Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Urbex Dream Turns to Nightmare

From Dave Brigham:

Brooklyn native Bob Diamond realized every urban explorer's dream when he rediscovered the Atlantic Avenue tunnel in his hometown in 1980. Built in 1844 as part of the Long Island Railroad, the tunnel was sealed shut in 1861. The tunnel was allegedly used in the 1920's to grow mushrooms, and opened in the 1940's so the FBI could hunt for Nazis. But after that, people forgot about it, and efforts to locate the tunnel were fruitless.

Through hard work, determination and smarts, Diamond found the tunnel. He led tours there for 28 years. Then his license to guide people through the tunnel was revoked.

That's the short version. Read Diamond's story here. If you'd prefer, you can watch the 9-minute video that's embedded in the story. I suggest doing both.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Coincidence?

From Dave Brigham:

A few weeks ago I drove with a friend from my home just outside Boston to Springfield, MA, to see a museum exhibit about art forgery. Neither of us knows the city very well, but we found the Springfield Museums without too much trouble, and drove around the corner to park. I got out of the car and looked across the street at a somewhat imposing building and chuckled to myself.

My dad, who was born in Orange, New Jersey but grew up in Springfield, had the YMCA running through his veins before he passed away earlier this month. I knew right away when I spied this building that he had spent a good amount of time there as a kid and young man.

Built in 1915, the former YMCA at 122 Chestnut Street, is now an apartment building. A new Y building was constructed years ago a short distance away. My father went to the YMCA as a kid, and over the years told my brother, sister and me all about the mentors he had there, and how he worked in Y camps as a young man.

When we were kids, my brother and I joined the Indian Guides, a Y-affiliated group similar to the Boy Scouts. After my dad retired from 34 years of teaching, one of the many volunteer gigs he had was teaching archery at a YMCA near my parents' house in Simsbury, CT.

When I saw the YMCA building, I thought, "What a cool coincidence," but seeing as how I found myself there two weeks before my father died, I've begun to think of it as something deeper. And I'm not the kind of guy who normally believes in signs of this sort.

After my friend Jim and I had lunch at the Student Prince Cafe-The Fort Dining Room, an oddly named place that has the most incredible German beer stein collection you'll ever see, we strolled back toward the museum.

On the way, we passed a cool old building that used to house the Worthy Hotel (aka the Hotel Worthy). Built in 1895, the hotel has been an apartment building for many years. I love this sign:

I hope to get back to Springfield in the near future to explore more cool buildings, and to learn a bit more about the city that helped shape the great man who was my father. Rest in peace, dad.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Beat Hotel

From Dave Brigham:

My parents moved to Windsor, Connecticut, several years ago, but I just noticed this place on a recent visit. My son and I were walking around the town center, killing time in between Amtrak trains (he loves to railfan). There were a few cars in the back parking lot, and evidence that perhaps somebody was living/staying there. But I don't think it's open for business.

There are numerous hotels right off the highway, closer to Bradley International Airport, so I imagine this place slowly got squeezed out. I have no idea when it opened or shut down.

I chose the title for this post without knowing what the Beat Hotel was. So I looked it up: