Beachgoers basked in the sunlight on Pavilion Beach Wednesday.
Just a few feet behind, however, lies an anthropologist’s dream.
Once an economic powerhouse, the former Birds Eye plant can be considered the birthplace of modern frozen-food techniques. In the months and years to come, its site will house the city’s new Beauport Gloucester hotel.
But now, as the building itself awaits demolition, it is a cavernous network of dark hallways, as pipes and wires crawl along the ceiling like ivy up an old building, some stretching toward the concrete floor below.
Light occasionally stabs through boarded-up windows or sneaks through doors to reveal machinery, warning signs and relics of the building’s heyday from the 1920s to the 1940s.
Upon entering, one encounters the smells of must, mold and rusted metal. Footsteps echo off the walls, while small pieces of scrap metal and sprinkler heads twang when brushed aside, as glass and debris crunches underfoot.
Hallways lead to more hallways and vast rooms. The building houses reminders of another time in Gloucester and some remains of recent visitors. Random assortments of graffiti and poetry lie next to an array of hazard warnings and work signs.
“Report immediately ALL injuries to your foreman” one reads.
“WARNING AVOID CONTAMINATION — WASH YOUR HANDS” screams another, dating to the plant’s operational heyday.
On one boarded-up window, somebody has attached pictures of people. Could they be family members? Old co-workers? Trespassers? One appears to be a photo of Bob Dylan; most of them are upside down.
Below on the same board, somebody has inscribed, “The wind will not stop” three times. A damp phonebook from 2006 lies atop a locker shelf, above two different boots and graffiti. What must have been the boiler room is full of old switches, gauges, nozzles, valves, pipe work, old tanks and containers.