All photographs are copyright Heather Counselman and cannnot be duplicated or copied without explicit written permission.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

9:48pm and a little light reading.

"The city has taken steps to brick up the first floor windows and secure all doors at
the plant."

"Timed." 2011.

 "Clean up of the Central Steam Plant will make the Steam Line Trail/Park much more
appealing and environmentally safe for users. Trail and park users will be able to recreate
in an area free of petroleum and hazardous substances, which pose a threat to human

"Previous assessment efforts have shown that the principal hazards at the site are related to the presence of two underground storage tanks, non-friable and asbestos-containing materials within the steam plant building, and possible contamination of the ground water.."

"Fitchburg had a manufacturing based economy dating back to the 19th Century with the City’s historic emphasis on mill industries situated along the Nashua River. Prominent
mill owners harnessed the river’s hydropower by building a series of dams to retain water in mill ponds, which was then transported through wooden penstocks and turbines to
power the mill equipment. As the need for water grew, the plant owners built the Central Steam Plant in 1928, to provide steam-generated power to the 13 paper mills located along the banks of the Nashua River. Eventually it became more cost effective to purchase power from the electric companies to operate the mills. The steam plant became a co-generation facility, providing both steam and electricity to the mills. Coal, oil and gas have been used at the site."

"In the 1990s, the Central Steam Plant closed, along with most of the paper mills. Two
mills remain active. They are: Newark America and Crocker Technical Paper. A third
mill, Munksjo Paper, was recently closed. All are within a mile of the Central Steam

Bye-Bye Central Steam Plant, Hello Munksjo Paper.........

*Works Cited*
"20100336 Central Steam Plant Community Meeting." Home. Web. 19 Jan. 2011. .

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Bad...

After realizing there was almost a one year lapse in between posts, something had to be done. 
So, here's what I've been up to.

In the name of maintaining some kind of productivity, I've started photographing many everyday moments using my phone. It isn't always practical to bring my camera everywhere and there are definitely places I would just rather not take it. And newsflash: Apparently, TSA doesn't really appreciate a photographer in their terminals. In the name of stealth, I've resorted to a camera phone to capture a few fleeting moments.

And for those skeptics, I still very much regard what I do via an iphone app just as much art as I do shooting on my Nikon. I only mention it because it's been called into question. I figure, so long as technology keeps advancing, I might as well screw with it and see what turns up. Any idiot can buy a fancy camera but not everyone can actually produce.....something.

Most are collective moments throughout the day; nothing earth shattering, just a snow storm or water droplets on a wall. But it's the desire to keep working, even if it's photographing the peripherals of the day, that lead to something bigger, more substantial. It's a reminder that the most insignificant things can be made important by just merely paying it some attention.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Slight Deviation: Cutthroat Society at Charlie's Kitchen

Cutthroat Society
(Boston, MA based band)
Location: Charlie's Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

Although the majority of my work centers around abandoned locations, I deviated slightly on the night of March 1, 2010. What better to do with a typically mundane Monday night than check out some local bands? Having worked all day behind a bar, I decided it was high time I ended up on the other side of the bar: the correct side, that is. The one where I get to DRINK beer instead of serve it. I digress.....

Cutthroat Society, a Boston based band, evokes sounds reminiscent of 80's punk and thrash metal. reviews their sound as combining "strong rhythms, raw energy, and uncompromising lyrics. Although the band itself is new, collectively its members have played over a hundred shows." Fronted by my fabulous brother, Johnny Counselman, the band also consists of Peter Micanovic (Lead Guitar/Vocals), Zach Veaner (Bass) and Tom Luzaitis(Drums). Cutthroat Society's sound takes their cues from the best of their musical influences, yet has a sound uniquely their own.

For more information on Cutthroat Society:
or follow them on Facebook

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Central Steam Plant, Fitchburg, MA

Central Steam Plant
Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Since the General Electric Plant closed and with it the subsequent loss of over 1,200 jobs, this New England blue collar town has become a haven for drug dealers and many, many hair salons. Maybe 3 pubs to speak of, a few automotive centers and a 99 Restaurant. In it's hayday, it was in all probability a booming down, but devoid of jobs, it has become an invariable goldmine for abandoned mills and other buildings. The only problem with a town filled with abandoned mills and factories is that they are increasingly hard to access.

However, the Central Steam Plant was a walk the park: literally. In 2007, the EPA gave the town of Fitchburg a little over $152,000 to clean up the steam

plant, which barely makes a dent in removing anything but a few dog turds. Instead, they built a park around the facility, complete with trails into the woods and all around the property, making it an ideal place to venture into since no one is going to question why you are on the grounds in the first place.

To be honest, I've never been more scared in my life to enter an abandoned building. The exterior grounds were well manicured, it being a public park and all. However, after a few bizarre moves known only to Olympic gymnastics (and me so haphazardly) through a broken window frame, you enter what appears to be the latest set for this years horror movie. This is what scared me the most. I had a very hard time navigating the interior, had it not been for my companion who isn't afraid of some random dude in a mask with a chain saw chasing us down the corridor. That's exactly what I expected after my double lutz summersalt into the interior hallway, with wet chains dangling from the ceiling and the entire place shadowed in almost complete darkness. Further investigation into
photographs in this hallway revealed some photographic anomalies which neither one of us could explain. Although it has never happened before, the image at the end of the hall looked remarkably like a transparent half figure staring right at me. Thankfully, I did not know this at the time, because I probably would have ran, screaming like a little girl, through the barren streets of Fitchburg. That would be embarrassing, to say the least.

The second floor was the complete antithesis of the first floor, well worth the trip, it being doused with light and almost entirely surrounded by tall windows. It was the difference between night and day. Any hesitation I had previously was quickly dissolved and my curiosity overtook me with the immense amount of material scattered on the floor, as well as the 2 large turbines. There was an overwhelming amount of intersection of pattern, color and texture.
I probably could have spent a week just in this room with the just the sheer size of it. Cathedral ceilings, moss growing on every wall, amidst shattered light posts and engineers notes. It was incredible. Also to note, the plant at one point powered the majority of the city, whose waterfall still flows naturally, but had at one point had a turbine attached to it to control flow. The noise on the second floor is almost deafening at times, and combined with being able to see parts of the floor below you, definitely made for a very dizzying experience, especially for those scared of heights. Though there was the obvious signs of other human traffic, via the McDonalds containers and Pepsi cans, the turbines were still very much intact and there was very little evidence of looting, destruction or graffiti.

The interior of the building on each floor was a criss cross maze of iron grating and platforms, intersected by random closet spaces and what appeared to be engineer rooms. Daylight prevented us from investigating the third or fourth floors, but I estimate it will take a very long time to cover the entire space of this building. Ladders, building materials, hammers, paint cans, pencils and various other items littered the floor and had to be pushed out of the way to ensure you weren't inadvertently stepping on a nail instead.

What appealed to me most r on the second floor. Between the red, musty brick riddled with moss to the turbines peeling with red and blue paint on the slate gray floor, it was an invariable field day of color. Colors that couldn't be justified on film.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bye-Bye, Salem Jail (Part I)

Salem Jail
Salem, Massachusetts
Summer 2007 - Winter 2009

Originally built in 1813, this historic granite jail is unofficially no more as of December 2009.
I have been photographing the jail since 2007 and more frequently upon the start of demolition last year. Having lived in Salem for roughly 3 years, it was not only convenient but a truly fascinating place to photograph. However odd, it was the place I went to unwind, relax and sometimes just be by shoot of course. I'm not chilling in a cell, laid back reading a book, people. Although many claim it as the most haunted place in Salem, I never saw or felt anything unusual; on the contrary I was actually quite comfortable there. Frankly, it's both disturbing and sad that this jail is no more.

The first time I ever set foot in the jail was with a friends very beloved Nikon D70. No pressure.I was more worried about killing this persons fantastic piece of equipment than I was getting caught. I'm just gonna jump this rusty iron fence and gracefully try not to impale myself or get a shoe caught and have the nuns next door find me hanging from shoes, upside down with iron grating slapped across my face. As my grandmother would say, "Jesus, Joseph and Mary".....that would suck. My grandmother is a nice lady, she didn't say that last part, I was improvising.

Moving on.......Over the fence and into the graveyard we go.
I later discovered that a much easier way to enter through the graveyard was through Howard Street.....hey there's a fence that operates! Yet another discovery: they ticket! We'll call it my admittance fee for the day. Although there are warning signs covering almost every inch of the jail, there was never a time I was accosted by the cops. Or anyone else for that matter. It's also probably the most accessible abandoned building, even if it does loom over one of the most busy intersections in Salem. I recently read a fellow urban explorer's blog who had also photographed the Salem Jail, but only from the outside. They stated they could not bring themselves to photograph the inside for 2 reasons: fear of being arrested and fear of ghosts. I think they may want to revisit the definition of urban explorer. Sorry, but the tours that pass by the Salem Jail get better shots. Find your balls and some wire cutters and realize ghosts can't hurt you. So, grab your camera and Proton Pack and get out there! (yes, that was a Ghost Busters reference).

After cutting a sizable hole in the wire fence adjacent to the jail, I perused the property for a bit and made repeated attempts to jump and scuffle my way into an open window, much like the one to the right. Thinking back, if anyone was in fact watching, this must have been hysterical. A week later, I brought a taller friend who shoved me through the window. Unfortunately, height was something not included in my genetic makeup, which is why I make friends with people 5"9 and up. I landed on a platform between the first and second floors that connected what appeared to be a mess hall and the first series of jail cells. It surprised me that the jail was still in operation up until 1991; surprising because there is NO indoor plumbing (yee-haw!) and the minuscule size of the cells itself. I'm 5'2 and could not lay diagonally across the cell. It seemed like hell, even after being abandoned for over 10 years.

At the end of each stretch of cells were guard posts, semi-circle in shape. I've heard stories from individuals who worked as guards in the jail's remaining years. They spoke about the debilitating conditions in the cells, it's history and the eeriness that enveloped the property, particularly late at night. One prisoner went completely nuts, claiming he had heard and seen things in his cell that couldn't possibly be real. The only part of the jail that felt anywhere near ominous was the basement. I took 4 steps into it and promptly walked right back out.

There are three floors, not counting the basement and very claustrophobic attic. Crammed along each floor are cells upon cells and more cells. It was hard to fathom being stuck in such a small space. There is obvious signs of renovation throughout the years. First built from wood and eventually from stone, debris from hundreds of years are evident. The largest section of the jail is the first floor mess hell, wide open and with larger windows overlooking what is now an intersection of Washington Street and the Salem-Beverly bridge freeway. The floor here is still wooden, rotting from use and age. Iron stairwells criss-cross along each entrance, leading to second and third floor cells in this massive jail that was considered the largest in the country during it's height of use.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Forbes Street Mills, Chelsea, MA

Location: Chelsea, MA
Abandoned Mills currently being turned into loft apartments.

If there is anything that can take me out of a shitty mood, it's a place like this. Discovered by a friend inbound to Boston on the commuter rail, the mill is massive and unfortunately as we later found, still under some active construction. Apparently, the mills are apart of a "gr
een" living program started by the city of Chelsea to offer affordable loft style apartments that adhered to strict environment policy. Not sure on the specifics; I'm currently doing more research on the property. For whatever reason, construction has slowed to a crawl and I highly doubt their completion date of early 2011 will be met.

First attempt at getting in was through a high bridge, still under construction, and swinging down towards the railroad tracks below. My companion for the day is a bit of a monkey and my knees buckled at the idea. Scaling the 7 foot fence made me queasy. I do not do well with heights or security cameras. Or with the 2 construction workers that showed up later with a back ho.

As I respectively pointed out to my friend, there had to be an easier way to enter this place. How 'bout we just cut a big hole in the fence, out of sight of those who are looking for a reason to call the cops? We opted to walk through the basketball court and sliding through a less than 2 foot entrance in the fence, separating the apartment buildings and basketball court from the commuter rail tracks, which we missed by about a minute. Let's add getting running over a train to that aforementioned list. That would definitely ruin your day.

Through the fence, over the railroad tracks and a short trek along the marsh, finally IN. The first building was smaller and filled with construction materials. The second larger, rectangular warehouse was spectacular. Random items from building materials, to leftover items from workers long gone, even sizeable John Deer equipment that had begun to rust and rot from exposure. The ceiling was heavily peeling, circuit breakers and wires littered every wall. Outside, the metal encasing the property twisted and bent, covered with rust. I was surprised how easy it was to get into a place like this. Well, until a back ho showed up and started reversing in our direction. And then we ran like hell, because, as past experience has taught me, construction workers can be far scarier to confront than the cops. And those construction workers then call the cops, and well, that's a whole lotta people I don't really want to be meeting and greeting. Admittedly, a little disappointed that I wasn't able to shoot as much as I would have liked, but the adrenaline rush was worth it. Besides, it will take days to go through and photograph the entire building.

Upon further investigation, and spying on the two workers from a distance, we found a sign that said something to effect of a guard being on duty but was currently on a tour. There was a number attached, so perhaps they'd be nice enough to escort me through their building. Legal or not, I'll be back to shoot the place on my next day off. I always attempt the legal way. Makes the fear of being arrested much less of a reality. I'll be posting more information on the mill and photographs as soon as possible.

I really fell in love with this place. Since the Salem Jail has been demolished and converted into condos, I found it hard to find a place as interesting and massive. I'm psyched to return.

South Common Ave Church, Lynn

Location: Lynn, Massachusetts
Abandoned Church, circa mid 1800's.

The day took a very frustrating turn when it was discovered the long abandoned greenhouse in Middleton, Mass. was no longer. After many muttered expletives at my GPS, it became clear to me that the CVS parking lot I had stopped in was what used to be "Franks", the supposed still standing greenhouse facility on 114.

Frustrated, the almost 2 hour drive that followed led me back through Lynn and onto an extremely old and dilapidated church. Gigantic. Enormous. The very disturbing part was that the property was littered with dead animals. Very, very odd.

The only promising way into the church is through a side door, barely attached to its hinges and nailed shut by a flimsy piece of plywood. Not having come prepared and running out of daylight, this excursion will have to resume on another date. However, the parts of the church I did have access to were fairly photogenic. The side alley, though carpeted with trash, held another avenue in which to enter but the loud screams from the adjacent housing complex, with NO TRESPASSING scribbled all over it, where enough to deter me any farther. Though I was only able to grab a few shots, it's definitely promising on a future date.....and equipped with a hammer and flashlight.