Friday, June 13, 2014

The Wind Tunnel Warehouse

This building is one of the things I love to write about most; the building sitting on the side of the road that thousands of people pass by everyday. I remember passing by this warehouse a number of times as a child. The road it's on is a cut through between two busy streets that we found ourselves on often. This was before I really was interested in exploring, but I remember wondering what the building used to be, and why it was abandoned.

Over the years I forgot about the structure, until the first spring break I had my license. Thinking that surely others had to be interested in what the building was, I headed over to see if I could find my way inside.

As luck would have it, I managed to find a door that was ajar. I carefully entered the warehouse with my friend at my back, thrilled that I was going to be able to see what had long been a mystery to me.

The place felt enormous inside. The main sections of the warehouse had gigantic circular holes in the walls, which had since been cinderblocked up.

I came to find out afterwards that this building was built in the 1940's. It used to be part of a large aircraft manufacturing company, who were instrumental in constructing aircraft for the United States Air Force during World War II. The reason for the large holes in the walls were because this structure used to be the wind tunnel area for testing the aircraft's engines. While most of the enormous complex was demolished and re- used as an airport, this building went on to be used by a number of machining companies before eventually being used as a warehouse.

From everything I have seen and read since my visit, it seems like the last time the building was actively being used was the 1990's. I couldn't find and information about why the building was abandoned however.

The structure still held one more secret. As we walked into one of the chambers, we saw the outlines of three cars. A Jeep, a Cadillac, and some kind of car from the 1920's or 30's. I couldn't believe somebody could let a historic vehicle like this just rot away. I was disappointed to find most of the cars had been run through by thieves, and the damage was probably more than the value of the vehicles.

After posting some photo's online, I found out that another explorer had found his way inside the structure a few years before me. After he had posted his findings online, he was confronted by local police officers who tracked the photographs back to him. He was charged at the owners request, but the case was eventually dropped. Still, a few members of the online exploring community were quick to mention it, and tell me that it would probably be in my best interest to take the photos down.

However, this incident was years before my time. It was before the online community had developed into what it was now, and I stubbornly dismissed their suggestions. Nothing ever came of it for me, nor the others who went after me. Since my visit nothing has happened with the structure, other than a "For Sale" sign being posted on the fence. I really have no idea what will happen with this forgotten piece of history. Nobody seems to care about the building's past, and probably fewer care about it's future. But considering what an eyesore the exterior is, and the fact it sits alongside a busy road, it will probably only last a few more years and then end up an empty lot.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The St. Mark Church

This church dates back to 1827, when a local parish decided to spread out from their main building in Newark. Before long, the new group grew into the most wealthy offshoots from the main church.

In 1860, the parish began working on their building as West Orange began to change. A large steeple was built onto the front- left side of the building, as well as some other changes to the structure. The additions, which were in a Gothic Revival style, were designed by famed architect Richard Upjohn.

The church was very influential in the history of West Orange, operating the first elementary and high schools in town.

The group was dwindling by the 1960's, and they were running out of money. It was added to the NRHP in the 1970's, but without the money to properly maintain the building the church soon began to fall apart. Preservation New Jersey listed it as one of the top 10 most endangered historic places in the state in the 1990's.

Despite the church's conditions, different groups held services in the building over the next decade. The current signs on the church said that a Spanish congregation was occupying the structure. However, the tall grass and boards on the doors said otherwise.

The last group to occupy the building left in 2009, and since then water has worked its way into the structure. A section of the roof above the altar area had started to show signs of damage, shedding shingles and slowly buckling.

Signs of hope emerged though, as groups had been seen touring and doing work to the structure in late 2013. The building has been re- secured, and I believe most of the relics left by the last congregation were removed at this time. The church building was officially sold in 2015, and the new  owners did a bunch of work to the structure.  This included illegally removing several of the windows of the historic building. The beautiful old stained glass was removed and several tiny vinyl windows were installed as replacements.

Then on the first day of 2016, residents awoke to news that the church was being gutted by a large fire. Sure enough, the three alarm blaze completely destroyed the St. Marks Church. The renovation of the structure was supposed to give the building a new life. After the the brazen removal of the windows, it was clear to many that the buildings new life was not going to be what we expected. But we didn't anticipate it to  be so short.