Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Four): Industry

Note: This post and photo slideshow come with a soundtrack today. Click here, with your speakers turned up, to have the mood properly set by the wonderful King Crimson, and their evocative “Industry.”

One of the most impressive things, for me, about riding and hiking into woods around my home is the ability to stand in, on, or near some truly historic industrial artifacts.

The most obvious of these (well, relatively speaking, anyway) are probably the abandoned locks of the Erie and Champlain canals that stand, completely landlocked, throughout Cohoes and Watervliet. When I worked at RPI, I used to take students to look at these crumbling relics, while pointing out to them that these locks and the tiny canals connecting them were once considered to be the most significant industrial accomplishments on the North American continent.

Bodies to ashes to dirt to dust. Cities to ruins to iron to rust. I think it’s good for a prospective engineer to have a sense of humility, and if that won’t do it, nothing will.

Less famously, the lowlands on the west bank of the Hudson River between Albany and Troy (once West Troy, now mostly Watervliet and Menands, with a little sliver of Colonie between them) were home to formidable steel mills and armories. The Watervliet Arsenal and Albany Steel survive as local manufacturing centers to this day, while many other large neighboring businesses (including the Ludlum Steel Company, once headed by Edwin Corning, father of legendary Albany mayor, Erastus Corning 2nd) eventually closed their doors and began the long, slow process of returning their constituent elements to the ground beneath them.

Today’s Hidden in Suburbia post centers on this crumbling post-industrial wasteland. These spaces are so alien to our suburban sensibilities, and yet they are so very close to us, if we’re willing to look into the darker spaces behind our developments and shopping centers. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring to visit them. As always, click on the photo below for the photo essay with accompanying narrative support, or click here for the wordless slide-show version. I’d recommend starting the slide show at about the 2:00 minute mark of the King Crimson song for maximum evocative effect.

Nature abhors a vacuum, but I love a vacancy . . .

To see other Hidden in Suburbia photo essays, click here.

10 thoughts on “Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Four): Industry

    • Thanks, B . . . as an admittedly non-skilled photographer who happens to like to bike in the woods with a camera, I appreciate the comments from someone with a legitimate skill set in that regard!

      • I firmly believe that insight and access are two keys to producing great images… technical skill can make things look really pretty but it doesn’t inform. You definitely have insight and access here, and it comes through. I like the series, and the accompanying blog posts.

  1. What an awesome series of anthropology/archaeology and then some.

    I used to ride my bike on the back roads between Oneida and Canastota along the original Erie Canal. That was before the section was turned into a linear park…it was just an old ditch, the water covered with algae, along the road. No sign of Sal the mule. Very much a symbol for contemplating the historical metamorphosis you mention.

    • When I get my rear tire back from the shop, I think I’ll do the next series on some of those old Erie/Champlain Canal locks . . . it’s incredible to see houses built right up against them, and people using the stone works to hold their trashcans or whatever . . . there’s also a section that has an old cobbled path running along it, so I’ll check for Sal’s hoof prints in stone there . . .

  2. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Five): Locks « INDIE ALBANY

  3. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Six): The Mill « INDIE ALBANY

  4. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Seven): Racetracks « INDIE ALBANY

  5. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011, Part Eight: Secret Meadow « INDIE ALBANY

  6. Pingback: Hidden in Suburbia 2011 (Part Nine): Farewell, Latham « INDIE ALBANY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s