-49mm step-up ring) for my 195 Land Camera on my vaguely-amused pets. Used expired, but fridge-stored FP-3000B. This was also my first time using my Gossen LunaPro SBC, as I got sick of misreadings from the free app on my Android phone.
I wanted to burn the last of a bad batch of B&W 600 film from Impossible Project in my SLR-680 before leaving for a trip Sunday, so I cobbled this together for maybe an ArtWauk promo or something. I dunno, it was a midnight ‘fuckit’ moment. I had nothing but trouble with this film not developing right (note the dark streak on the right), and will probably be contacting TIP about it this week.
After work, I took a late-night ride out to nearby Niles to see the famous ‘Leaning Tower of Niles’: a 1934-built half-scale replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa which originally functioned as a water tower for a park owned by the neighboring Ilg Hot Air Electric Ventilating Company. It has since become part of of the Leaning Tower YMCA, and is currently undergoing restoration by the City of Niles – who has a sister-city pact with Pisa, Italy.
Half-second exposure at f/19. I cobbled together a DIY cable release for this camera (and my other Land Cameras) using pinsetter parts from my regular job – basically some silicon tubing that slips over the red #2 button with a drilled block of polycord superglued within it, and a tiny lock nut superglued atop it to attach any regular cable release. Figured it was a better option than dropping another $30 for the Polaroid version on fleabay, and it worked beautifully.
After a six-month drought, Great America opened for the start of my summer theme park binge. I brought out the OG SX-70 for this one, and shot Impossible current (soon to be updated) version of Color SX-70 film…
This first shot was taken atop the park’s legendary American Eagle roller coaster, and went kind of awry as I foolishly tried to keep the camera out, with the image shielded from light in a frog tongue, while hauling-ass at 66mph down a wooden track. I nearly lost my hat in the process, but fortunately the lady in the row behind me caught it in time. I finally had to pull the image from the camera and close it before I lost that, too – where it got exposed to the light and the colors washed out a bit.
The remaining shots were taken safely on the ground, and I have to say this is some of the finest color film Impossible has ever produced. Managing the film’s trademark necessity to shield from light immediately upon ejection just a simple matter of letting it eject into one of Impossible’s clever frog tongue attachments, turning the camera over, and slipping the image into a film box – where it can develop for the critical first few minutes out of direct sunlight. On these three remaining exposures, I had a finished image within a half-hour that rewarded my patience with stunning colors, contrast, and sharpness. I can’t wait to see the refined version of this film, which is apparently due out in the coming weeks.
This last shot is a pretty accurate representation of my brain on a total of four hours of sleep within a 48-hour period. I took a trip out to Los Angeles this day; following a midnight shift Friday, two-hours of sleep before heading to Great America all-day Saturday, clown-carr’ing both cameras and travel necessities between a backpack and carry-on by midnight, and napping another couple of hours before heading to O’Hare around 3:30AM to make a 6:00 flight that was only noteworthy by the screaming babies conveniently seated near me. Needless to say (despite the crazy-awesome day that eventually unfolded), by the time I reached my hotel after 7 that night: I dropped dead on the bed the minute I closed the door.