Monday, September 20, 2010

Photo Essay: Inside Governors Island: Officer's Club

Part II of III

This weekend, photographer Lisa Kereszi took a small group of us inside a couple of the buildings that were her local haunts when the Public Art Fund commissioned her in 2004 to document Governors Island, ten years after its closure.

These buildings are never open to the public now, and may never be again, as the fates of the various abandoned structures around the island are determined one by one - some resulting in adaptive reuse, others (like the school) in demolishment.

By the time the Coast Guard occupied the island in the 20th century, some of the buildings, like the South Battery fortress, were no longer needed for their original purpose, so they already have been reused for a different purpose. The South Battery was originally erected during the War of 1812 to guard Buttermilk Channel (the waterway between Governors Island and Brooklyn) and was later used to house the Army Music School's fife and drum corps through the 1870s. Between the 1880s and the 1930s, it was slowly transformed into an Officer's Club, known for Corbin Hall, its grandiose ballroom.

As in the barracks of Building 12 and its various sections, these abandoned buildings have a way of getting dirty even if no one is using them. Paint peels unprovoked. Roofs leak, causing ceilings to shed onto floors and seats below. Mold prospers. Wires unravel. Metal rusts. Gravity takes hold. And, in the case of the Officer's Club, dried leaves find their way inside and litter the floor.


Club room


Club room


Second floor hallway


Second floor bathroom


Second floor kitchen


Second floor kitchen


Second floor hallway


Second floor, outside Parapet Room


Second floor hallway


Second floor ballroom

On a sunny day, there's an incredible amount of light streaming through the windows of these buildings, many of which have a LOT of windows. Still, the electricity is still ON in many of these buildings, which makes you wonder, what for? Simply for fire inspectors and maintenance crews to maintain the safety and security of the island? Or in hopes that someday - soon - there will be a reason to occupy these spaces which once supported a prospering community?

Stay tuned for the third part in this photo essay series, which examines the Governors Island movie theater.

For Part I in the series, click here.

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