Thursday, August 4, 2011

Angel Island, San Francisco, CA - 30th July

On the Saturday, after a lie in and leisurely breakfast, I caught the train into downtown SF and from the waterfront a ferry over to Angel Island. Angel Island has a fascinating history. In addition to being colonised by the US Army as a military base, it also was home to a quarantine hospital as well as an immigration station for asian immigrants between 1910 and 1940, of which between those years it processed over one million immigrants.

Since its decommission as a military base in the early 60s the Island has been designated a State Park with many of its buildings being accorded National Historic Landmark status. The Immigration Station has recently been renovated and opened to the public, but many of the island's buildings still lie abandoned, boarded up, and fenced off from the wandering public.

Immigration Station and World War II Barracks
Some remaining barracks from WWII lie dilapidated on the hill above the immigration station, one mile around the coast road from the bay the ferry dropped us off at.

WWII Barracks #1



Many of the buildings around the immigration centre remain boarded up and inaccessible, like this administration building.

Quarantine Hospital
A further mile or so around the coast lay the quarantine hospital - an imposing building with its white on black crosses above its doors. A bit of window-climbing got me into the interior. Unfortunately the stairs had been removed so as to prevent my ascent to the higher levels.

Main yard, Quarantine Hospital

Ground floor ward 

The building was eerily empty, and the long corridors provided a haunting view through the whole of the building.

Many Doorways

Some original porcelain, though in a bad state of disrepair, remained in what used to be the patient bathing rooms and restrooms.

I call this 'Four Urinals'

Many of the interior walls had been removed or partly broken down, some with holes in them, allowing the light from South side to pierce through the entirety of the structure, pole to pole.

My favourite of the hospital series

The South wing of the hospital comprised of numerous identical-shaped rooms, each interconnected through a series of corridors leading to bathrooms - no doubt where patients were once housed.

Ward Interior

As with many of the buildings I've been in on my trip I was drawn to the remnants of the original electric works.

Some of the original electric points

Old electrics littered the walls

Fort McDowell - Boiler Room
Just down the road from the quarantine hospital is Fort McDowell, the centre of the ex-military base on Angel Island. Almost all of the buildings there were boarded up and inaccessible, but nevertheless many original buildings remained standing, including some of the officers' housing on the top of the hill overlooking the bay.

Down the hill, and opposite the huge barrack and administration buildings was a building surrounded by a high fence. Curious, I searched for the most easily-scalable part of the defence and set to work. It turned out it was some kind of industrial building, housing a large industrial-sized boiler-room on the ground floor. Only a few of the rooms were accessible - but many still contained the original machinery and fixtures and fittings.

Boiler House - Entrance

Rusted Boiler Room 

Fuse-box, Boiler Room

In the main boiler-room three vast boilers sat, lifeless.

Homage to three boilers

'Kewanee Portable Firebox Boiler'

Other odd-looking machines lay around the room, such as this mini-boiler-esque contraption below.

Further round the building I stumbled across an old workers' bathroom - complete with toilet and handbasin.

Limited Privacy - workers' bathroom, boiler house

To the rear of the industrial building I found a badly dilapidated, and heavily subsiding house. From the interior it looks like this would once have housed workers or perhaps even senior military staff.

The subsiding structure provided some fantastic interior shots, where the perspectives, distorted by the passage of time, gave a surrealist look to the rooms inside.

Straight lines nowhere to be seen - interior, subsiding house

My last stop before my daring escape was into what appeared to be an old tool-room. A tool-cupboard remained, open and empty:

And, again, original features such as the painted wall where all the tools once would have hung remained.

Wall of Tools

Along the way, once again, I picked up some shots of bits and bobs of old electrical machinery, fixtures, and fittings.

Untitled #1

Untitled #2

Untitled #3

I walked back to the harbour where our ferry was due to collect us and got back to Richmond in good time for supper. Steve and Ellen took me out to a classic Californian Mexican restaurant where I ate fried shrimp in a pepper and cream sauce with rice and fried beans and drank good, Mexican beer - a perfect way to re-fuel after a hard day's exploring.

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