Grain elevators have become popular in Buffalo in the past few years. Most of us around here have probably heard of art shows and history tours that run through Silo City and driven past the Connecting Terminal that sits next to the highway. Buffalo has many elevators, however, and there’s a pair of them not far from these that are much more en vogue with paintballers and urban explorers than artists or preservationists.
Concrete Central is a quarter-mile long monster of a grain elevator which sits perpendicular to the Cargill Superior elevator. Both elevators are currently owned by the city. You might think that’s a sort of strange thing to point out but private owners are usually a little less happy about people poking around than a city who probably wishes these money sinks would disappear.
When you come down the dirt and gravel service road to the elevators the first one you’ll see is Cargill Superior. It’s not as large as Concrete Central but it’s a lot less worked over by graffiti and paintballs.
Inside Cargill the building is divided into two sections one of which looks and smells like it’s been rotting for decades. There’s a hallway of broken fuse boxes, with plenty of broken fuses still lodged in their sockets, and the doors have been pulled off their hinges.
Since it’s impossible to post a smell or a tactile feel on a blog (awful garbage.smell.plugin) let me stop our photo narrative and give you an impression of the smell inside this place. Cargill has a smell like a combination of an uncleaned mall bathroom and a rusting, musty junkyard. I’m sure it sees a lot of animal traffic. I know many urban exploration sites like to show you only the best and prettiest parts of urban decay, and I know I do this, but nothing take the romantic notions out of a trip like a rotting deer carcass or a pool of stagnant water filled with toxic waste. Concrete Central being more open to the elements is far less nauseating to walk through.
There’s a broken stairwell towards the West side of the building with the tabs from cut out stairs the only thing left to climb on. I’ve seen photos of people on the top of this building, some wearing flip-flops, so it is possible to get up there. It’s probably not a good idea, however. Actually, let me be clear on that one: it’s a really stupid idea. Not only are sandals more likely to make you slip, or slip off your feet, you’re walking on rusted metal with uncovered feet which is an excellent way to end up with deep cuts on your feet.
I will not stop until I have ruined all your fun.
The other half has the bins which still have writing on them from when they were in use. If you look carefully you’ll find signatures in pencil from workers dating back to the 1940s. I assume they’re real since most of the modern signing going on in these places is tagging.
Down the road, and behind a meadow, is Concrete Central.
This is probably the most popular and well travelled urban exploration site in Western New York and it shows. Almost every inch of this place is covered in a layer of graffiti that is constantly being rewritten. Much it comes from the people who play paintball here or the occasional Team Fortress 2 fan. Some if it shows talent but, we’re certainly not host to a local Banksy here. Why? Bcuz.
We’ve run into all sorts of people here including lovestruck teens, other urban explorers, the coast guard, and confused city workers. The coast guard boat spotted us and tried to have a conversation over megaphone in which we had no idea what they said while we waved politely and they waved back. Seriously, the audio quality on those things is terrible.
So I’ve made a few references to the paintball players who run around here. The first time we came across them was on TV when back in the mid-2000s one of those ‘educational networks’ started a series on urban exploration. They had a scene right in front of Concrete Central where a few people decked out in paintball gear came out from the tall plants and ‘scared’ the hosts of the show. If I remember correctly, they didn’t even bother to go inside the place and went on to Bethlehem Steel or something.
Generally when we saw the paintball players we just went to the other side of the site until they finished and left. I’d like to clarify that this isn’t just a small number of players who infrequently visit the place. If you were driving by, and you learned to recognize the white Escalades and Cadillacs, they were there in large numbers every week. If you expect a moral judgement after all that, you won’t get one. I honestly have no idea if the destruction they cause inside there is any worse than being exposed the elements for decades and it’s not as if anyone has come up with a use for this place. Is it dangerous to run (literally) around an abandoned structure with sharp metal and poor lighting? Yes. Are they ruining a historic building for future generations? Eh.
If you’ve been to the Tift Farms visitor center you can find an aerial photo of Concrete Central back when it was still in use. That whole front yard was train tracks instead of meadow and it’s kind of interesting to see how fast nature retook this place.
My second time here my friend and I drove through the field in the middle of the summer. There was so much pollen from the plants that the truck had turned yellow. We spent about ten minutes there before he started having trouble breathing.
On another trip we went up one flight of the cut out stairs to see what was up above us. There wasn’t much. We found a blank notebook which gave me this idea to write something scary and leave it there to potentially unnerve future explorers. Then I thought maybe we could make MarbleHornets style tapes and leave them behind! I decided not to waste my tapes.