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Monday, May 9, 2016

The Armour Meat Packing Plant - Final Visit

This post is from our last visit to the Armour Meat Packing Plant and was shot entirely on 35mm film. The light streaks in some of the photos are a result of some technical difficulties and other film processes which are not the result of post processing. My film attempts on this trip were nearly thwarted by the 40 year old camera I was using. First, the light meter stopped working, which made things interesting and, 2nd, the film winder malfunctioned such that my first roll was totally ruined and my second roll was just barely spared. When I got to the end of the 24 exposures on the second roll and wound it up, the film ripped out of the canister and was left on the internal winder of the camera. I suspected this to be the case and opened the camera in a (mostly) dark room, blindly verified the situation, and carefully pulled the film out and stuffed it into a lightproof can with warnings for the developer, since I don't have a darkroom setup myself, "BARE FILM INSIDE - DO NOT EXPOSE TO LIGHT".

The Armour Meat Packing Plant in East Saint Louis was constructed in 1903 and it closed in 1959. It was used to some capacity for a decade or two after the Armour Meat company left, but for all the subsequent years since, this industrial relic whose massive De La Vergne Double-Acting Refrigerating Machine (of which there are surely very few left in the world) and other assorted compressors and antique machinery stood here mostly undisturbed. The Double-Acting machine was a new technology in the late 1800's which produced compression on both strokes of the piston and this doubled the machine's capacity without changing its size footprint. The site had become something like an Industrial Revolution era museum slowly being overtaken by nature. Rarely do things like this last as long as it had here. This is what made Armour one of the most interesting locations I've had the opportunity to visit and I did so many times over the years. There is basically nowhere else like this left anywhere.

Unfortunately, just days after these photos were taken, The venerable Armour Meat Plant was demolished in a controlled implosion, a video of which exists on youtube. In some of my shots below you can already see the holes drilled in the walls where the explosives were to be placed days later.

One of my comrades had worked hard to convince the owner to do something with the steam engine along the lines of working with a museum to preserve it in some way -anything but sell it for scrap. But as the video of the demolition shows, the awesome De La Vergne Engine was not removed prior to the implosion. And for that I have lots of bad words to the person who made that decision. I myself contacted the STL City Museum in hopes they'd pull it out of the rubble but I guess the City Museum had better things to do. As it turns out, the American Farm Heritage Musem came to the rescue at the very last minute and pulled the engine out of the rubble. I visited their location to confirm and was absolutely thrilled to know that, at least it's in good hands now and not a fucking scrap pile. This museum has very little money/resources to set aside for the De La Vergne so you should totally go visit them (its worth it) and/or go to their website, become a member and donate to the project: The American Farm Heritage Museum.

Click here for the video from this trip.

See my previous photos, shot on newfangled digital technology, here.

Check out this sectional view of the Double-Acting machine. And this interesting diagram of the entire system here. Source: 1.

-RIP Armour-

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

 © 2016 sublunar

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