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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

Hart Wool Mill, March 2014


First we met at the Mill, where we tried to make conversation with the (on the job and deadly serious) environmental guys in their hazmat suits and full-face breathing masks. But our contact had not arrived, so we traipsed over to City Hall and up several flights of stairs (much to the detriment of Jim’s war injury) to find him. After a round of introductions and document-signing, we were ready to go, but not so fast: All those documents needed to be notarized. So it was down the stairs again and off to a different City building, up some more stairs (Jim’s mouth hardening into a demonic rictus of pain), and in line at the City Clerk’s office.

Rob had offered to make breakfast, but we had no idea that he meant – you know – actual food. He showed up with bags full of hot sandwiches on artisanal bread, stuffed full of eggs, avocado, ham, cream cheese, Sriracha and GET IN MY BELLY. Those were the most delicious breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever eaten, which is one reason I like exploring with Rob. He also brought iced coffee, though mine tasted suspiciously like tomato juice. Ah well.

Once we got in the building, it took some time to get our bearings – the place is gigantic, with all sorts of nooks and crannies, and much of it is dark as pitch. I think at first we all felt slightly disappointed at the relative lack of large machinery. As the day went on, we realized that there was more than enough to shoot – so many different environments and textures, variations of light, and plenty of the all-important Stuff Left Behind. My two favorite areas were the ruined business offices, rain falling freely from the skeleton of a drop ceiling; and a huge brick-walled storage area with snow on the floor, imposing industrial ductwork, and piles of petrified wood (part of the building used to be rented out by a furniture maker).

For more information on the efforts to clean up Hart Wool Mill (whether for demolition or eventual rehab):

$247,000 Grant to Remove Asbestos

Another article on the same grant, this one from the official Holyoke site

Sak Environmental HazMat Survey of Site

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  1. Thanks, friends!

  2. Awesome stuff here! So much water in there, but it has such potential to be made into a great place…wish I could’ve gone along, but I’m shooting for next time…already told my boss it could happen with short notice… 🙂

  3. Wow! Great job Jason…You captured the site well, photography and narrative.

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