(All the photos taken in this blog are by two of my fellow club members and not by myself.)
Sometime in the spring of 2002 there was a fire that gutted a section of the first floor of Kenmore West. Some kids in the neighborhood decided it would just be the darndest thing to set some plastic cafeteria trays ablaze and then run off. For most students, it meant eating in the old gym for the rest of the year and only having cold lunches. For me, it meant I just kept hanging out in the club room for the Digital Demons (Our school team was the Blue Devils, you see) and getting access to all the restricted areas of the high school.
Our club mentor and dear leader was Mr. Jensen, an Earth Science teacher who had a penchant for technology and microwave burritos. He had talked with the janitors and groundskeepers who take care of the school and worked out a date and time for us to see the fire damaged sections. Since we were already seeing those areas he suggested we could see the other off-limits parts of the school and, so, one weekend we did.
Our first stop was the pair of burned out cafeterias which looked very little like the rooms we had eaten in for years. Ceiling fixtures were melted and hanging down, the walls and floors were scorched, and burned up junk had been piled all around. We all thought this was pretty cool, of course.
Next the groundskeepers took us into their office and then into a half-floor section where the schools piping runs. Inside here was a small trapdoor that led to the real basement.
Down in the basement we saw the blowers for the school, the live-wired pipes (the electricity heats them and keeps them from freezing in the winter), and the old coal boiler. We were told that back in the day they had a guy who’s job was to stand around the boiler all day shoveling in coal. Mr. Jensen made mention that one of us had a father who had that job, Hark was his name.
Around a bend and in through a small crawlspace we entered a narrow tunnel where the server room was located. There was an old (even in 2002!) monochrome monitor attached to an ancient looking computer that ran the phone systems and, I imagine, still does. There were two other servers running; one IBM and one an old Apple. It explained a lot about our network issues.
Next stop was the forbidden 5th floor of Kenmore West which can only be accessed through a caged off metal staircase. Up here we were on a raised metal platform that led over to the elevator motor and some other things I can’t recall. Up here we were able to step out on to the roof of the building.
The roof wasn’t as exciting as my 18-year-old self was led to believe it might be. We posed for some pictures and contemplated in a typically teenage fashion how much it might hurt to fall from here and then returned back inside.
Later on while starting out our urban exploration trips my friend, who was there for this tour, and I brought up how this might have helped influence our interest in abandoned buildings. It certainly wasn’t our last burned out mess.
Remember if you enjoy these posts, and gosh darn it I know you do, you can follow me on twitter @markjamedos
On another note, I’ll be expanding the subjects this blog covers in a few weeks. I will still update on new urban exploration trips and at some point revisit the idea I had for a beginner’s guide as well. What will I be writing about? I haven’t quite decided yet.