Strangely Isolated from its central village location and untouched for more than 30 years – this place has the eerie kind of remoteness where every noise heard inside its cavernous and dark interior is startling, and the thought of this once being an active business with a vibrant human presence borders on the absurd.
What was once a prosperous creamery seemed to have suffered the same inevitable fate as other Vermont creameries. Fluctuating milk prices and the high costs of expenses were much higher than the final paychecks distributed to local dairy farmers, and the eventual pressure from larger industrial creameries made smaller operations like this one obsolete. And as gravity came, the good times couldn’t be reinvented. Built in the early 1900s, this rural creamery operated for most of the century, shipping it’s milk and dairy products locally and beyond to exotic destinations like Boston and New York City. In the last years of it’s life, it became a cheese factory, before finally shutting down in 1999 after a landslide of problems the business couldn’t circumnavigate.
Because of the thick forests that obstruct it from view, it was only when I walked right underneath its shadow that I got a good impression of the place. A sizable melding of wood and brick that eventually raises to 4 stories, the complex is made up of rambling additions that marked periods of the creamery’s success, now a chaotic collection of decaying ruins surrounded by young forests and actively farmed fields. From the outside, the warping geometry of the wooden structure is showing signs of neglect and pride that has long vanished into the smoke – the building slowly burying its storied legacy.
Inside, once you are enveloped by cold and filthy shadows, no order prevails. As you walk around, you begin to adapt to your surroundings as you notice the uncomfortable stillness that creeps over your skin. Your boots crunch over plaster dust and broken glass and lead paint rains from the ceilings. You experience feelings of vertigo as you maneuver your way around collapsing ceilings that are masqueraded by the dark. The floors are littered with debris and dirt. Wooden tables sit underneath years of dust which obscure the artifacts left behind. Fading signs that comically demand you partake in sanitation efforts still hang on warped vinyl walls, an almost laughable concept amongst the utter filth that hangs around you. Certain hallways were plagued so badly by water damage that my boots sank into the tiles like a sponge as I passed. It’s easy to lose yourself in the dark and desolation, but someone else has been here. Graffiti can be seen on dingy white walls where offices once resided. As you take a moment to take it all in, the wind blows a lose piece of rusted mangled tin – the sound echoes throughout the building as you immediately tense up. And on this lovely Autumn day as the Green Mountains blazed outside broken windows, an odd sense of tranquility permeated through the hallways.
This decrepit place is apparently well known to local kids who are revved up everything and wild like hurricanes. It makes sense. Small town kids love the mystic of places like this, just as I did. Although, my visits were one of reverence, and these kids seem to erroneously view the old creamery as a “law free zone”. According to a police officer who saw me go in with my camera and pulled me out a gun point, the powers that be have to enter the sketchy property far more than they’d like too. The reasons range from those aforementioned kids stashing stolen property there, drug labs and drug usage, and activities that range on the more destructive, such as arson attempts or scrapping. Because the property is designated as a brownfields location because of heavy contaminants as asbestos, lead paint and heavy metals, little can be done with the otherwise prime piece of real estate without lots of money for state approved clean up and permitting, and so far, no developers are interested enough in investing.
Sort of like how the abandoned creamery in my hometown was a local rite of passage for kids, the creamery in this burg is of the same culture. A friend and frequent exploring companion used to work at a restaurant nearby, and one night as he was offhandedly conversing with their teenage dishwasher, the youth told him animatedly “Oh, yeah, I know the old creamery! I fell through the floor there a few weeks ago!” Good times, I’m sure.
A historic postcard view, circa 1938
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