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the bank that time forgot!

The SkyBank building in downtown Youngstown, one of the oldest buildings in the city, was constructed in 1909 and has barely been touched since. I recently had the opportunity to work at this bank, and explore the vast secrets its labyrinthine layout holds. After many adventures, I escaped with my life, and hereby present my findings. A word, first:

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The bank's exterior. Looks innocent enough.

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I call this "the gateway to hell." Please note that it's about 20 feet from where I worked, and illuminated with only the flash of my camera. This particular room is about 50 degrees hotter than the surrounding rooms of the basement. It gets progressively hotter as you travel through the corridor, so I wasn't able to make it much further than the bottom of the steps. Let's dial things back a bit.

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Most of the gigantic basement rooms are full of old, decaying machinery. These look like air conditioners of some type.

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The only sign asking you to stay out of a room. These should have been posted on 90% of the bank's doors.

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A little abandoned side office featuring George Washington, our first cartoon president. Not pictured: calendar bravely displaying the month of February 2005.

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Round the corner and go down the steps to see the gateway to hell.

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A basement bank office filled with nothing but garbage.

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At one point in time this machine did something. Like strip the meat off of wailing babies?

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If this was a Disney movie they would come to live and sing profitable songs when no one was looking :(

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I think you use this to play Pong with mole men.

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Now we explore the upstairs. Look at that classic old-timey font!

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Every 20 feet on the staircase, there's a little small door cut into the wall like this, and a big one large enough to crawl through (and plummet to your death). There's nothing but pipes inside, and pictures of pipes are boring, so let's move on.

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12th floor, completely gutted out. Like all the other floors on the building, it's completely uninhabited and all of the doors are locked. So it's a lot like Silent Hill, except with easier puzzles. I want to remind everyone again that this is not an abandoned building. I worked here.

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We're on our way to the secret 13th floor, and the coolest room in the building. Sorry I made you wait so long. BTW, this door goes out to the roof.

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Welcome to the room that time forgot. This is the most run-down room of SkyBank, and also the coolest. Judging by its interior, this room look like it was once the plush office of some evil plutocrat. If you're looking at the building from the outside, this room is right behind the SkyBank sign.

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I am going to linger on this room for a while. Nice hardwood floors.

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A boarded-up window, not an uncommon sight in Youngstown.

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Note the little bathroom that was built into this alcove (which has 4 feet of clearance). What is the point of this? I thought it was creepy.

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Doctor stuff from the 40s. I have polio now.

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Giant doors that I assume opened to the roof at one point. I guess this was in case of any sudden stock market crashes; you could escape in your hot air balloon or kill yourself.

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There was a hole here. It's gone now.

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Bye-bye scary room :(

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Mr. Zip, a shameless ripoff of Manic Mailman. The building has a mail tube like this running through every floor, which collects in a fancy box in the lobby. The tube and box are out of service.

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The entrance to every ladies' room has a strange step-up for some reason. Maybe it's so us fellas can scope out those shapely ankles?

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Fire safety instructions posted six months after my birth.

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My last picture. This room is in the middle of the bank, and is completely locked-off. It's a huge, catherdral-esque room with garbage stacked high and metal tubes running this way and that. What the heck was this room used for?

I hope you enjoyed my incriminating experience.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 12th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)
Holy cow! I'm glad I have one of those distant, impersonal, (albeit non-toxic) online banks.

Glad you made it out without being captured by some sort of time warp. :)
Mar. 12th, 2007 02:39 am (UTC)
i almost got thru this without a simpsons ref, but whew! one came right at the end!!!!

bill and karen and bury and me had fun lookeying at these
Mar. 12th, 2007 12:34 pm (UTC)
wow, that's desolate. don't let my bf in there because he'd try to carry off some of the electronics. it's sad but the basement in our house is starting to look like that, i guess he's working on some evil experiment.

oh yeah, what exactly did you do at that bank anyhow?
Mar. 12th, 2007 11:29 pm (UTC)
um don't come near me until you've been decontaminated from the molds and 100 yr old diseases
Mar. 13th, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)
i was sick for three consecutive weeks with three different diseases when i worked there.
Mar. 13th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
Worker's Comp!

I loved this entry. My dad used to work in that big brown building across from the Vindicator -- it's now a parking lot -- and I feel like most of my youth was spent exploring stuff like this.

Which makes me think I should go get a check-up soon...
Apr. 26th, 2007 07:44 am (UTC)
I love modern photographs of run down old shit. *adds to memories*
Apr. 26th, 2007 09:27 am (UTC)
"These look like air conditioners of some type."
Those are great for computer cooling since they allow passive cooling that still stabilizes the water temp just above ambient room temp.
I have one 70x70cm
Apr. 26th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
I just read your article on SA and I have two things to say:

1) damn it was funny
2) this post of pics of the old-timey, rotting building is AMAZING. Almost enough to make me want to visit Ohio. Almost.
Apr. 26th, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
Hey! We used to have the baby-meat stripping machine!

Or one like it. It is a 'burster' (not sure what the
official name was). It was used for breaking apart forms
after they were printed on continous feed line printers.
They were about as loud as you would expect out of a machine
that could take tender young flesh apart...

Thanks for the great SA article today, and what a Worker's Wonderland
you've found.

Apr. 27th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)
Dude, this is about half of how I spent my youth.
My parents used to be involved with St. Paul's Lutheran in St. Paul, so when the service was over, or at wedding receptions when I'd had my fill of cake and after-dinner mints, I would take off into the bowels of the church and explore. It's a pretty hugish place, and not in the Rob Schueller Crystal Cathedral way. More like the Cretan Labyrinth way. Obscure little rooms in distant corners of the basement, forgotten to everyone but the janitor, secret passages through which wiring had been threaded stuff like that. So I grew up with an appreciation for obscure, Lovecraftian old buildings, run-down or otherwise (labyrinthine though it may be, St. Paul's is actually kept pretty spic-and-span.) So I'm reading SA's latest job-humor entry (I love these,) and lo and behold, it contains a photojournal on one of my more obscure interests! Very nice job.

About a few things:
The raised step into the bathroom is there because the floor had to be raised to accomodate ultra-modern plumbing (read: any plumbing at all.) The church my dad's family had their reunions at, Nakoma Heights Lutheran (my dad's family has been Lutheran pretty much since Luther,) had the same thing in its bathrooms, and since the reunions were only once a year, I would always, always trip over the little three-inch step since I never remembered it was there.

The last room you mentioned, with the pipes and crap, was likely the furnace room back when furnaces were giant steel octopus monstrosities. I'd guess that the furnace was either down in the center area or up in the alcove behind it. The whole thing has a wonderful evil-cult look to it, something I can only imagine was even stronger back when the tentacular, coal-fired furnace was dominating the room. Hey, is that a microfiche reader I espy?

I'm trying to figure out what sort of computer equipment that is next to the baby-processor.

I'd love to see some pictures from inside the Gateway To Hell.

Awesome job all around!
Apr. 27th, 2007 04:39 am (UTC)
VERY cool building, and a funny front-page article!
That last room, I assume, is on the second or third floor. I'm guessing that the lobby was originally 3 or so stories high, and they hung a false ceiling to save energy and install forced-air heat. You can see the wires used to support the drop-ceiling, and there are fairly modern ducts running everywhere.

Old buildings are extremely cool, but very energy-inefficient. Sad, but true.

Anyway, thanks for the update and the UrbExp pix!

Apr. 27th, 2007 02:25 am (UTC)
A Proposition...
I'll give you $100 if you'll steal that "Newsboys, Peddlers, & Solicitors" sign for me.
Apr. 27th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
God, that's cool. I'd love hunting around that building. Probably wind up stealing old junk left and right... Typewriters, vacuum tubes, punch cards, god-knows-what.

Closest thing I ever had to that was some volunteering at the local historical society. They have an interesting amount of old documents, photos & shit.

Did I mention that I sometimes get my kicks taking pics of old signs and buildings? Sad, isn't it...

Thanks for writing a funny article, documenting the building and sharing the pics. :)

Apr. 27th, 2007 07:04 am (UTC)
Re: Wow...
Man, that is just surreal.
Apr. 30th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
Great Photos!
Twenty years ago, My friends and I made a whole series of super-8 Kung-fu Movies in this building.

I can tell you, In twenty years, It hasn't changed at all. Maybe it was Built old and decepit. I imagine some twenties style workman in porkpie hat and overalls complaining that the paint won't stick to the walls in THIS humidity....

There's Lots of sites like this in Youngstown that just could be so much more than what they are now...

May. 8th, 2007 07:33 am (UTC)
Hey, read your feature on SA. Really enjoyed it.

Now I wanna move to the northern Midwest. California sucks as far as urban decay goes. SO goddamned jealous.

Also: you need to co-opt one of the rooms as your secret babe lair/fortress of solitude. The big one with all the metal tubes.
May. 10th, 2007 03:09 am (UTC)
thanks to everybody for the recent comments!
Dec. 18th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
SO I know this is way old but I want to say a few things. I came across this from another article I read that you wrote about your Grad school entrance experience. I went to YSU and enjoyed your writing. It;s the only reason I'd pick up the Jambar. Now that the ass kissing is over, I actually frequent this building. My father has worked in this building since the 60s. He's seen it through MNB, Sky, and now Huntington. That room in the last pic is actually a warehouse type thing with shelves of more old shit. I have actually been in almost all the place you took pics of (including the Dungeon!) I wouldn't be suprised if I actually ran into you while you were working there and didn;t even know it. Granted I have no idea what you look like but and considering almost everyone down in the basement has a look of boredom on their faces.

[Never been a good writer. :)]
Dec. 18th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
thanks for the info about the building; i'm glad i made it out of there alive. and, at the risk of sounding like a self-promoting jackass (too late), you can keep up with my writing by following the main page of this blog. i pretty much use it as a hub to point people to all of my freelancing.
Dec. 19th, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
No worries. You should promote yourself! Now that I've found this page I have it bookmarked and plan on following on my down time here at work. Keep it up.

Dec. 20th, 2008 12:45 am (UTC)
I am still in this building on a daily basis. The last picture is actually part of a second building that was a church prior to the bank taking it over. The duct work is part of the ventilation system for the offices on the first floor. If you look closely at either side of the large center opening you will see the pipes for the old pipe organ.

Not to be nit picky but the floor that you have labeled as the 12th is actually the 13th. The 11th and 12th floors currently are occupied by a law firm.
Dec. 20th, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
wow, it looked churchy to me, but i had no idea it was actually once a church. then again, that part of the building did seem a lot different than the rest.
Jun. 23rd, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
"There was a hole here. It's gone now."

I wonder how many people got this reference? At any point while you were exploring this place did your perspective change to the third person? By third person I of course mean a view in which you can watch your left ear and possibly part of your shoulder, but nothing actually, you know, in front of you.
Sep. 27th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
I am sure it was an innocent bank and it didn't just look innocent since this bank was built at the beginning of the banking systems that we know today. I would really take a look inside those files, I am sure I would find lots of interesting information money lending at the time. Banking was different a century ago...
Kalie, finance NYC
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )