Back in 2010 Bennett and myself spent a few hours exploring an abandoned mill in Victory, east of Saratoga Springs. Originally a textile mill opened in 1846, the Victory Mill has been abandoned since 2000, its closure essentially leveling the local economy. The 215,500 square foot monolith towering this quiet town can hardly be missed. We scouted the surrounding area in September and came back a few weeks later, armed with our best innocuous looks. Here is what I brought back from this once vital organ of a little known village.
More photos below. Click on any of the thumbnails to open a larger view, or check the full-screen Flickr slideshow if you have Flash installed.
Victory is a village in Saratoga County, NY, about 10 miles from Saratoga Springs on the north bank of Fish Creek, a tributary of the nearby Hudson River. The population was 544 at the 2000 census, much less than the 700 people who used to work at the Victory Manufacturing Company during its glory days in the 1870′s. We parked a reasonable distance from the mill and made good use of the garage sales going on that day to close in on our objective. Below, a room in the tower, overlooking the main street.
Victory is one of the smallest villages in New York, with a total area of 0.5 square miles (1.4 km²), all of it land; blink, and you passed it. We were on our way back from a day in Lake George when we noticed the structure. We drove around, looking for an entry point, when I noticed that a small piece of the fence near the gate was missing. Luckily, I didn’t have to contort when we came back a few weeks later; we found a much simpler path from the banks of Fish Creek and progressed hastily through the woods.
The original plant was built three years before the village itself was incorporated. That portion of the structure has been deemed unsalvageable. If my memory serves me correctly, a whole side is actually missing, offering an impressive view on the rest of the mill (picture and thumbnails above). A newer, much larger section was built later on, dominated by a large tower, now the dominion of our feathered overlords. We sneaked in the basement of said building and explored the mainly intact factory floor by floor. This was greatly facilitated by perfectly working stairs. Lazy explorers, rejoice.
The company experienced difficulties in the early 20th century and considered moving out of the area. It started laying off employees by 1930, wreaking havoc on the local economy. This is, unfortunately, a story familiar to many in the capital district. I didn’t grow up in this country but I heard a lot about the impact of G.E. leaving Schenectady in the middle of the 20th century, once I moved here.
Before the mill closed, the company known as Victory Specialty Packaging printed boxes for many major companies, mostly food. They also printed some specialty papers and wallpaper for a short period of time. We noticed many of these laying on the large, sprawling floors (seen below). A small room was probably used to store toys, this sight alone brought back a strange feeling of déjà vu from our previous trip to the First Prize Center in Albany.
The building’s value fell to about $650,000 when it was left vacant in 2000. Renovation plans were first mentioned in 2003 when a Malta resident purchased the lot, but nearly half a million dollars in unpaid taxes accrued before the project started. It was doomed. Below, time froze an old calendar in June 2000.
Long Island Developer Uri Kaufman secured the Victory Mill for $50,000 in 2008 after the county foreclosed on the property; “I’m the proud owner of another pile of bricks,” Kaufman joked. His Harmony Group is behind the Lofts at Harmony Mills in Cohoes, a previous effort at turning a run-down mill into apartments successfully. Below, what these luxury living quarters are likely to replace. Don’t underestimate how patient the moss can be…
This $18 million project to create about a hundred upscale rental apartments will also include a health club and lap pool, a possible day care center, a pedestrian courtyard that will highlight the main street in the village and a café with a veranda that overlooks the waters of Fish Creek. There is still a lot to axe, but there is certainly hope for this building.
It will take some time for this project to be completed but my friend Darren K., who grew up in the area, confirmed two months ago that a construction company had been there daily and hazmat had been removed. He expects an influx of new residents from the GLOBALFOUNDRIES tech park coming in Ballston Spa and believes the owner understands his demographic and will price accordingly.
Darren has visited the place a few times in the past and brought back great photos a month after we did. I recently asked him about his connection with the mill: “For me… the mill represents every small town or larger city that has abandoned manufacturing facilities. I have a greater sense of what damages the movement of manufacturing jobs does to a small community, since I knew so many people hurt by its closure. I guess that’s what makes it special to me”. Above, a once very full weekly schedule.
Darren adds: “The mill was a great motivator for me to go to college and leave the small village of Schuylerville. I grew up hearing stories from my father and brother of their days working in the mill and also telling stories that my grandfather told of his time working there. Hearing these stories made me realize it was something I never wanted to do. I graduated from college the year the mill closed having never continued the family tradition of working in the mill, so it only made sense to visit it”. Above, the original mill building, crumbling down. We proceeded very carefully in this older portion and didn’t venture to the basement. Below, a toy room.
This exploration reminded me a lot of our trip to the Chalmers Knitting Factory. A lot of empty floors with similar layouts and little graffiti, to our surprise. These vast industrial spaces are not empty though, they carry the memories of a generation, and of the generation before. They had an impact on the life of locals like Darren long after the last worker locked the door. This is a story I hope he shares with his kids or nephews, a social link that can live on through his photos and ours.
I used about a dozen photos in this post, but the whole 25-pictures series is available on Flickr. Enjoy.
Darren visited the place back in October 2010, the whole series is in on Flickr, great photos, here are a few:
Urban Explorations in Print
Are you looking for more? I have assembled a hundred photos from 10 abandoned locations in my first photo book, “The Unnoticed”, available online and at different branches of the Albany Public Library. Find more about this 136-page volume, available in hard cover, soft cover, and eBook format for iPad/iPhone, in the book section.
More abandoned buildings are listed under the “Urban Exploration” category.
Tags: abandoned buildings