Abandoned things have always captured my imagination. Factories, churches, train stations—they’re like the underdogs of architecture, and like all things underdog, they hold a massive place in my heart.
Andrea aka "Amazing Andy" aka A²
The Path of a Decay Devil - Not a Cake Walk for Damn Sure
The road to becoming a Decay Devil was not an easy one for me, for I’ve been a loner all my adolescent and young adult life. I find much contentment in the quietness that comes without having to compromise some of my time, space, and personal desires for the sake of a group.
It’s still a struggle, even to this day, but I find ways to make my inclusion a form of normalcy. I do this by accepting the call of duty and taking part in a mission that goes beyond simply taking pictures in abandoned buildings.
My first excursion (not quite as a Decay Devil, but as a traveling historical enthusiast) was on a road trip to Kentucky and Ohio back in August of 2013.
Despite meeting Lori and Tyrell in 2011 for an independent movie project, I want to believe that I was finally invited on a Decay Devils trip because they remembered my fun sense of irrationality. However, through casual and blunt conversation, the reality of the situation became apparently clear: I was a last-minute replacement for a more preferred companion, who could pay her own way. (Sigh!)
Nonetheless, I needed the getaway from college courses. I was in the throes of a career change into the wonderful, nerve-wrecking, and hell-raising world of nursing.
A highlight of this 2013 trip was visiting the Old Taylor Distillery Company. The structure featured signage embossed in an old, grey, limestone fort, flanked by towers and buildings of red brick. The distillery was built by Colonel E.H. Taylor Junior, an orphaned boy and great nephew of the 12th United States President, Zackary Taylor. E.H. Taylor made a comfortable and profitable life for himself as a bourbon whiskey businessman and multi-elected mayor for the nearby city of Frankfort, Kentucky.
I was overcome by the appeal and eeriness of a once-thriving distillery. The building was nestled amongst overgrown trees, weeds, and wildflowers, which blocked my view until I reached a clearing. I was eager to walk inside the building that lay before me, which I later discovered was the distillery’s spring house. I felt cool, sweeping breezes inviting me to come in and escape the early morning humidity. Once inside, I looked upon my distorted reflection in a dredged hole, in the shape of a key, that still held bits of algae atop murky, standing water. I heard ominous drips echoing throughout the space.
I walked along the railing and despite the rust, dust, and stagnation, the air felt crisp against my face and smelled surprisingly fresh. I inhaled deeply and held my camcorder for a panoramic capture. It was chronicled that E.H. had many spring and summer parties in this space, filled with guests as they danced to music and sipped fresh whiskey. I thought to myself, “It’s never too late for this space to find those joyous sounds again, through the efforts a new landlord…”
I did not have a digital camera at that time, but I kept with me a little black journal, a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar Sony hybrid camcorder, an Olympus DP-201 voice recorder (courtesy of my dad), and a manual AE-1 Canon camera I kept from an old Intro to Photography course at Indiana University.
Currently I rock a Sony A-35 and Sony A-65, but for my first three years of exploring, the aforementioned items were my faithful companions. I carried them along with a mind full of curiosities and willful courage to face the unknowns that lurked behind every unhinged door, cavernous space, roofless wing, and rickety stair step. My carefully calculated and risk-taking heart could do this “urbex thing” forever, but not without purposeful intent. It’s the intention that makes these places matter beyond the point and shoot of my camera.
My contribution to Decay Devils has been the “INC”, or the vision to become a federally recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Thanks to the efforts of my beloved mother (interject sarcasm here) and my grueling, 4-week summer semester of grant writing and business proposal courses (taken at 16 years old), I am finally able to apply my skills to what I deem is a worthy cause.
For your next adventure, be it alone, with friends or family, or perhaps with us as a fellow Decay Devil, I leave you with this amazing quote that I’ve come to adopt as my own personal creed. From the Baltimore Grotto of NSS (founded in 1952 as an organization dedicated to the exploration, study, and conservation of caves) I give you:
“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”
From the Kentucky trip
Another photo from the Kentucky trip
The Spring House
In 2016 we had the pleasure to visit the Pantheon in Rome. It was built between 118-125 A.D. and is the most preserved building from ancient Rome. These photos are so significant to me because they highlight the magnitude of the space and prove that our vision is for the Union is obtainable. Follow the link to read more!
Welcome to St. Hedwig (or what's left of it). This was the home of my (Tyrell) first Catholic church service. Outside of praying 9 times, it was a cool experience. After the 5th prayer I began to have knee pain and couldn't figure out how people could pray on those concrete tile cover floors. Then I realized that the extensions off the back of the pews were kneeling benches and not a foot rest.
The Decay Devils tried to gain ownership of the building in July of 2017 (prior to Union Station) but the plans fell through. Our vision was to convert the church into a community center and use the rectory as office space for multiple non-profits. Unfortunately, St. Hedwig will be on a vacant lot soon.
Established in 1908, the church had more than 1,400 members in its heyday. Due to changing times, a shrinking congregation, and rising costs, the diocese was forced to close the location. Learn the detailed history of St. Hedwig here.
My grandfather used to take me all over New York City in the 1970’s. Like most major cities in America at that time, NYC was a disaster. But as we walked through the drug, porn, and crime-infested Times Square, my grandfather would tell me how beautiful these old, crumbling buildings were back in his day.