UVa Heating Plant Machinery

While making my way from the University of Virginia Medical Center to the so-called “Corner District” a few days ago, I took a short cut through a part of the UVa heating plant complex. Per info I found when I Googled “UVa Heating Plant” a few hours ago I learned the purpose of this assemblage of machinery, buildings, towers and mysterious structures is to provide steam and hot water for the medical complex. The most imposing part of this heating facility is the row of enormous concrete coal storage silos clearly visible from “The Corner” and the east end of UVa Campus.

In my blog yesterday I commented that I had no idea whether these impressive structures actually emitted any pollution.  Now that I’ve done some homework I know the structures themselves—the big concrete silos—don’t. They’re there to store coal. I was associating them with the towering smoke stacks of the era of American plant and factory manufacture which was in full swing when I was a kid growing up in Upstate New York in the late forties, fifties and very early ‘60s. In fact near the UAa  silos and other towering structures there is a big brick stack that looks almost exactly like the one I could see from my bedroom window as a kid.  I’ve never seen however, any smoke coming from it and I’ve driven by it hundreds of times over the years I’ve lived in this area.

The stuff in today’s image is I suspect, part of the fuel preparation and movement aspect of the operation but I really haven’t the slightest idea what these structures and apparatus actually do—I just like the dark sense of industrial mystery they seem to exude.

While wandering through this plant area I encountered an employee who demanded to know, “Who are you?”

I get this from time to time when I’m snooping around some area without any official clearance.  I’ve never gotten into trouble because I never go into areas that are posted in any way. I figure if it’s easily accessible to the public and there are no “No Trespassing,” Posted,” or “Keep out” signs I’m probably OK and if I’m asked to leave—I leave.

I usually respond to “Who are you?” or “What’re you doing?” with a light-hearted  “Oh—I’m just an old guy who likes to take pictures of old things,” or “I’m a professional photographer but today I’m just out enjoying myself—shooting for myself—taking pictures of this amazing (or beautiful, impressive, cool etc.) stuff.” Then I usually whip out a business card and tell the person I “also shoot kid’s birthday parties, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, re-unions and so on and maybe you could keep me in mind if you need a good photographer—here take a few of my cards.”

 They usually can’t wait to get away from me.


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