A couple weeks ago, my buddy Tom moved the local moto-tag to a prominent pile of rubble (and otherwise condemned buildings) in downtown Hamilton (formerly Champion Paper Company). Since my wife was working over the weekend (this was the week before Thanksgiving), I had Sunday morning to get out and explore, so I geared up for the sub 40 F temps and headed south.
On the 50 minute ride south, I scoured my memory to think of other prominent urban decay locations between Hamilton and downtown Dayton. Two or three years ago this would have been a slam dunk, but as the economy has somewhat improved, a lot of the blighted properties have recently been demolished. While I actually took classes at the Miami University campus in Hamilton , I admit that I haven’t crossed the river many times. As Tom’s photograph indicated, the industrial parts of downtown appear to be worth exploring for other folks fascinated by urban decay (Hamilton also has a few former train stations). On a cold Sunday morning, there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic on the main drag. Crossing the river I could smell the hints of something delicious from J Austin’s Riverbank Café (hopefully a future Pubs & Street Eats destination), but I suddenly found myself alone on B street along the remnants of former industry in Hamilton. Knowing I still had to find a new tag, with several other destinations in mind, I snapped a quick photo from the side of the otherwise barren road and headed back north.
The night prior I had hoped to take the more scenic roads following the Miami River, however bearing in mind the frigid temperatures and the recent rain, I was concerned I might inadvertently find an ice patch concealed in the roadside shade. That considered, I stuck the main thoroughfares and stopped at a few locations in and around Middletown (Wausau Paper Mill, and the outskirts of AK Steel). From Middletown I continued up the Dixie Highway (formerly US-25) into the Franklin-Chautauqua area to snag a photo of the Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) plant along the Miami River. Knowing it was Sunday, I didn’t expect any issues from security for taking a photo; however once on site, I would have thought the plant was completely abandoned if not for the shiny pickup truck parked inside the perimeter fencing. After checking online, it looks like DP&L closed the plant in June of this year as it could no longer meet federal emissions standards (future derelict site?).
From Chautauqua I skipped over to southern Miamisburg to the former Mound Laboratories complex. To the best of my knowledge, the former nuclear research laboratory has been closed for several years, but the remnants of 50’s era bomb shelters still remain (among brand new commercial buildings). Similar to the DP&L plant, I didn’t want homeland security freaking out about me taking a photo, fortunately, the photo location I had in mind is very visible on Google Street View, and the parking lot was a ghost town so I wasn’t too concerned.
From the former Cold War landmark I headed back up Dixie into West Carrollton to the remnants of Fraser Papers. I can’t pretend to be an expert on the building’s history, but ultimately the Friend Paper Co. opened following the Civil War, was subsequently purchased by Miami Paper Company (where my Grandfather retired), and later a few other companies. Paper manufacturing was apparently all the rage in the Miami Valley in the last century, however I assume it experienced heavy decline in the last few decades considering cheaper labor internationally and advancements in technology. As a result, all that is left standing of the site (at the time of these photos) is the corner water tower, and the original office building next to the railroad. News stories suggest that the city is trying to rehab the historic office building, dated 1859 according to the front cornerstone, hopefully that proves to be true.
In the end, the story came full circle considering that the day began with the partially demolished Champion Paper Company in Hamilton and ended with the remnants of the Friend Paper Company in West Carrollton (a few websites suggest it may have been the first mill locally). Urban exploring tends to be my “go-to” ride when the temperatures teeter around freezing; I see no sense in wasting a riding opportunity, but shy away from the potential frozen threats on the backroads.
When it’s freezing out do you still ride?