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UER Forum > Archived US: Mid-Atlantic > Martinsville Novelty Corp (Viewed 307 times)
Poll Question:
It's my first posting. Is it any good?
Total Votes:15
1. Yes533.33 %
2. So-so640 %
3. No426.67 %


Location: Southwest Virginia
Gender: Male

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Martinsville Novelty Corp
< on 4/12/2010 2:46 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
The Martinsville Novelty Corp is a decrepit looking structure on Rives Road in Martinsville VA, and has been derelict since before I moved to this region over a decade ago. I'd drive by it on occasion and wonder what was there, but never bothered until the local paper ran an article saying it was going to be turned into apartments:


So, it was a furniture factory of some kind.

A preliminary walk-by a few weeks ago showed that decade-old trees had been chopped out of the sidewalks and loading docks, and that some interior cleanup had taken place. Asking around, it turned out that the actual construction work was supposed to start on April 12 (the day I am writing this), so I figured if I was going to explore, I'd better do it yesterday. Which I did.

It is not a building, but a cluster of connected buildings. It is pretty clear the facility grew in an organic fashion, limited by the size of their lot, Rives Road on one side, and a railroad line on the other. There is the brick structure in the newspaper picture, some wood-framed extensions, corrugated steel quonset-hut looking enclosed loading docks, as well as an enclosed rail spur and a few outbuildings with industrial-size air handlers. The construction is haphazardly arranged and the interior buildout was primitive at best. I believe the total facility was about 90,000 square feet, of which only a fraction would be suitable for putting apartments into. And personally, I'd be dubious about living there, but maybe they will do a good job and just tear down the nastiest parts.

I parked a ways off and walked down the railway to the back of the structure. A small access road from Rives Road showed evidence of recent use, and debris I noticed on my earlier walk-by had been removed. My kit was simple: Boots, jeans, jacket, gloves, headlamp, backup flashlight, phone, multitool.

All the doors and loading docks are either padlocked or boarded shut, with evidence of a lot of futile door kicking by would-be vandals. However, there are quite a few broken windows, and holes big enough to crawl through. This got me access to a stairwell, which was fairly dubious going down, but okay going up. I'm not going to be able to do a sequential description of the structure because you simply could not make a systematic exploration. Blocked stairwells and the wierd layout meant I had to retrace by path numerous times, so I'm just going to describe the photographs, which are in the order I took them.

The atmosphere ranged from stifling to spooky. The below ground levels were cool, damp and often pitch black, while the upper levels were hot, bright and dry. Corrugated steel on the outside of the building would rattle with the slightest breeze, and the levels with wooden floors were anything but silent. Several times during the exploration I had to pause and listen to see if there was someone else in the building with me, but it was merely random building noises.

Photo 1: Second level, main building. You can see the open and fairly boring floor plan, the wood floors and uninsulated brick walls. This place must have been hot as blazes in summer, but I suppose all the machinery and such would have kept it warm in winter. The window glass was all single-pane, in iron frames, in either clear, frosted or wire-reinforced, apparently based on what was lying around when a pane needed replacing.

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Photo 2: Second level, freight elevator. The white framed area to the right is the ladies restroom. Both this and all the men's restrooms seems to have been added after original construction. Maybe they had a big row of outhouses before this?

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Photo 3: Main building, one of the nicer stairwells

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Photo 4: Main building, a box of loose business records

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Photo 5: Main building, second level, front office. This would have been where the plant manager was, and if the decor was any indication, this place had been on the skids for quite a while before it went under. Lap of luxury it was not. The safe was huge, open and empty. Bits of paper and busted window-mount air conditioners were in this section. I had to move carefully as this was adjacent to the street and had big windows looking in.

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Photo 6: Second level, where one building connected to one of the quonset-hut loading or warehouse areas. I say "quonset hut" because of the arched walls and corrugated steel, but this section was big enough to park several tractor-trailers in. As you can see, some areas were dark and had rotted floors. I stayed close to main structural supports wherever possible, but bad flooring was the exception rather than the rule. At least one of the stairways going to the lower level was very dicey, but that photo did not turn out.

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Photo 7: The last time anyone cared to inspect things. As an aside, this place must have been an OSHA nightmare. Minimal, narrow stairs, whirring machinery, flammable varnishes, wood and paper and trains and tractor-trailers, etc.

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Photo 8: Lower level. Tough to see, but this is one of the two contractor Bobcats that were apparently being used to shovel junk into piles for removal. There were quite a few intact furniture bits here, assembled, partially assembled, and unfinished components. Glass for display cases, mirrors and so on. The construction was glue, nails, veneer and particle board for the most part, definitely low-end stuff.

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Photo 9: Upper level, main building. This is why the floor was rotted through in spots, and there were several spots in the roof like this.

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Photo 10: Lower level, rear loading dock. The most interesting part of the trip. What you see is a bunch of hats nailed to the rafters. Maybe this was something done by workers who left employment, maybe it was done by the remaining crew when leaving the plant at the final shutdown. We may never know.

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Photo 11: Another part of the main building, not sure if second or third level.

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Photo 12: Upper level. Some sort of assembly line for furniture. This track snaked around half the upper level, with these turntables that presumably held furniture in construction.

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Photo 13: More upper level. This is a spraying area that was clearly added after original construction. It's just an enclosed wooden tunnel with some ventilation to keep fumes from building up.

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Photo 14: "Everyone stay out of this -kilm-". This made me wonder if OSHA even knew about this factory. That and the notion that the drying kiln had wooden walls. I'm guessing it was not so much a kiln as a hot air drying station after the spraying tunnel. Stuff was moved from level to level using inclined conveyor belts with narrow stairs right next to the moving bits. These stairs and for that matter much of the building were cordoned off with yellow hazard tape, but the stairs were sound enough.

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Photo 15: More upper level roof damage and what appears to be a heating unit of some kind.

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Photo 16: Somewhere. An example of how old some of the infrastructure like light switches was.

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I ended up leaving the same way I got in. A few of the secondary structures have basement levels that are not connected by stairs to the main levels, with things like old air compressors, parts bins and general maintenance supplies like v-belts and light bulbs. There was also one semi-detached structure with a huge flywheel of some kind attached to some machinery. It did not appear to be a generator and I am guessing it was for an industrial air handler that was at that end of the building. I could see a little bit through a small window, but the only door was fully secured and the room seemed filled with junk I'd rather not trip and fall into. So, thus ended the exploration, and I thought I'd post it since it is unlikely anyone else will get the chance to explore it. Unless they do it real soon or wait a few months and rent an apartment. Then they can wander around the building all they want...


Location: Washington DC / NOVA
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Re: Martinsville Novelty Corp
<Reply # 1 on 4/12/2010 5:08 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
That's quite an in-depth write up! I like getting extra information on places; good job.

I'll take your poll question as an invitation for some tips on posting (for future reference):

The gallery style you used is, in fact, the default setting, but it turns out that most people on here hate clicking on those little things. There's a nice thread on posting images here:, which is helpful because it can be a real pain to figure out.

Also, you certainly DO NOT have to be an artist/photographer to be an explorer, but I found that my documentary photographs of locations improved A LOT when I invested in a $15 tripod for my crap point'n'shoot camera. It's a must, especially for darker places.

Anyway, good first post; welcome to UER!

In places forgotten, tread where you will. -=-
Ashes in the Snow 

Location: Raleigh, NC
Gender: Male

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Re: Martinsville Novelty Corp
<Reply # 2 on 4/12/2010 5:23 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
rotate your pictures before loading, i look retarded at work trying to tilt my head.

Location: Southwest Virginia
Gender: Male

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Re: Martinsville Novelty Corp
<Reply # 3 on 4/12/2010 6:50 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
Thanks for the tips. I did rotate the two pics in question before uploading, they somehow got re-rotated. I'll use that thread on posting pics for the next time, and maybe even use a real camera instead of the tiny one on my phone.


Location: Shreveport, LA
Gender: Male

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Re: Martinsville Novelty Corp
<Reply # 4 on 4/13/2010 7:54 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
Great first post. Avius covered the pop up picture and Ashes got the rotated pictures (not a problem for me cause I see it the same way regardless if it was upside down or right side up) the only thing I would suggest is try to guard the exact location you find secret for future explores to preserve the location, especially when the thread is viewable to anyone, I know this place is already being demolished just something to keep in mind. The pictures aren't bad for a camera phone I would highly recommend the tripod if if you a camera and decide to take low light photos. Other than that great first post.

Well...... crap........
UER Forum > Archived US: Mid-Atlantic > Martinsville Novelty Corp (Viewed 307 times)

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