The Wheland Foundry: Part 1
I’ve always wanted to shoot this collection of abandoned buildings in Chattanooga, but something has always come up. Well, last Sunday I finally got to check that location off the bucket list. Jay Farrel and I hit Chatt Town and immediately spied our quarry. We pulled off the interstate and took a few side roads and found ourselves following a narrow road that dead ended in a train yard. We quickly turned around trying to find a way to get access to the buildings we wanted to shoot and noticed that there was a Green Way running along the front of our destination and the fence keeping us out was only waist high. Better yet a little investigation proved that a large section of the fence was down, we had only to duck under the fence support and we were in! We stood before the Wheland Foundry, and it was breathtaking. The sky was a beautiful blue, and the green Mountains stood majestically in the background. There was a slight breeze and I swear the temperature was a perfect 78 degrees. If anything, it was too beautiful. Rather than enter the foundry’s proper entrance that stood looming before us, we opted for one of a series of gothic looking buildings that had been painted a bright blue. I had to wonder if maybe they were painted this color to try to alleviate Tennessee’s brutal heat and direct exposure to the sun. Inside the first structure we found little beyond graffiti. Still it was worth noting the entire back wall looked as if it had been torn out and this allowed us quick access to the next large building inside which we found a few large pieces of equipment. While these were not the treasures we were looking for we could feel the potential for finding some true “Abando Gold” if we kept going.
Next up was a building the justified our tenacity. Like the other buildings it was bright blue, but that is where the similarities stopped. This building was all blue painted brick, and there were rows of empty windows, jagged glass teeth were all that remained of their panes. A large hole in the lower part of one wall showed evidence where a tree had at some point taken root and grown out of the wall itself. I had to ask myself just how long had the foundry been closed? This shorn tree was at least 8 inches in diameter, so it had been allowed to grow for quite sometime. Further along a set of double doors stood, beckoning us to enter. Inside the differences from the other buildings were even greater. It looked as if a bomb had gone off in the large hall I was standing in, my mouth slightly agape. Jay went one way, I went on my own and lost in the wonderment of the ruins I began to shoot.
With ninja like stealth we scuttled over to the next building. On its wall a giant graffiti skull blazed away. I toook this to be a good sign of what might be found within would be Abando Gold, and I was right! Ducking beneath a plastic set of curtains I found myself in the antechamber of a vast hall. This thing was the easily the size of the train works I’d shot in Alabama a few years ago. Unlike the train depot, the floor here was concrete, ash and dirt. It should have been dark in here a Stygian blackness but no, it was pretty well lit up due to all the bay doors having been removed, and the mostly vacant windows a hundred feet or more above. Sunlight streamed in and I was for once happy that it did, after all, my tripod was in the car. I walked about shooting this and that, but my attention became absorbed by giant cranes that were above us, locked in place for decades. I was in heaven.
This is the end of the Wheland Foundry Part 1. Part 2 will be up at some point next week (I promise). In the meantime if you’d like to support my endeavors please go to Amazon and purchase a copy of my book Forgotten Tennessee. https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Tennessee-Backroads-Roadside-Surprises/dp/1634991524/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=forgotten+tennessee&link_code=qs&qid=1619145063&sourceid=Mozilla-search&sr=8-1