When we moved to Chicago, our apartment overlooked the Chicago Sun-Times building on Wabash Avenue alongside the Chicago River. This plot was sold off for development with a large tower being built on its site. The construction that followed will be another post but this one relates to the demolition process. The view from our window provided a great view of the tearing down of the old building. It didn’t hurt that much of it was done during the Chicago winter, but I could watch from the comfort of our living room.
The building came down pretty quickly. Crews were using jack hammers to drill out the concrete flooring of each level and the machines that these were mounted on could also pull over the wall sections once cutting torches had taken out key elements of them. There was plenty of cutting going on with torches taken out structure and piping. This didn’t always go smoothly with more than one occasion when the cutting set fire to something and the fire department came to deal with it. A lot of water from the hoses would pour out of the spaces in the walls and, given the low temperatures, lots of icicles would result.
There weren’t too many floors in the building with the lowest levels being where the printing presses had once been. The whole thing came down quickly. It wasn’t an attractive structure so we weren’t so sad to see it go. However, since it was low, it gave us a good view across the river. The new building would be 92 floors tall and was going to take out a chunk of our view but such is the way of things when you live downtown in a city that is constantly evolving.
I suspect that every town has a hospital that was known as being the place that people went with mental health issues. Where I grew up, it was called Whitecroft Hospital but the hospital was always dropped in common usage. The original buildings were Victorian, and I suspect in its early days the place was called an asylum. In common with many similar places in the UK, a change in policy meant that it was closed down and patients were to be cared for in the community. The outcome of that is a topic for a different day.
Whitecroft is now entering a new phase in its existence. It is being redeveloped as a housing project. We decided to visit it and see how things were looking. Whitecroft is not close to any other population so it has a remote feel to it. Even the road access is a bit narrow. The redevelopment is still underway, so some parts are blocked off. Some of the houses are new builds but they weren’t particularly interesting looking properties. Other developments are in the old buildings. Given the things that must have happened in those buildings over the decades, I’m not in the least interested in living in such a place!
The setting is attractive though. As we drove down towards it, the sun was lighting up the buildings and they looked great. The old clock tower provides a focal point and the old chimney from the boiler house is still standing. On the way back out, I wanted to get a shot with the sun on the buildings, but the clouds had rolled in. The wind was strong, though, and I figured a gap in the clouds was bound to come along before too long. Less than five minutes was all it took but the gap only lasted 30 seconds. I got the shot and moved on.
Times change! When I was still working in London, Kings Cross was a dump. I would often have to transfer trains from Thameslink to what was then GNER and would walk a short distance through the area. You could often experience some unusual people doing unusual things. One Sunday I rode through the area because the train I was on was not going the whole way due to maintenance. I found myself weaving through some interesting people who looked like they were still dealing with the previous night. All in all, it was not a great place to hang out.
The arrival of the Eurostar services at St Pancras seems to have been the trigger for some significant regeneration. We decided to check the area out while we were in London and I am glad we did. Aside from the changes to St Pancras itself and some expansion of Kings Cross Station, the surrounding area is undergoing a lot of change. The whole program is a work in progress with some elements done and others still being worked on. The area between the two stations has been transformed. It is now a nice walk up to the canal and beyond.
Restaurants and cafes have sprung up and new housing developments are shooting up. Some of it is very high end but there is also affordable housing. There is a swimming pool that uses a natural, chemical free filtration process. There is a limit on how many people can swim each day in order to manage the water quality. There is also a garden that is quite innovative. Apparently, it was hard to get permission for an allotment system (that might also be to do with the contamination of the earth around the station – I don’t know) so instead they filled a bunch of skips (dumpsters) with earth and they are used as the garden instead. Very thoughtful.
There is obviously still some work to be done in developing the area but the start that has been made is impressive and I imagine the whole place will thrive in the coming years.