Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Abandonment Issues: Alcan Aluminum

Alcan was founded in 1902 as the Northern Aluminum Company, renamed the Aluminum Company of Canada in 1925, officially registered as Alcan in 1945, and then Alcan Aluminum in 1966.

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.

Alcan Aluminum

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.

Alcan Aluminum

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.





Staring up at her






...Operating grinder







The flood

Shattered dreams



Office space

Flooded asbestos tiled hallway

Asbestos tiles


Reflecting pool











The flood


The Warehouse Jamspot


And that, my friends, is the Alcan Aluminum Kingston Works South Plant as Ninja IX and I saw it in April, 2011. Thank you for taking the time to check it out.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES


chasing lightning bugs said...

the alcan sign was a beacon for me as a child. asleep in the car, on a long trip i remember the alcan sign coming into view and knowing i was home.
i love your work.

Aaron said...

Wow, cool... I had no idea it had been vacant for that long (I figured maybe since '05 or so)... but as stated above, I always remember seeing the Alcan sign until pretty recently.

Tracy said...

Stunning images.... My dad worked at Alcan for 35 years, a few even in the south plant.

Tracy said...

Sent these on to my dad... I'm sure he will pour over them remembering what the south plant once was. Your work is incredible... The images are eerie and tell a new story that's falling to the ground, slowly.

Adam C. said...

Aamazing! I did my former rock band's photoshoot in there. We all actually felt quite ill for a couple of days after being in there for 45 minutes. The offices/bathrooms were absolutely awful, which is where we did the shoot.


Check the pics out, no doubt they should look familiar!

Thanks for this awesome website, its part of my surfing routine.

Brad Rines said...

I like your stuff. I worked at Alcan for almost 6 years (1977-82), all of it in the sheet mill, before returning to school and ending up in Vancouver. The place is unrecognizable to me, with the exception of that curved glass-block wall. I ended up being a crane operator for my last couple years, on rails traveling up and down the plant, moving metal to and fro. There were huge rolling mills, like giant wringer washers, through which sheets of metal were passed back an forth, by hand, until they reached the desired gauge. Shears which chopped up the sheets of aluminum, furnaces to heat treat it, presses to stamp out discs. The most impressive piece of equipment was the hot mill, where hot ingots were placed on a long conveyor table, passed several times through even bigger rollers and squeezed out to forty or fifty feet long, then chopped up into manageable chunks by a massive shear at the end. Hot, smelly, scary and noisy as hell, it was the early days of hearing protection, and all the old guys were already deaf. Lifers would retire and die within a year. I knew after my first six months that I could not stay.

Bought a camera and took writing courses, which I worked on while sitting in the crane waiting to move loads around. Some of my photos can be found at www.bradrines.com, the bulk of which are from the '80s. No shots of Alcan, preferring back alley abstraction.

All your images are great - I love the decay. Check out the documentary Detropia, the current state of Detroit. That place is falling apart - you would love it.

Brad Rines

Adam Szczuczko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gus said...

Great pictures. A couple of the shots of standing water (with the reflection from the ceiling) had me fooled for a second or too, they looked like they were a couple feet deep.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for including my father Egon Holtermann in you blog article. Very little was ever written about the industrial accident that claimed his live in 1987. I am heartened to see him mentioned here.
Ena Holtermann

Wendy O Koopa said...

Same here. It was like you knew you were back in Kingston as soon as you saw that sign