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Colonial_John 19-10-2011 12:18

American Viscose, Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, USA
Until I'd had a chance to come over to the UK and shoot, I didn't want to post any of my American explores, but here's one of my favorite.

American Viscose was formed in 1910 by Samuel Salvage, a UK emigre. It was done under license from Cortaulds -- a well known name in the UK with regard to textiles with several centuries of history.

Viscose is in fact the name first given to a man-made (but not synthetic) fiber which we now call Rayon. The process was deadly dangerous at times as carbon disulphide (CS2) was used to separate the cellulose and lignin in wood chips. The process basically tries to end up with something like silk, which is what the viscose fiber was also known as: "artificial silk".

Problems with the ventilation of the plant led to the design of a new ventilation system by an engineer at Harvard University in the 1920's.

Strong acids, bases, and a toxic effluent from the process resulted in widespread contamination on the site leading it to be designated a "Superfund Site" which is the US term for a site which needs cleaning up but the original owners or current owners have not the ability to remediate. In this case, the government steps in. Today, the gigantic underground chemical storage tanks have been drained and filled, and it's not such a dangerous place as it once was.

More history: prior to the entry of the US to WW II, the "Lend-Lease Act" permitted the US to supply war materials to the UK under a legal cover. As part of a quid-pro-quo arrangement, various British holdings in the US were handed over in exchange. American Viscose was one of these holdings and so it became American owned from that point on.

Changing its name to Avisco later, it thrived for awhile and moved into the making of cellophane as well because the precursor product (cellulose) is the same. However, by the late 1950's all was not well and a company called FMC stepped in to try to buy them. However, FMC also made a lot of cellophane, and the anti-trust laws in the US prevented the merger until 1963.

By this time, synthetic polymers based on petroleum chemistry were taking over. Shrinking markets led FMC to divest to another company called Avtex which also couldn't make a go of it, and the American Viscose site was closed in 1977.

Highlights of the site include the original office complex which has wonderful architecture (still standing), the original research building (still standing) and the wood pulp processing buildings (just torn down in August of 2011). Most of the newer post-war portions of the site have been rented out to other buinesses and have been so changed they are of little interest.

The research lab at one time had 5 complete textile mills in small scale. This allowed them to develop how to use their fiber in existing woolen and cotton mills and so forth. Still there is a warping swift and hosiery making machines form the early 20th century -- but of a design going back to the 19th.

I have visited this site many, many times and my full set of pics is on flickr here: American Viscose Photos

Here's a few samples of my favorite pics I've taken there. I won't commentate them here, but I usuallly have a little context in the comments on the photos on flickr if you see one you're particularly curious about.

I'd be happy to show any of you the place should you find yourself in my area sometime.
American Viscose: Facade and Entrance by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
There's No Pressure (new edit) by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
Naughty Bunny Time Out 1 by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
American Viscose: The Castle Hall by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
Central Elevator Tower: Downstream by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 Test: Four Old Hosers by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
The Persistence of Memory: Machinery of Desire by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
The Big Sprockets by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
Life Amid the Ruins: Eastwood's Warping Swift by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
Whistling in the Dark by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
American Viscose: North Cupola by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
Pump Room Cart by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
Past Time to Clock Out by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr

That's enough of that, lol. I have way, way too many of these. It's close to where I work and "lunch hour" trips are actually possible and been done.

andym 19-10-2011 18:19

Interesting place, amazing that it closed as far back as 1977 and has just been left to rot.

The-Village-Idiot 20-10-2011 12:15

Fantastic, some very nice shots. This place would have been wrecked if it was in the UK.

keeweeman 20-10-2011 12:37

some stunning shots, agreed with village idiot that if it was over here then it would be ruined now

two-b 26-10-2011 20:06

Really great shots, and a massive rabbit. Which is always a bonus.

Lazlo 03-11-2011 20:45

Wow nice! More! Lets seee more :D

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