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Abandoned, Factories, Industrial, Nautical

The Yonkers Power Station, Knocking at the “Gates of Hell”

The abandoned Yonkers Power Station looms over a modern MetroNorth stop.

Take a northern train to Yonkers and watch New York City’s urban sprawl give way to the unspoiled undulations of the Hudson River Valley.   You’ll be reminded once again that Manhattan is an island, bounded and formed by three rivers, and there is, in fact, a world outside of it.

One of the stranger stops along the Hudson line can’t be missed; it’s dominated by a sight nearly as impressive as the station you came from.  Abandoned since the late sixties, the old power plant at Glenwood may be decidedly more ghoulish than Grand Central Terminal, but it’s almost as grand—they were dreamed up by the same architects.  Once, the imposing brick edifice embodied New York City’s ever-increasing industrial prowess, but today, the riverside relic stands as a monument to obsolescence, caught in a destructive contest with the tides.

The Yonkers Power Station was completed in 1906 to enable the first electrification of the New York Central Railroad, built in conjunction with the redesign of Grand Central Terminal.  The plant served the railroad for thirty years, but it soon became more cost-effective for the company to purchase its electricity rather than generate its own.  Con Edison took over in 1936, using the station’s titanic generating capacity to power the surrounding county.  By 1968, new technologies had replaced Glenwood’s outdated turbines, and the station was abandoned.

Glenwood Power Station

45 years later…

The Hudson River once delivered raw materials to the powerhouse, but now its waters collect in stagnant pools on the lowest level.  Rust has consumed the factory from the inside out; in places, the corrosion is almost audible.  Joints creak, bricks topple, ceilings drip, commingling with the constant suck of viscous mud underfoot.  Most of the machinery was carried out long ago, leaving only a hulking shell rimmed with staircases, walkways, and ladders—harrowing paths to nowhere.

Avant-garde or artsy-fartsy?  Aslop’s design for the station’s “preservation.”

Some of the rusted-through steps threaten to crumble at the slightest touch, giving way to a thousand foot drop through decaying metal that could land you muddied and bloodied on the swampy first floor.  I can’t say it’s worth the risk, but the Grand Canyon views from the plant’s highest reaches can sure ease your mind after a nail-biting ascent.  Photographers, urban explorers, and filmmakers flock here; it’s the grandeur in this decay that draws so many, and makes this place worth saving.

In 2008, Jim Bostic of the Yonkers Gang Prevention Coalition and councilwoman Patricia McDow alleged that the abandoned building was the site of brutal gang initiations, involving some 300 individuals at a time, where savage beatings and sexual deviancy took place on a shocking scale.  They called for the immediate demolition of the Glenwood Power Station, referring to it by its well-established nickname, the “Gates of Hell.”

A flyer put out by McDow for a “townhouse” meeting. “Tear them down and build our children.”

The stories were thrilling, hysterical, and ultimately hard to believe.  No evidence was found and no witness stepped forward that could verify the widely-publicized allegations, and the Yonkers Police Department denied having knowledge of any gang-related activities at the site.

The initiative gained the support of a number of locals, but many remained skeptical of McDow, who’s been criticized in the past for overlooking the rising tide of violent crime in her district.  Demolishing this historic structure would have little to no effect on neighborhood violence, but as a symbolic gesture, it could appeal to voters.

The powerhouse was spared from the whims of city politics, but it’s technically still at risk; landmarking efforts have failed since a proposal was first put forth in 2005.

It’s been four years since the Glenwood Power Station made headlines as the “Gates of Hell,” but not much had changed there until recently.  A new owner spruced up the grounds, removing overgrowth on the lot and clearing ivy from the buildings’ exteriors.  It’s a sign of good things to come, though no plans for renovation have been released at this time.

I came to Yonkers a few months prior to the cleanup, unaware that the space had already been booked for a post-apocalyptic webseries shoot.  The crew was friendly and professional, but their presence proved a distraction.  As a buxom actress screamed “There’s no way out!” for the fifth time, the Yonkers Power Station was stripped of its mystery, seeming to wear its decay with reluctant resignation.  Today, it’s a creepy backdrop for zombie films, the subject of gruesome rumors, but it was designed to inspire pride, not fear.

Sites like these are quickly becoming a contentious part of the post-industrial American landscape, scattered remnants of a period of enormous change—a revolution that’s led us, for better or worse, to where we are now.  In Yonkers, one such building wades on the banks of the Hudson, its skeleton blushing to shades of orange.  It’s an eyesore, a piece of history, and a community threat; also a nice spot to play hooky, take pictures, or build a shopping mall.  No one can seem to agree on these “Gates.”  So what the Hell should we do with them?

-Will Ellis

Photos can’t capture the jaw-dropping proportions of the place.

Glenwood Power Station

Walls reduced to rubble on the southern half of the generator building.

Glenwood Power Station

Lockers were the only hint at a human presence.

The switchboard/operating gallery overlooked the turbine room.

Glenwood Power Station

You’re off the train, but you’ve still gotta Watch the Gap on these staircases.

Glenwood Power Station

This basement room had the deepest water, anyone for a swim?

Glenwood Power Station

Continuing down the hallway. On the lower right, you can see a metal barrel that’s almost completely rusted through.

Glenwood Power Station

Turning a corner into a darkened vault, a row of valves.

Glenwood Power Station

A bicycle wheel found in the deepest recesses of the powerhouse. The mud was thickest here.

Not much to see in the site’s smaller substation building…

…though this floor was still filled with materials.

Glenwood Power Station

A view of the substation and the generating building’s iconic smokestacks.

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Discussion

34 thoughts on “The Yonkers Power Station, Knocking at the “Gates of Hell”

  1. Love the photos! Nothing better than shooting in old abandoned buildings. Enjoyed!

    http://thirdcupofcoffee.wordpress.com/

    Like

    Posted by Eric (Rick) Thomason | 8-30-12., 10:09 pm
  2. Great story and the pictures magnify the dimension to something that gives us a scale of magnitude.

    Like

    Posted by keiththegreen | 8-30-12., 10:14 pm
  3. Coool! I love stuff like this. There’s a website called abandoned-places.com that has a bunch of photos like this from places in Europe.

    Like

    Posted by The Philosophunculist | 8-30-12., 11:37 pm
  4. I never considered hell as a decaying and abandoned space. It’s interesting for sure. The pictures are eerie and troubling, excellent work.

    Like

    Posted by beholdconfusion | 8-30-12., 11:54 pm
  5. Unfortunately, abandoned industry buildings and industrialisation ruins are far to often simply pulled down. Here in Munich, we’re mostly in a race with caterpillars and scrapers to at least keep some images of what has been. – Very amazing shots you took there. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    Posted by sannekurz | 8-31-12., 1:13 am
  6. Did you have to ‘break and enter’ to get in!? You would love my favorite building in London: Battersea Power Station.

    Like

    Posted by Celia Peterson | 8-31-12., 2:08 am
  7. What atmospheric shots…I love the way you sweep us through the buildings history, changing our mood and feel for the place as we go….now that its a movie set it feels a lot less intimidating somehow :-)

    Like

    Posted by greenmackenzie | 8-31-12., 5:11 am
  8. Wow! It looks like you pretty much risked great injury to bring these wonderful photo’s. It’s a great story and sort of makes me sad in a way. For me it conjures up all kinds of stories of what it must have been like in it’s glory days. I do hope that it will find respectable life by someone who has the talent and vision to care for it’s past and make it’s future bright.

    Like

    Posted by Mountain Gypsy | 8-31-12., 5:28 am
  9. Reblogged this on IND Bureau and commented:
    How awesome would this be as the setting for a game? So atmospheric, these photographs are fantastic!

    Like

    Posted by NoSomebody | 8-31-12., 6:27 am
  10. This is amazing stuff. I live on the Hudson north of Yonkers and have passed that station on the train thousands of times, always wondering about it and in awe of the beauty of its design. Not sure if you ever saw the inside of the abandoned train station in Buffalo. It has a similar spooky grandeur; I photographed it many years ago.

    Thanks for satisfying my curiosity!

    Like

    Posted by broadsideblog | 8-31-12., 7:15 am
  11. Reblogged this on I talk to the trees.

    Like

    Posted by Morgoth | 8-31-12., 7:41 am
  12. Reblogged this on drndark and commented:
    Gates Of Hell

    Like

    Posted by drndark | 8-31-12., 9:31 am
  13. Great post! Sad to see that after less than 100 years of use it’s been reduced to that.

    Like

    Posted by CJ Vali | 8-31-12., 11:26 am
  14. I grew up in Yonkers. It’s a shame to see beautiful old buildings wither and die. It was part of the history of
    the changing times, when NYC people used to travel “so far” to Yonkers to “the country” for vacation.
    The building could have been made into a museum and educated many people.
    Thank you for sharing the pictures.

    Like

    Posted by splitseconddreams | 8-31-12., 11:37 am
  15. “Round the decay
    Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

    Like

    Posted by fireandair | 8-31-12., 12:13 pm
  16. A powerful metaphor for the old and unkempt…

    Like

    Posted by The Meandering Matriarch | 8-31-12., 8:41 pm
  17. Your photos have much impact, a wonderful tribute to a grand building. I too wondered, “my gosh, how much danger did this person put him or herself in while documenting this building?” but the end result is powerful.

    Like

    Posted by milkhousestudio | 8-31-12., 8:58 pm
  18. Reblogged this on gottopickapocketortwo and commented:
    Great photos and article about the abandoned Yonkers Power Station

    Like

    Posted by sil86as2 | 8-31-12., 9:36 pm
  19. Something about these photos reminds me of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

    Like

    Posted by panthera2 | 8-31-12., 10:58 pm
  20. Great post! Your photos are fantastic.

    Like

    Posted by davewakefield | 9-3-12., 3:38 am
  21. Reblogged this on Kaléidoscope.

    Like

    Posted by melodypiu | 9-3-12., 6:51 am
  22. Thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. Your words and photos take me to where you have been – like I am there. “The corrosion is almost audible.” I could see it, smell it hear it and practically taste it – just with your words.

    Like

    Posted by Gisela Perez | 9-4-12., 11:15 pm
  23. Is it still standing? I went on-line to plan the trip via metro-north and when I brought the directions down to visual, I was unable to locate it in the photo presented. Am I looking in the wrong place?

    Like

    Posted by Zoe | 3-5-13., 4:50 pm
    • It’s right by the Glenwood Metro north station, just yards from the platform. But the remediation work is well underway so it already looks different. The outside is basically the same, but all the vines and whatnot have been cleared and a lot of the interior has already been gutted. Still a striking old building, though. And FWIW, I’ve lived right across the tracks from it for 15 years and all that “gate of hell” crap is just that. Oh I’m sure the odd kid showed up to smoke a little weed now and then, but in all that time I mostly saw stray cats and the occasional photographer.

      Like

      Posted by Amy | 3-5-13., 9:43 pm
  24. I’ve lived next to it my entire life (25 years) we’ve called it “The Gates Of Hell” for as long as I can remember (early 90’s). Going inside is a rite of passage growing up in the neighborhood. A friend of mine fell through a hole…almost drowned…went into a coma.

    Like

    Posted by Chance Burny Madoff | 7-5-13., 12:48 am
  25. I have been going in there for about 15 years and have been calling it the gates of hell just as long, i dont know where all that came from with politicians but whatever. i was in there a month ago and the inside is completely gutted the beautiful center room is just an empty shell now, all sides have been ripped out, what little floor in the middle is gone. It truly is sad to see what they are doing to it, it was such a big part of my teen years and it basically was my foot in the door in urban exploration. such a beauty so sad to see it go

    Like

    Posted by tom | 7-5-13., 10:47 am
  26. The author didn’t mention the enormous amount of asbestos insulation hanging in sheets and wads off those pipes. Good luck getting rid of that on any kind of a budget and good luck with stabilising the building in general on any kind of a budget. That building will take hundreds of millions of dollars to bring up to any kind of modern standards of safety and useability. And I would like to see the bicycle that “bicycle wheel” came from!

    Like

    Posted by Paxrail | 7-30-13., 1:18 am
  27. Got in there two summers ago; pretty fuckin’ incredible. Drew some stuff, walked around, and then got caught. So worth it

    Like

    Posted by cat | 11-9-13., 10:51 pm
  28. whats the address of this amzing place?

    Like

    Posted by R | 4-26-14., 9:47 am
  29. Reblogged this on Invisible Circus and commented:
    Just in case you wanted to know what was going on in the biggest city in the world…behold my new obsession.

    Like

    Posted by theeinvisiblecircus | 6-23-14., 7:07 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Knocking at the “Gates of Hell” « My Favorite Spaces - 9-1-12.

  2. Pingback: In Yonkers, a Shuttered Jail Becomes Part of a Budding Art Scene | At Home in Yonkers, NY - 4-17-14.

  3. Pingback: Photos: Step Inside The Beautifully Decaying Glenwood Power Plant | Homediy Pro - 6-18-14.

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