Little more than scrub brush grows where hot coke used to get doused before being sent into the blast furnaces, but that’s not what I went there to see. Outside Chicago’s most remote ghettoes are the ruins of ACME Coke, now two smokestacks, two three towers and a pile of firebrick. Check out what it used to be.
A ghetto factory could be a factory in the ghetto, or a factory that produces ghettos. This is a little of both, straight from East St. Louis, courtesy of the texture of moldy bricks, the smell of burning tires, and the sound of broken glass being walked on echoing down a long dark hallway.
Rockford, for many reasons has the look and feel of the Indiana rustbelt, an element anchored at a place that used to have a sign reading ‘BARCOL’.
In economics, one hand doesn’t wash the other; it chops the other right off. Local politics collides with global economics, draining this mega-factory of its profitability. Doors close, and a middle-class neighborhood built on chocolate confections suddenly gets much leaner.
This building seemed a bit too eager to murder me, but it was too late to turn back. Built with inadequate materials, due to WWI material shortages, and built in a hurry, due to its sister plant burning to the ground, every day this building still stands flouts time, nature, and gravity.
Behind a museum of industry is a monument of another kind, a hospital built for railroad workers injured on the job. Later it became an important community health center, but a financial scandal eventually closed its doors.
If there was something I didn’t think I needed more of in my life, it was grain elevators. After growing up a midwest explorer in a place with the nickname ‘Mill City’, I was tired of these concrete towers; I thought I had seen it all. Santa Fe taught me exactly how wrong I was. Climb with me 120 feet above Chicago and see why…