I had wanted to take a walk, needing to get a little extra energy and stress out. Seeing as how I would be heading towards Morgan Street off of Hillsborough, I thought this might be a perfect time to see if the old bakery might be accessible. Months ago during a similar walk I saw where some idiot had busted out the front door glass and had reported the vandalism to the police as it looked fresh. Afterwards they barricaded the doors and boarded up all easily accessible windows; a shame, but it was someone else's stupidity. Knowing human nature though, I knew it was a matter of time before someone forced their way in and figured I'd find a loose board. We hit paydirt...
We ended up going twice, the first time was more of a reconnaissance, our lights weren't that strong, we really weren't dressed well enough, the rain had chilled out what we had and after a few surprises we felt the need to gear up a bit. We traipsed back to the pad, charged the camera and flashlights and grabbed some more protective clothes and implements; one of my friends bugged out so it was just two of us on the return and this time we drove.
I know people don't like a giveaway, but I feel the need to warn you, this place is no longer quite abandoned in a general sense. We did find a loose board down a side alley as I thought we would, but it was actually an ingeniously designed door. Someone kept the original board but had added hinges and a knob on the inside and steps on the other side, even put out a matted carpet. The back floor area, part of the production floor more than likely had a central island of habitation set up: sofas, table, bookshelves stocked with food, against the walls were a coffee nook, a bulletin board with a list of do's and don'ts, poetry, sketches and a list of needed repairs. And ladies and gentlemen, after seeing the list I'd advise you to follow it, it was dead accurate, especially about the ladder on the second floor roof needing to be bolted down. It has the bottom bolts, but NOTHING above, the top of it catches on the lip of the cornice, if that cornice breaks, it will fall (And some sections of that ceramic is missing). Going up is ok, but the weight you throw trying to get back down makes it jump.
They have apparently begun some repair work to maintain their new home, some of the glass had been patched with plastic and new window compound, someone had actually started using the storeroom with the paneling as an art studio, leaving their quite valuable pastel/marker set out. We merely browsed the titles of the books and looked at some sketches on the wall, this was not a typical squatter's den. they were neat, organized and seemed to care for the place. I actually asked to wrap up the back area and move on as I felt almost intruding on a home as opposed to just going through an abandoned building. My friend and I are thinking of going back with some beer and paying a housewarming call. They apparently entertain as we saw the preparation list for a get together tacked on the bulletin board. There is a fairly creepy cellar area that we peered through, on going back to the main warehouse we found another lower area that had apparently been turned into a bedroom. After seeing the beds actually made up and quilts laid across I finally told my associate that it was time to try and make our way up and out. They appear to keep a nocturnal schedule and maybe make runs for work and supplies/scavenging, but ya never know when they might want to come back in after a short night, the weather was starting to get worse and it is actually really warm and cozy in there.
They had set up a ladder to a roof access window, there is apparently no longer an inner staircase to the upper floors. There had been two elevators as the only main accesses, one as a service elevator from the outside, and one lift in the front enrty that goes to the subcellar (Which in turn goes to the squatter's Warehouse. This window leads to the roof near the bay doors and the back tower (Which is inaccessible except for some rebar someone set up to actually scale the thing, which in the dark and rain was NOT going to happen. The roof is fairly stable, surprisingly watertight for the most part, but is just a tarpaper and wood roof. There are spongy areas and I advise all to stay to the walls and corners where the support is best and there are handholds on windowsills and edges. My partner tried to walk across; I warned him and he immediately hit a sinker. He then got his ass back in a hurry. We did make it up the ladder, and from there found another door that the squatters had apparently fixed. This led to the upper floor and access to the front with the leaded deco windows. This wide open gallery is where you might want to start watching your step. The floors are maily concrete, but are interspersed with tongue in groove wood floors, many of which have had boards laid across by the inhabitants, but still might not be overly safe. The wood floors by one of the front Hillsborough street facing windows (By the bathroom and office entrances)took some heavy water danage before they sealed it back off and has started to bow and buckle.
The front office area has been fairly well stripped and bears the most look of vandalism. Lots of broken glass around on the floors; this is where I think the earlier folks who busted the door came through. The front entry is cramped, more so with the new reinforcements they used to prop the front door barricade up. it now blocks the door to the little pony-lift that went to the basement The front Hillsborough facing office has also been used as an antry point and is now missing it's window glass. Be careful as it's the easiest place to be spotted from the road and sidewalk, we actually almost got noticed by another homeless guy dumpster diving by the Jade Palace trash. The only other hazard is the wood floor around the rather large and bulky safe that I think is going to give way in time.
In summary, it is an interesting place, but has been altered by it's new occupants and as of now may be a little more dangerous. I would suggest going in daylight and with at LEAST two people if not more. A buddy system especially at the ladders is very important, you'll want one at the bottom bay area access, the warehouse window access by the store rooms and the second story outside ladder. There are many seeming exits, but not many immediate safe ones. There are three bay garage doors on the lowest, if the ladder/pallet breaks you can use the one on the far left to get out, just bend the track away from the padlock they placed to block the rollers. I don't mind the risks of buildings, but people can be a wildcard, especially if their protecting their home. There does seem to eb multiple people staying there and fairly regularly, they even had bikes parked inside, had used the back bays to haul furniture in they've been scavenging and even set up a grill for their kitchen area.They don't appear to be crackheads, but the way things are set up they'll know you're coming before you probably know they are there. Long pants and good sneakers, not boots (You'll want to feel the roof and floors more) are called for and gloves wouldn't be a bad idea. Park on Morgan by the hair salon or Charlie Goodnights. I'll probably go back one more time for day photos, but otherwise it's done for me unless I meet and get to know the occupants, they seem inetersting and apparently like to throw a shindig or two.