Saturday, July 16, 2011

Glenwood Power Station, Yonkers, NY - 13th July 2011

My first full day devoted to my project began on Wednesday, after breakfast, with a trip to the Renwick Smallpox Hospital which is found, in its state of ruination, on the southerly-tip of Roosevelt Island. My New York researcher had recommended the site as something that might have been of interest to me, and placing my faith in her hands I paid a visit to check it out. Unfortunately the Renwick facility was in a transient state of demolition. Over the last 4 months or so the building has been taken apart, brick by brick (which are then numbered and laid aside), in order to allow the foundations to be strengthened, the Hospital built, and it fully opened to the public. This meant, however, the site was a bit of a dud, and due to construction works a friendly police officer informed me I could not pass.

After firing the New York researcher I made my way over to Grand Central Station in pursuit of a building that was my number-one place to visit on my trip to New York. Roughly 15 miles north of Grand Central Station, just above Yonkers, sits - on the bank of the Hudson, next to the railway - the Glenwood Power Station.

 South facade of the second turbine room

Tale of two chimneys

Constructed in 1904 and completed by 1906, the Power Station was built to provide a power source for the electrification of the New York railways. In 1936 it was sold to a local electricity provider which used it to provide most of the electricity for the Yonkers area. Its activity as a power station wound down during the 1950s and, eventually, the building was closed and abandoned in the 1960s. It has lain empty ever since. In 2008 the Preservation League of New York designated the Glenwood Power Station as one of the 7 most endangered sites in the state of New York.

This was my first proper urban exploration - gaining access required the scaling of the Glenwood station platform fence and then the trespasser-proof fence surrounding the building. Luckily us Scots are made of stern stuff, and such obstacles were easily overcome. Words fail to do justice to things of great beauty, so I'll spare anything other than a cursory attempt: the photographs say it all, for me.

View through window: entrance to main turbine room

Walking through the dark entrance was quite daunting - I had no idea what to expect. However, everything became clear when I ascended the dimly-lit staircase and entered the first floor of the main turbine room.

Main atrium: main turbine room 

The main atrium, gargantuan in proportion, looked more like a Cathedral from the inside than a power station. The light inside was quite brilliant - a rich, ochre hue flooded through the roof-lights transforming the rusted iron structure into a dazzling spectacle.

Iron balcony-structures divided up the vertical space of the north side of the main turbine room

Beams of light and iron divided up the space in their respective ways 

East wall - the large hole is where one of the turbines would once have sat

Climbing up another floor, and an even more perilous set of stairs, missing numerous steps, gave an astonishing vantage point from which to view Glenwood Power Station in all its glory.

And this also provided a good view of the control rooms along the north side.

However, it was clear that Glenwood was far from abandoned - signs of life, past and present could be seen everywhere. From mere expressions of transient passing in the form of graffiti, to more permanent marks of habitation.

Signs of Life #1

Signs of life #2

Whilst most of the original machinery has been removed and replaced with monstrous piles of debris and junk, some remains to this day, untouched, since when it was last used in the 1960s. I've found such things as fuseboxes, electrical switches, dials and knobs have been a recurring theme in my photographs, things I always seem to want to photograph. Perhaps it's the sad irony of capturing something once so lively and, quite literally, full of energy, as now despondent, lifeless, and dead.

Coil Generator 

'Meth' - Dedicated to my NY researcher

The dials and knobs of the panels in the control room remain mostly intact.
Control Room 

A.C. Mega Watts

Feeder Voltmeter / Gen. Indicating Meters

I left the Glenwood Power Station with a mixed feeling of amazement and sorrow. The Glenwood Power Station lies on the banks of the Hudson, like a Castle reminiscent of a bygone era of great industrial development, manufacturing, and power. Now it stands, in a magnificent but sorry state, Cathedral-like, as a shrine to that long-ago era its abandonment exemplifies.

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