Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Unfortunate Monuments

I live a couple blocks away from the building above. It's probably recognizable to anyone who lives nearby -- it dominates the neighborhood, the only structure over three stories tall. A brick building with a flamboyant top story that doesn't seem to fit. But it's a dead zone, a haunted house in a vibrant neighborhood. It's still in use, but it's separate from what's around it. There's no interaction.

I know a few basic facts about the place -- it was built as the Briarcliff Hotel in the 1930s, and almost immediately began declining. (Whoops: 1920s. Creative Loafing ran an article about it a few months back -- I'll just defer to them for the history, here.)

It's in an area of thriving activity, but walking by, it's ominous and unfriendly. A glimpse through a door as I walked by the other night revealed a fluorescent-lit hallway, littered and blocked by overturned tables and chairs, a flickering Coke machine, no signs of life.

The building also provided the scene for one of those little vignettes that leave you wishing for the full story. A couple years back, a friend and I were sitting at the window table at the Righteous Room, across the street. Suddenly, papers and possessions started raining down from one of the upper-story windows. As this was going on, a fellow strolled up to the building, casual, relaxed, and idly looked up at the source of the plummeting material -- then jumped like he'd been shocked. He sprinted inside, presumably upstairs, and within minutes the flow stopped, except for a couple lagging documents, floating lazily to the ground.

No comments: