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

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.


  1. Where's it the photograph of the "transparent half figure?" I'd love to see it. Also - these are beautiful, you have found a gold mine!

  2. Oh, I will put it up soon. This place is so huge, it will take a very long time to get through it. I will post photos in seperate blogs to capture the entire building. The photo in question I have to zoom in on; I may do a whole blog on it. Thanks for the compliment as well! And yes, this place is an invariable GOLD MINE.

  3. They are tearing it down, soon to be lost forever