Urban Exploring

Urban exploring (Urbex) sort of exploded into being around 2006 but I didn’t discover it until early 2011.  I’d started a homesteading group (don’t laugh) on Facebook and one of my members mentioned there was an abandoned Rockefeller estate nearby.  What???  Rockefellers in Fayetteville?  I had to see it myself.

I was doing portrait photography back then, so she agreed to show me in exchange for doing a quick family portrait session.

It was amazing!  Sprawling acres of long-leaf pine hid what used to be a playground for the rich and famous.  I made dozens of trips out there over the next few years and took hundreds of photos.

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The polo stables established by William Harriman

Urbex was really exploding around that time, there were dozens of documentaries popping up on the subject and hundreds of websites.  People explored EVERYTHING…old subway systems, insane asylums, schools, theaters, tunnels, factories, and sewers!  Yah, not my cup of tea.

I’m more of a high-brow explorer.  I like sites with historical significance, but I really like sites where there’s little to no chance of encountering human waste.

The old Morristown College

But Urbex was also changing around this time.

There are two rules to Urbex: Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.

Seems simple enough, but then people happened.  Sites were being destroyed and explorers were looting.  The community started to change, explorers got secretive about their finds.  They’d post amazing photos but wouldn’t share where they took them.  Now, there are memes all over those sites reminding you it’s not even cool to ask where they photos were taken.

The old Morristown College

Eventually the establishment intervened, some of the most amazing sites were deemed too unsafe for exploring…also known as trespassing…and they were demolished, or better fences were installed.  In some cases, the sites were bought and now offer organized tours.  And some of the sites simply succumbed to neglect.  The ravages of weather and creeping vegetation don’t take long to destroy a building.

Many of the websites I use to frequent have disappeared over the years.  Urbex seems to have diverged into two opposing entities:  the devoted extremists who will explore anything anywhere, and the newbies who prefer video and often travel alone.  Personally, I prefer the guided tours.  There’s far less chance of being arrested and tour guides usually know all kinds of weird details you wouldn’t normally get to know.