Real Chicago

TL;DR: RC Cola facility that was quickly demoed before it could become the next Brach’s.

History: The Royal Crown Bottling Company of Chicago began operations in the Brighton Park neighborhood in 1917, and by 2001 became the country’s largest independent RC bottler. The plant was closed (reasons unknown) circa 2005, and the company itself liquidated in 2012.

Explore: Toward the end of 2012 this place blew up online and was getting tagged or pieced by several crews from the area. I had a rare Sunday off so I figured I’d start the exploring year here, which was a short walk from the Kedzie Orange. Circling the property revealed wide-open doors on both 47th Street and Richmond, so in this busy area clearly nobody gave a shit. I crossed paths with a couple of guys behind the building before heading in – presumably writers. The loading areas on the west end of the place had been converted into a makeshift skatepark using some old signs and pallets that were around. Walking further east, through each building, revealed endless white walls that in any other outcome would certainly not have stayed clean for long.

Unroyal Crown

I came into a room next to the flavor lab that appeared to be some kind of visitors’ waiting room, which sported a huge RC logo mural on the wall; shot it with my Polaroid Sun660 using some of the then-new Impossible Color Protection stuff, slipped it into my pocket to develop in warmth, and went to check out the adjacent flavor lab. I came back and before the ‘roid could even finish developing someone came through and tagged that wall. Throughout the course of four hours I must have crossed paths with at least four groups of taggers and random people wandering around.

Flavor Lab

Not much was left behind in the bottling areas – all of the equipment was long-gone, though a huge floor buffer or something, and barrels of industrial-strength chemicals remained in one of the garages. The offices, on the far-east side of the block, still had a bunch of things like desks and smashed CRT monitors; scrappers were clearly having a field day on that side of the building, ripping out wiring for the lights, etc. One room still contained an entire shelf with shoulder-slung inventory computers of some kind, still in their bags; they were too bulky to fart around with. The employee breakroom was left mostly-intact, and even sported a huge old photo of the older part of the building on the wall — if I had driven it would’ve come with me, but I settled for the cool wooden box on the table. Apparently I also missed a vintage RC vending machine by a few weeks.

Don't tell OSHA

I had just about finished up and was headed for the door when I crossed paths with Brian Knowles, a traveling photog and street art teacher from the University of Oregon, and his girl walking in. By chance, it turned out that he owned a certain 1980 Chevy LUV painted by Read More Books, which I happened to photograph (and watch get hit-and-run by some idiot in an Acura) while parked in the Loop almost a year prior, so I stuck around a bit longer to bullshit before catching the train back.

Read Up!

Later that same week I got a Flickr message from a friend saying he drove around and saw demo crews were staging in the parking lot. By the end of summer the place was nothing but a vacant lot and memories – except for a short stretch of the southeast end of the building for whatever reason. As of September one partial wall, the roof, and a few supports are still standing, sheltering nothing but a few pieces.


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