Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mansion Motel

I love seeing what had once been. I love to walk the massive ornate brick structures of what had once been the largest brewery in the US and to get up close to see the old wooden brick streets. Or walking up on the catwalk under the wooden roof and looking at the original spotlights in the old Arena thinking of all of the decades of shows and games the lights illuminated. Picking up the old photos of newborns scattered on the floor of City Hospital and thinking of how many lives that place brought in to Saint Louis.

I have started taking video on these tours. I wish I had started doing this years ago. My fellow cohort Agent Akita and I have started a group called the UEU314, the Urban Exploration Unit 314.

The location of this particular installment is the Mansion Motel in North Saint Louis near North Grand and Broadway. It was a notorious motel that rented out hourly rates. The motel ceased operation about a month prior to the shoot. When the Mansion Motel was in full operation the economy and activity of the neighborhood was dramatically different. The streets were full of creepers, presumed drug dealers, prostitutes and sketchy characters all around. Prior to this tour, I had only driven by the building as I was checking out the state various neighborhoods of Saint Louis. It was easy to tell that this joint was bad news.

Now that the motel has been abandoned, the area is quiet. So Agent Akita and I went through to see what was left of this stain of an operation.

Keep in mind as you watch the video:
I am an amateur and this video in particular is a very, very raw production. I was also in a highly dangerous place for the first time, so video was my secondary concern, our personal safety was the priority. So I was holding the camera as an afterthought, and in my other hand my fist was clenched with a flashlight ready to knock. The shots are plenty shaky using primarily my left hand, sweeping and out of focus. The lighting is terrible and I used a high power flashlight which did not help in the dark rooms. If I wasn't so wound up everything would have been much steadier. The vid is about 11 minutes long, most of which is one long cut. I like the full raw effect.

The interior smelled awful. There was clearly squatting going on in the place, but we had not found any residents in when we were there. Upon entering a spot like this we make noise and announce we are there "with the city" so we don't surprise anyone and get into any complicated situations. In the beginning of the video you can see reasons why I was concerned about safety by the crowbar, hatchet and knife scattered at the base of the stairs. The rooms were in various states of disorder with toilets ripped up out of the floor and walls knocked out. There were clear signs of active drug use with a burnt out spoon, bag of powder and plenty of other suspicious and nasty items.

This particular place was not "a what had once been great", but a sad and desperate reality of what exists in our town. I prefer to tour places of greatness, but in the light of greatness sometimes there is a nasty underside, and this is the den of that place.

I will let the video tell the rest of the story. Enjoy.

Music on piece:
Perry Como with Magic Moments
MIA with Paper Planes
Clarence Greenwood with Pablo Picasso
Rolling Stones with Sympathy for the Devil

thumbnail cover photo by Agent Akita

Upcoming edits of the Armor Meat Packing Plant and the Washburne Trade School will be forthcoming.

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Anonymous Jerome said...

Damn... seeing that Hatchet would have sent me directly out the door.

Fantastic work!

12:21 PM  
Blogger Matthew Frederick said...

Perry Como makes everything seem less foreboding.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Steven Fitzpatrick Smith said...

check the raw cut here on This is the site where I source most of the videos. I had a request to drop the music and just hear what we are saying. I got some good feedback on the raw presentation, and they wanted the whole thing raw. I didn't want to cuz we sound like, well, tools as we walk through talkin' all scardey cat. And I am cussing too much. My mom reads the blog and I don't want her to hear me cussing on the web. So Mom, if you read the comments, don't watch the raw cut.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous delphine said...

i watched the raw cut. i can see why you wished you were strapped that day indy. maybe take a whip next time.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Doug Duckworth said...


2 minutes south of my employer!

I dove by this place before.

I didn't stop.

5:05 PM  

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