It was the holiday break of 2008 when Venkman and I struggled through a maze of dead plant life and stoic tree branches covering the asphalt path that had once been a driveway. Walking right past the empty, crumbling guard shack and into the complex's courtyard, the rare Midwest winter sunlight glimmered off the eerie, metallic lettering on the front of the building which read: Research Division.
What research had been done here, we didn't know, we had discovered someplace new. We had no idea of the building's past and wouldn't have noticed it concealed behind all the overgrown plant life near the road had it not been for a quick glance in the right direction while cruising by. Venkman set up his tripod as I rounded the building's corner to get an idea for how big the facility was, that's when I noticed we were not alone.
Who was that guy? Was he supposed to be there? Was he a scrap thief? I didn't care to make friends or exchange pleasantries as I saw the man carrying boxes to and from a beat up Chevy Astro. Not sure of whether he had seen me or not, I uttered "time to go" to Venkman as we politely exited down the road from whence we came.
A year later, Venkman would be out of town, but Jeffrey would be up for an adventure as we entered the outskirts of the "Research Division." The surrounding junked cars, broken windows and decaying buildings made it seem as if we had stepped directly into a level from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (the first one). Climbing a network of stairs in the first building, we were anxious to make sure there was no unexpected company; whether they be scrappers or virtual communist soldiers.
I mulled over what little information the internet had revealed about this building's past while Jeffrey and I gazed out the windows of the building's top floor, keeping an eye out for any "tangos," or unexpected guests. The complex of buildings had once been offices and laboratories for the U.S.I. division of Quantum Chemicals. Quantum had purchased the facility in 1988, a few years before they moved their headquarters to the Cincinnati area. Eventually Quantum Chemical's presence in the area diminished and sometime around 2003 they sold the property. Signage on some of the building walls indicated that the facilities may have been used by the University of Cincinnati at one point, but today the property is pretty much barren and used as storage for tractor trailers and other junk, mostly automobiles that have been gutted for parts.
Jeffrey and I weren't the first visitors though, everywhere the walls and ceilings were torn up with pipes and metal left exposed by scrap thieves that had ravaged the place. As we put together our cameras we noticed polaroids that had been left on the ground by a photographer before us. "Looks like we're clear, no one else is here" I muttered as we began having a look around.
Most of the labs were empty, void of any remnants of their past life. Car parts and junk littered the floors while signage and telephones on the walls remained as clues to the building's past purpose.
Before moving on to the next set of buildings we came across two old vehicles. An old Cadillac with the words "JFK Limo" written into the dust on the windshield...
...and a hearse devoid of a windshield and air for its tires.
Again with the next building we started from the top and worked our way down. On the top floor of building #2 we found boxes of old records in the elevator's mechanical room.
As we continued our downward exploration, we came upon more offices and the building's lobby, where a broken glass display case featured only one award:
Simultaneous Self Portraits:
The lobby lead to long hallways followed by more laboratories.
Eventually we reached a series of rooms with maroon carpet and 70's style wood paneled walls. Stepping into a section with a large table and a collection of chalkboards and empty chairs surrounding it, we agreed that it must have been a "board room" of sorts. 8 track tapes and an old television reflected the same era of the room's decor.
On a nearby shelf was by far the most eye catching historical remnant, a December 1972 issue of Playboy magazine:
Despite the magazine's brittle and water damaged condition, you know that we couldn't help but take a look inside...
"Jeffrey, real or fake?" I jokingly asked as we gazed at the centerfold who is now 59 years old, but was 22 when the photo was taken. "Definitely real." he replied. "They didn't have a surgery for fake ones back then." Actually Jeffrey, they did.
A collection of vintage items like those in your grandparent's or parent's closet (maybe even your own) continued to be found in the form of an Electrolux vacuum, Husman's potato chip can and an Underwood typewriter.
Not to mention, the old school skateboard:
The temperature dropped and the daylight began to disappear. Checking one last time to make sure we weren't going to come upon any "tangos" like last year, we departed the Research Division.