Tag Archives: illinois

Who Are You?

Drew and I made our way to the top of a rickety steel stairwell platform in the Armour plant. He then told me to turn around slowly. When I did, we were face to face with a wild owl. Drew calmly descended the stairs while I remained frozen in place.

My heart was racing as I slowly adjusted my camera to take this photo. This is what urbex is all about. There is always an inherent danger, but there is also the thrill of never knowing what you will discover. This owl was absolutely magnificent. I feel as though this photo does not do justice to its scale though. It was quite a large bird.

Refrigeration Generator

Car maker Henry Ford often gets credited with developing the modern assembly line. The fundamental idea of an assembly line is to compartmentalize labor into highly specific tasks to increase output while minimizing cost. Workers need not be highly skilled or trained, they just need to be able to repeat a single task.
As with many great inventions Ford built on the work of his predecessors. Chicago industrialist Philip Armour revolutionized the meat packing industry by compartmentalizing labor in his factories long before Ford. Armour was in fact notorious for his implementation of unskilled labor. He intentionally pitted worker demographics against each other with the purpose of keeping labor costs low. In the early days Armour factories were dangerous places and the workers were prevented from joining a union.
Armour and another local meat packing company called Swift led the market in using refrigeration to decrease cost. In the days before refrigeration meat spoiled very quickly. Shipping live cattle by rail to local butchers was a costly enterprise that the railroad companies profited greatly from. Armour and Swift began shipping their cuts of processed meat in refrigerated cars, which vastly expanded their markets to the every corner of the nation.
The photo above shows one of the massive refrigeration units used. The side of the machine says that they were produced in 1902 by De La Vergne Refrigerating Machine Company, New York. There are two units currently residing at this Armour plant, though I believe there may have been three. The concrete floor has divisions for a missing unit.

Armour Meat Processing Plant

Just to the north of East St. Louis in National City is a very large abandoned meat processing plant. Armour and Company are perhaps best known for developing Dial soap, but they were primarily a slaughterhouse company. This meat processing plant was built in 1928 and ceased operations in 1959.

The Armour and Dial brands continue to exist, though these properties are now held by new owners.

Research Links:

Ecology of Absence – Hog Capital of the Nation

Arial view of the Armour Meat Packing Plant

Historical timeline of Armour and Company


Drew and I spoke with Reggie for a good while about the neighborhood. He has been an East St. Louis resident for 48 years and has military experience.

We got the impression that he knew everyone in the neighborhood. Passers by took their time to wave or say hello to him. He was all for us photographing the neighborhood.

Reggie also hit us with an astounding statistic: There have been 15 fires in East St. Louis in the last 10 days. (Notice the burned out home behind him.)

Gateway Community Hospital

I drove by in December 2009 and the plastic was not present. I was really hoping to explore this hospital, which has been closed since 1990. I had planned my day around it.

I spoke with an East St. Louis resident about the hospital. He informed me that the plastic had gone up recently. Demolition is well under way.

A guard sitting in a truck in the parking lot adjacent kept a close eye on Drew and I as we circled the hospital.