Posted by: matt | March 16, 2009

watch your step

There’s a story I wanted to share for a while now. It happened a few years out of college, while working at my first REAL job in architecture.  

It was around this time of year, maybe a few weeks earlier. There was still snow on the ground, but everything was starting to melt. I worked in a small practice, mainly myself and my boss. We were a little slow in the office, but pretty normal for that time of year. My boss took on a project from a real estate friend to measure an existing building. 

The building was an old warehouse in a far northern suburb of  Chicago. I believe they built boats back in the day. So, it was a big open warehouse and an attached office. 

What was odd about this measuring project was what you didn’t see from the outside.  The office building was gone, sorta. The first and second floors were demolished, but the basement and sub-basement were left intact. A feable attempt at sealing the basement ceiling from the elements led to the lower levels being flooded. There was a small hallway that was left to access the levels underground from the warehouse. 

Our job was to measure those basements. Dark. Cold. Wet. Did I mention dark?

If you’re a fan of Resident Evil, you’ll know where I’m going with this one. I’ve never been scared to measure a building, but as we climbed down the concrete stairway and through the vault door. Oh yes, did I say the basements were used as vaults?? And down the next set of stairs, down and down until we got to the lowest level. Alone. Just a flashlight, that sucked. We made our way through this maze of concrete measuring what we could see and feel. 

Realizing that there were electric generators sitting in water, that we were standing in, a few feet away, made me realize how stupid I was. Thankfully, they weren’t on. 

Driving back to the office, I came to grips with that I was most scared of, was so cool.  I love old creepy buildings.

Have any similar memoirs to share?



  1. I had a similar situation but it was a 6′ by 10′ little “room” that could only be access by an access hatch on the floor, so I had to craw in. There was a huge ass duct in the middle of the space and all sorts of junk in the floor (I think they where using the space to “archive” old papers that for some reason they didn’t throw away).

  2. How is basement/ abandoned crawlspace of an active insane asylum?

    How about “grossing pathology lab”

    UIC steam tunnels

    Ok a 90 degree day in Florida, I’m measuring the roof, it’s hot, I work my way around the penthouse to the shadow, and wonderful cold air from some exhaust totally refreshes me, I catch my 2nd wind and move on. I work my way out to the parapet and turn around. 3′ tall letters next to vents “ISOLATION WARD EXHAUST – STAND BACK”

    That made my day.

  3. first off, huge fan of Resident Evil, currently working on RE5….

    When i was in high school, my friend’s dad owned the old Du Page movie theatre, so we would hang out there sometimes. Let me stress old, was like a state or national landmark or something like that. We went down in the dark basement once, more like a cave from what i remember. There was a long dark hallway with two doors on the right wall spaced about twenty feet apart. they both went into a long rectangular room that ran parallel to the hallyway. the room was the boiler room. My friend took us in there and showed us around which was really creapy. Then when left the room, he shut the door hard behind us which caused a pressure increase in the room and the other door down the dark hallway slammed open. scared the heck out of me. Of course i was totally set up by my friend.

  4. Why do we do it to ourselves?? There’s no way around it. I love old buildings!! Check out the link in the upper right for “Abandoned Places.” What a great site!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: