Last week I visited one of the post-industrial wastelands of south suburban Chicago--this one straddles the blighted towns of Dixmoor and Harvey.
In 1910 a sprawling factory, the Ingalls-Shepard Forging Company, opened there. Ten year later Worcester, Massachusetts-based Wyman-Gordon Company purchased the plant, creating the Ingalls-Shepard Division, which was run by Frederick Ingalls. If you are a south suburbanite and that surname sounds familiar, it's because Ingalls was the inspiration behind the construction of Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, which was named in honor of the industrialist's late wife. Ingalls opened in 1923 and nearly 100 years later it is still caring for patients. At Ingalls there is a Wyman-Gordon Pavilion.
At this location Wyman-Gordon--which still exists--produced heavy equipment such as crankshafts for the automotive and railroad industries. The plant was so huge that it operated its own coal-fired power plant to supply energy for the factory. The plant, which is located at 104 W. 144th Street in Dixmoor, still stands and it is where I all but one of the photographs for this blog entry.
A closer look. Over on the right is a cubby-hole which is beneath the towering smokestack where I snapped my next photograph.
Have you every wondered what it is like to look up a smokestack? To get his shot I had to lean backwards into that deep, dark hole and then slither up to get out. My car keys nearly tumbled into the pit. Art isn't always pretty.
Let's go inside!
I'm not even going to pretend what these machines do. In fact, I don't even know if what is pictured here is a machine.
Most of the interior of the plant is as dark as J.R.R. Tolkien's Moria under the Misty Mountains. Climbing the stairs is treacherous, going down the stairs is even more dangerous. Here is your warning: When you enter the Wyman-Gordon ruins you risk serious injury and death as well as the likelihood that no one will hear your screams for help. If that isn't enough to scare you off, Dixmoor and Harvey are high crime areas.
This tank stored, well, uh something.
This is the view east from about four stories up from the plant. Most of the former Wyman-Gordon facilities that were in the field across from Wood Street have been razed. The entire complex is considered brownfield land.
The structure in the background appears to be the only former Wyman-Gordon facility that is still intact. It appears to be a warehouse.
Dixmoor is not blessed with attractive views, save the one that is two photos up.
Time to head back down. On the left is the same building shown two pics up.
As with many abandoned structures, metal scrappers have picked through the old plant.
After trying for months to sell the facility, Wyman-Gordon closed the complex in 1986, 350 people lost their jobs.
A few hundred yards west of the old plant is a small building that appears to have been torched by arsonists.
Who owns the ruins? The village of Dixmoor, which doesn't even bother posting "No Trespassing" signs or fencing the property properly.