Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Abandonment Issues: Alcan Aluminum
By 2001, the Canadian owned company had grown to become one of the largest aluminum manufacturers worldwide. In 2007, known at that time as Alcan Inc., the company was sold to European multi-national corporation Rio Tinto for $38 billion, and was then flipped again in 2010 to Amcor.
During the first world war, aluminum production sky-rocketed. As the second world war got under way in 1939, Alcan decided to build a massive sheet-rolling plant in Kingston, Ontario, known as Kingston Works, to meet the escalating needs for the war efforts of the Canadian, British and U.S. governments.
The first war time products manufactured at Kingston Works were aircraft parts. Over the course of time, the company adapted to the transforming demands of the market. Foil, extrusions, plate, and coated and bare sheet products were all manufactured here at one point in time. The plant also housed a testing and research facility. Kingston Works consisted of several plants. The plant featured here was known as the South plant, and was connected to the North plant by an above ground eight inch pipe line which carried 90 to 100 pounds per square inch of compressed air from the North to the South plant. The South plant, featured here, was closed in April of 1987, the North plant is still active today.
On December 7th, 1987, a 51 year old pipe fitter named Egon Holterman lost his life while attempting to shut off the compressed air that was still travelling through the pipeline to the closed South plant. He loosened the nuts and bolts, but nothing happened, an internal report states. It goes on to say that as he reached for a hammer, a loud explosion took place, and the eight inch pipe struck him in the chest. He was rushed to the hospital and died on the operating table. This was definitely a sad story to come across while researching the plant's history, but is also an important part of the story.
The South plant has sat vacant since 1987, but was used for rave parties in 2004 and 2005, and in that context was known as the The Warehouse Jamspot, according to the signs still hanging above a rear exterior door, and some spray painted dates inside. I can only imagine that these were drug-fuelled illegal raves, with an inherent danger looming, as the building would be quite unsafe to traverse while under the influence of ecstasy and LSD and alcohol and other narcotics typically consumed at raves.
Ninja IX and I stumbled upon the abandoned South Plant in April of 2011, after a failed attempt to access the interior of the historic and beautiful Rockwood Insane Asylum, which of course we accessed a few months later. To say that the South Plant is absolutely massive is quite an understatement. Giant warehouses and manufacturing floors have been stripped of their equipment. Large green garage doors line the long outer wall of the shipping department. Asbestos tiles float freely in the flooded office spaces. Rows of orange and grey lockers sit empty and ajar in the employee changerooms. A yellow railing rises above the metal staircase to the second floor, where a long hallway follows the entire length of the roof on the longest portion of the building. Flooding, peeling paint, vandals and mould are all contributing to the decay in different areas of the plant. I could go on and on endlessly, but from here, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.