FDR’s White House Swimming Pool Hides Beneath Press Briefing Room


The old White House swimming pool pictured in 1962, now the Press Briefing Room.


(Image: JFK Presidential Library. The old White House swimming pool, 1962)

Watching the White House Press Secretary stand at a podium while fielding questions from journalists is a daily occurrence on our TV screens. But did you know that beneath the fake floor of the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room lay a disused 50-foot-long swimming pool, where presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy enjoyed a daily dip throughout their administrations?


President Barack Obama confronts college reporters in the White House Press Briefing Room.


(Image: Pete Souza. The White House Press Briefing Room today)

The White House swimming pool was installed in 1933, thanks to a New York Daily News fundraising campaign in aid of President Roosevelt, a New Yorker who suffered from debilitating polio. FDR regularly swam in therapy pools around his native city, enjoying the exercise that swimming afforded him. The pool was built into the old laundry rooms in the west gallery between the White House and the West Wing.


The White House swimming pool was built for wheelchair-confined FDR but became the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room during President Nixon's administration.


(Image: JFK Presidential Library)

Under the heading “From Swimming Pool to Press Pool”, The White House Museum writes: “Arched ceilings and high rows of half-mooned windows surrounded the rectangular pool. French doors opened into the Rose Garden. The president’s pool was a modern-day showcase of technology, featuring underwater lighting, sterilizers and the latest gadgets. For several years, he used it multiple times a day. Harry Truman swam in it frequently”with his glasses on.”


Socks the cat at the podium in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.


(Image: US National Archives. Socks the cat at the podium)

When JFK took office, the White House swimming pool was decorated with a huge mural by Bernard Lamotte of a Caribbean scene featuring a calm sea and sailboats. By the time Lyndon Johnson was in office, the walls were hung with bathing suits of all sizes so that any guest who fancied a swim could dive in.








(Images: Julie Mason. The tiled swimming pool still exists beneath the trap door)

Forty years after it was built, President Richard Nixon – who preferred bowling to swimming – decided to convert the old White House swimming pool into an auditorium, to accommodate advancing technology and the increasing demand for television news. Atlas Obscura writes that “up until this point there was no space officially designed for press briefings; interviews used to occur throughout the hallways and working offices of the White House.”


Still in use: the now-hidden White House swimming pool in 1948


(Image: Truman Library. the hidden swimming pool in 1948)

As a result, Nixon drained the pool and had a floor installed over the top, though a hatch near the podium allowed access to this hidden relic of White House history. The abandoned swimming pool still very much exists, and has proved a popular offbeat attraction on tours of the building. Nowadays, a small staircase has replaced the hatch.


Bernard Lamotte paints a mural on the walls of the old White House swimming pool, 1962


(Image: Kennedy Library. Bernard Lamotte and his mural, 1962)

Those lucky enough to venture down will find the old White House swimming pool full of computer servers and other communications equipment. Atlas Obscura even reports that, “after decades, it still smells like chlorine.”

Read Next: 12 Abandoned Lidos & Paddling Pools of the UK

Gated Tunnel Portal Echoes Hidden History of Waverley Station


Opposite Platform 19 at Edinburgh Waverley railway station is a discrete, gated portal leading to the long abandoned Scotland Street tunnel.


(Image: Kim Traynor. Gated entrance to the disused Scotland Street Tunnel)

Opposite Platform 19 at Edinburgh Waverley railway station, a gated portal leads to a tunnel that disappears into the gloom beneath Princes Mall. A sign above the discrete entrance reads: “Site of the original Edinburgh – Leith – Newhaven Railway.” This may not come as a surprise to railway enthusiasts or Edinburgh natives interested in local history. But for many of the tens of thousands of passengers using Waverley each day, the historic portal remains hidden in plain sight.

This piece of hidden history tells the story of an older railway terminus called Canal Street, which opened in 1847 on the site of the modern-day Princess (now Waverley) Mall. Built by the Edinburgh, Leith and Newhaven Railway, Canal Street station was connected to nearby Canonmills by the 1000-yard-long Scotland Street Tunnel, a now-abandoned wonder of Victorian engineering that once routed trains beneath the city’s Georgian New Town and onward to Granton harbour. From there, ferries carried passengers across the Firth of Forth to Fife. It’s to this long-disused tunnel that the Platform 19 portal leads.


Edinburgh's Canal Street railway station.


(Image: Ebsworth via Subbrit. Edinburgh’s Canal Street station)

The tunnel, which was driven deep beneath Scotland Street, Dublin Street and St Andrew Square, was an ambitious and controversial project that suffered financial setbacks and opposition from residents who didn’t want a gas lit railway tunnel beneath their homes. Its steep 1-in-27 gradient also meant that trains had to be cable-hauled from Canal Street to Canonmills, where they were coupled to a locomotive for the journey to Granton via Trinity.


The abandoned Scotland Street Tunnel in Edinburgh


Wartime relics built by the LNER inside Edinburgh's disused Scotland Street Tunnel.


(Images: Martin Briscoe “ website)

Changing hands several time over the decades, the line was absorbed into the North British Railway in 1862. When the latter built a new line to Abbeyhill and Trinity, trains could be re-routed into Waverley and avoid the cable-haul tunnel, which was soon closed to passengers. In 1923, when the North British became part of the mighty London & North Eastern Railway (LNER), the end of passenger services between Edinburgh and Granton Harbour loomed on the horizon. They were withdrawn completely two years later.





(Image: Martin Briscoe “ website. Echoes of World War Two in the Scotland Street Tunnel)

The LNER, meanwhile, had other plans for the abandoned Scotland Street Tunnel. Subterranea Britannica writes that: “During WW2 the tunnel was used as an air raid shelter serving parts of central Edinburgh. The LNER also used the tunnel as its wartime emergency headquarters, building a series of brick and wooden buildings in the northern end. Because of the natural protection afforded by the tunnel it was eminently suitable to house a protected control centre comprising a traffic office with centralized traffic control.”


Access to the abandoned Waverley portal of the Edinburgh, Leith and Newhaven Railway, opposite the modern-day Platform 19.


(Image: Martin Briscoe “ website. Access to the forgotten Waverley portal)

These derelict wartime relics are still extant deep within the disused railway tunnel, which has also been used over the years as an underground mushroom farm and a storage facility for vehicles.

Read Next: 10 Abandoned Places in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Fossil Grove: An Ancient Petrified Forest in the Heart of Glasgow


Fossil Grove: petrified trees denote the remnants of an ancient forest in Glasgow, Scotland.


(Image: Elliott Simpson. The Fossil Grove in Glasgow’s Victoria Park)

Situated within the boundaries of Victoria Park in Glasgow, Scotland, is an ancient oddity that was uncovered during the late 19th century. The Fossil Grove was discovered in 1887 amid layers of sandstone and shale at an old quarry inside the Victorian park. The find, which includes the petrified stumps of 11 extinct Lepidodendron trees, marks the remnants of an ancient forest dating back 325 million years. A museum building has been constructed around the Fossil Grove to act as a viewing area and protect the ancient relics from the often-inclement Glasgow weather.


The Fossil Grove in Glasgow


(Image: Thomas Nugent)

Lepidodendron, also known as scale tree, is an extinct relative of club mosses. Fossilised Lepidodendron trees are said to have a regular feature of 19th century fairgrounds, exhibited by enthusiastic amateurs due to their reptilian appearance. (An artist’s impression of the ancient tree is shown below.) Today, the ancient petrified forest within Fossil Grove is a site of special scientific interest and a popular tourist attraction in Scotland’s largest city.


Ancient Lepidodendron


(Image: Tim Bertelink)

Read Next: The Abandoned Glasgow Harbour Tunnel & its Historic Rotundas

Rare F-111B Interceptor Hulk Dumped in a Mojave Scrapyard


The abandoned hulk of F-111B 152714 awaiting her fate at Mojave Airport in California


(Image: David Skeggs. The stripped hulk of F-111B 152714 at Mojave Airport in 2008)

At first glance it looks like the bare, stripped-out hulk of a General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark, the supersonic medium-range bomber that served the United States Air Force between 1967 and the late ’90s. And in many ways, it is; but this is an Aardvark with a difference, betrayed most noticeably by its shorter nose designed to allow it to fit on aircraft carrier deck lifts. The forlorn fuselage is actually the remains of an F-111B, the short-lived US Navy variant developed during the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) programme.

The General Dynamics/Grumman F-111B was developed in tandem with its Air Force counterpart, the F-111A, to create a common fighter aircraft. The Navy requirement that the platform be able to carry the large AWG-9 radar and AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, and outmanoeuvre an F-4 Phantom, necessitated a big, heavy airframe. (The USAF F-111A would later be adopted as a strike jet).


F-111B prototype 151974


(Image: USN. F-111B prototype 151974 landing on the USS Coral Sea)

General Dynamics had little experience of developing naval aircraft, and teamed up with Grumman, which specialised in carrier-based fighters. But development of the F-111B was plagued by excessive weight and an engine that didn’t produce enough thrust. As such, the aircraft was under-powered. In May 1968, Congress voted not to fund production, and the big interceptor was cancelled two months later.

Realising the end was near, Grumman began studying alternatives. The company settled on its Model 303 design, which took the engines, swing-wing configuration, AWG-9 radar and Phoenix missiles from the F-111B. Grumman repackaged these into a smaller, lighter interceptor. Of course, everything is relative; the Model 303 would become the iconic F-14 Tomcat, the heaviest US fighter ever to operate from the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Seven General Dynamics/Grumman F-111B airframes had been built and flown between 1965 and the 1969. The first five (numbered 151970 to 151974) were prototypes fitted with TF30-P-3 engines. No. 4 and No. 5 also had a lightened airframe in a bid to save weight. The last two (serial numbers 152714 (pictured top) and 152715) also had lightened structures and were powered by the improved TF30-P-12 engines. The first three prototypes were fitted with ejection seats, while the remainder sported crew escape capsules common to production F-111s.


F-111B 152715 stored in a boneyard at NAWS China Lake


(Image: Google Earth. F-111B 152715 stored at NAWS China Lake)

All five prototypes were either destroyed during testing or scrapped soon after. Only the pre-production airframes lingered on as the decades passed. F-111B 152714 remained in use for Hughes missile trials for a year after the programme ended. She last flew in 1969 and was stripped for parts in 1971. The empty hulk was spotted in a scrapyard near Mojave Airport, California, on October 8, 2008 (top). She may now have been scrapped.

That leaves only the final F-111B, 152715, which has long languished in storage in a small boneyard at NAWS China Lake (here). Though the B-model’s tenure was short-lived, the F-111A evolved into a formidable strike aircraft and remained in USAF service until 1998. The Aardvark was also operated by the Royal Australian Air Force. When the RAAF retired its F-111s in 2010, they chose to bury them in a landfill rather than scrapping them.

10 Offbeat Tourist Destinations in Scotland


Visit the many and varied offbeat tourist destinations in Scotland


(Unusual attractions: uncover a series of offbeat tourist destinations in Scotland)

The UK™s northernmost country is nothing if not beautiful. It was among these great, grassy glens, deep, mysterious lochs, and wild highlands that some of Britain™s greatest poetry and stories were dreamed up. The capital Edinburgh is a cultural powerhouse, while its biggest city Glasgow is a gritty place of history and revelry. There is a reason Scotland is one of the most-visited countries on Earth and, trust us, it isn™t the weather.

But not all tourists are interested in the same things, and not all tourist sites are created equal. Rather than run you down the well-trodden path, we™ve collected a list of some alternative, offbeat Scottish tourist destinations that we thought would appeal to our readers; from the obscurely great to the greatly obscure.

The Italian Chapel (Orkney)


The Italian Chapel on Orkney


(Image: Interiot)

From hoax history to the real deal, the Italian Church in Orkney is a relic of one of the 20th century™s most-significant conflicts. In World War Two, a group of Italian POWs found themselves shipped to distant Orkney to work on an Allied construction project. When Italy surrendered in 1943, the POWs were given new freedoms. Was there anything they wanted? They were asked. A Catholic church, they said. To everyone™s surprise, the commander of their prison camp agreed.

Created from two Nissen huts joined together, the bare-bones church wound up becoming a hymn to Italian craftmanship. The Italian prisoners of war worked day and night to fashion an attractive front for their church, to build an altar; a font, pillars. By the time the war ended, Orkney had become home to a Catholic church as small as it was beautiful. As for the POWs themselves, they had literally only a handful of weeks to worship in their finished building, before being shipped out to return home, leaving only their memories behind, wrought in stone.

The Fairy Glen (Uig)


The Fairy Glen on Uig


(Image: Google Street View)

Every now and then, nature conspires to create a small slice of the world that seems “ for whatever reason “ unworldly. You can see this with the Wave in Arizona, or Cappadocia in Turkey. Or, you can see it with the Fairy Glen above Uig on the Isle of Skye. A gently windswept, soft, grassy land of rolling hillocks, tiny pools and indefinable magic, the Fairy Glen looks like something from A Midsummer Night™s Dream.

Interestingly, there are no known local tales of fairies that might have given this place its name. It seems someone simply looked at it one day, and said something like, œOh! That looks like someplace fairies might live. Let™s call it the Fairy Glen!” Amusing as this is to imagine, there™s no denying that the landscape is enchanting. Sat among its sleepy hills at sunrise, you™d be forgiven for thinking you were looking down on the court of Titania herself.

Paisley Witches Memorial (Renfrewshire)


The Paisley Horseshoe, also known as the Paisley Witches Memorial


(Image: Google Street View)

If you happened to glance at your feet as you walked through a specific intersection in Paisley, you might just find yourself face to face with one of Scotland™s least-known monuments. A tiny metal horseshoe in a bronze plaque surrounded by cobblestones, the memorial seems almost like an afterthought. But it marks a grim period in Scottish, and Christian, history. It was here, in 1696, that the last mass-execution for witchcraft took place in Western Europe.

The story is equally as depressing as that of the Salem witch trials. After an 11-year-old girl claimed she had been bewitched, 35 local people were put on trial using her testimony. Although only seven were convicted, they were all sentenced to death. Catherine Campbell, Agnes Naismith, Margaret Lang, Margaret Fulton, James Lindsay, and John Lindsay (this last boy aged only 11) were all garroted on this spot, while another man, John Reid, committed suicide before the execution date. Since then, the spot has been marked with a horseshoe (or several horseshoes, as the originals kept going missing); a reminder of the terrible tragedies that accompanied the last of Europe™s senseless witch panics.

The House of Automata (Findhorn)

We mean it in the nicest way possible when we say there™s something creepy about the House of Automata. Located in the village of Findhorn, it™s about as aesthetically far away from the quaint surroundings as its possible to get. Inside, blank, unseeing eyes gaze out at you from row upon row of glass cases; model dogs and grinning cats and bug-eyed children, frozen in time. Like walking slowly through a dark room filled with mannequins, passing them is highly disconcerting. And then the creatures start to move…

We™re joking about that last part, naturally. But in this tiny, appointment-only museum, it seems a terrifying possibility. A world-beating collection of classic automata (moving, mechanical toys rendered to look like humans that were hugely popular in the 19th century) decorates the walls, drawn together from all round the world. You can even drop in and buy a piece.

Ascog Hall Fernery and Gardens (Argyll & Bute)


Ascog Hall Fernery and Gardens


(Image: Michael Zehrer)

On the very edge of the dramatic, storied Firth of Clyde lives one of Scotland™s oldest, strangest life forms. Discovered in the wreckage of the ruined Victorian fernery at Ascog Hall, this giant King Fern is thought to be over one thousand years old, and reaches three meters into the air.

While the numbers are impressive, the tale of its discovery is even more so. At some point in the past, an ornate fernery was paid for, constructed from wrought iron and glass, filled with statues… and then left to rot. Collapsed, forgotten, its existence was a mystery to the owners of Ascog Hall. Even as it went wild, the glass ceiling shattered and the paths became ensnared in creepers. All other ferns died… except for this one. Now holding pride of place in the restored fernery, it continues to watch over this corner of Scotland, as it has watched over different parts of the world since the days of William the Conqueror.

Surgeons’ Hall Museums (Edinburgh)



Surgeons' Hall Museums in Edinburgh


(Image: Chris Gunns)

“A collection of body parts in jars?” We hear you ask. “What fun!” It™s true that the Surgeons™ Hall Museums’ exhibits can verge on the gruesome, if not the downright shocking. But, unless you™re exceptionally squeamish, this is still somewhere in Scotland that™s worth your time. Not least for the incredible history on display here.

For 500 years, the Royal College of Surgeons has operated in Edinburgh, often placing Scotland at the very forefront of medical advances. In that time, the institution has built up a formidable collection of medical curiosities unrivalled almost anywhere else on Earth. Then there™s the supporting documentation. One item on display is a letter by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, naming the College™s Dr. Joseph Bell as the inspiration for his greatest character: one Sherlock Holmes.

Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre (Glasgow)


The weird and wonderful Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland


(Image: Ose Pedro/website)

Regular readers will know we™re big fans of upcycling, repurposing, and just about anything that creatively deals with waste products the world no longer wants. The Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre in Glasgow might be the purest expression of this we™ve yet encountered. A whirling, clanking, twisting, hypnotic dance of carved figurines, recovered scrap and repurposed objects, all moving in demented, light-drenched mechanical harmony, the theatre is as much a visceral experience as it is an offbeat tourist destination.

Originally made in St Petersburg in the 1970s and 1980s, the collection claims its clockwork marvels are telling human stories about the relentless struggle against the cycle of life and death. That may be the case, but for most visitors, the sheer, joyous rhythm of it all is what will suck you in. It™s like stepping into an automated world directed by Nightmare Before Christmas-era Tim Burton and designed by a mad Russian hermit, with all the strangeness and surreal wonder that description implies.

John Buchan Story (Peebles)


The John Buchan Story in Peebles, Scotland


(Image: Google Street View)

Scotland has produced many fine writers over the centuries. But for pure adventure stories, shorn of the uneasy ambiguities of Robert Louis Stevenson, there is perhaps none finer than John Buchan. The author of The 39 Steps was a writer who revelled in storytelling for storytelling™s sake. His novels feature mad dashes across the Scottish countryside, villains and heroes locked in a deadly game of wits, and escapist drama by the bucket load.

Perhaps it™s no surprise, then, that in his constituency in the Scottish Borders, a small museum now recognises his contributions to British literature. Located on the narrow high street of Peebles, the John Buchan Story brings together a whole lot of ephemera, relating both to his writing and his time as Governor General of Canada. Buchan fans will be in heaven, and seeing where such an iconic novel gestated can be a reward all by itself.

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions (Edinburgh)


The Camera Obscura & World of Illusions in Edinburgh


(Image: Andy Hay)

Finally, we couldn™t leave off Edinburgh™s Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. A family establishment dedicated to bizarre optical illusions, Camera Obscura treads a fine line between weird displays to entertain the kids, and moments of dark surrealism “ like the spooky green holograms of sad clowns “ likely to discomfort even the hardiest adult.

For those less-interested in experiencing such things, the location of Camera Obscura is enough to justify the walk out there. Located on Castlehill in the Scottish capital™s bustling Old Town, visitors can approach from any number of routes, taking them deep into the beating heart of historic Edinburgh.


Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, an offbeat tourist destination in Scotland


(Image: HannahWebb)

The Blantyre Carvings (South Lanarkshire)

Not so far outside Glasgow, there exists a strange collection of ancient carvings. Known as the Blantyre Carvings, they depict images of Jesus hauling his cross; of Christ crucified; of Roman soldiers and (it is speculated) explorer David Livingstone. First discovered in the 1960s, they were announced in the local press as holdovers from an ancient world, Scottish carvings that may have been thousands of years old.

The truth is both more prosaic and more interesting than that. As you may have guessed from the mention of David Livingstone, the carvings are far from ancient. They aren™t even Victorian whimsies. They were carved in the mid-20th century by an eccentric local named Tommy Hawkins, who would work only when no-one was around, and leave in silence if anyone passed by. Why he carved his religious icons on this anonymous rock wall is a mystery. Yet his images show an artistic talent at work, one only boosted by the legend of the carver™s ancient origins.

Read Next: 10 Beautiful Remote Islands off the Coast of Scotland

The Oslo Tramway Museum (Majorstuen) in Pictures


Historic trams and trolleybuses displayed at the Oslo Tramway Museum in Norway


(All images by Bjarne Melsom/YouTube. Oslo Tramway Museum)

Last month we documented 15 abandoned Oslo Metro (T-bane) stations, from full rapid transit facilities to older light rail and tram stops. It’s sad in many ways to witness these transportation relics disused and slowly deteriorating, but in the pleasant Majorstuen neighbourhood, on the west side of Norway’s capital, their story has not been forgotten.




The Oslo Tramway Museum, which was established in 1966 by the non-profit membership organisation Lokaltrafikkhistorisk Forening (LTF), has built an impressive collection of trams, tolleybuses and other vehicles through its mission to preserve the history of the city’s T-bane, tramway and trolleybus systems.




It also operates a heritage tramway in the village of Vinterbro, to the south of Oslo.




Situated within the original Depot 5, the Oslo Tramway Museum is a transport enthusiast’s dream. The historic shed houses some 25 beautifully restored trams alongside around 10 buses.




The museum is connected to Oslo’s modern tramway via a line to Majorstuen station, and regularly runs heritage services along the city streets.




This stunning series of photographs by Bjarne Melsom (under his Flickr name amatørfoto) takes us in amongst the retired vehicles in all their vintage splendour.

















(All images by Bjarne Melsom/YouTube)

Find out more at the museum’s official website here.

Read Next: Inside The Ghost Tunnels of Antwerp™s Abandoned Premetro

Here After: Craig & Karl Turn Abandoned Petrol Station into Pop-Up Arts Venue


Here After by art duo Craig & Karl


(All images by Jamie McGregor Smith. Here After by Craig & Karl)

Artists Craig & Karl have added a welcome splash of colour to an abandoned petrol station in London’s White City, transforming the forgotten structure into a multi-coloured canvas.

‘Here After’ is a nod to brightly coloured television test cards and lies in a district of London with strong connections to British broadcasting, located between the BBC’s former headquarters and the corporation’s original Media Village.


The transatlantic art duo Craig & Karl transformed an abandoned petrol station in London's White City into a colourful popup arts venue

designboom writes that “the previously unused site has been given new life through the addition of vibrantly painted stripes and colourful geometries, which wind and bend around former pumps and the station™s back wall.”


The forgotten gas station in London turned art installation by Craig & Karl

The intervention is the first stage of a broader project to regenerate the disused gas station as a fully fledged pop-up art venue in England’s capital and most populous city.




“We view this project as the petrol station™s second life, or ‘wonder years’, which led us to use the words ‘here after’ as a reference to heaven or utopia,” said the duo. They added: “Now that the petrol station has fulfilled its duty, so to speak, it™s free to enjoy itself.”




Craig & Karl are Craig Redman and Karl Maier who, despite being based on different sides of the Atlantic (London and New York), “collaborate daily to create bold work that is filled with simple messages executed in a thoughtful and often humorous way.”




According to designboom: “Craig & Karl have adopted this particular palette and composition in order to echo the unique history of the site… In an almost chaotic fashion, ‘Here After’ blends the duo™s signature stylistic cues with nostalgically-familiar television test signal patterns.”




This isn’t the first abandoned petrol station turned art canvas that we’ve reported on. Several years ago Dublin-based urban artist Maser brought a forlorn filling station back to life, while the ‘Quilted Gas Station‘ in New York was a commentary on global oil dependence.

The Shattered Ruins of Iversky Monastery, Donesk





(Image: Mstyslav Chernov. Iversky Monastery ruins in Donetsk)

When the War in Donbass broke out on April 6, 2014, it wasn’t long before the Iversky Monastery was closed due to the nearby fighting. It had only opened in 2001 after four years of construction, and by 2015 it was almost entirely destroyed. Most of the shelling that ravaged the young Orthodox church came from the Ukrainian Ground Forces as they fought against the Donetsk People’s Republic during the Second Battle of Donetsk Airport, which lies immediately to the north.





(Image: Mstyslav Chernov. The church’s shattered entrance)

Available information indicates that the Iversky Monastery’s residents had been evacuated before much of the damage was done. The interior of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church building was mostly destroyed, its bullet-ridden exterior walls left as a stark reminder of the violence and devastation that Donetsk witnessed throughout the War in Donbass.


Iversky Monastery in Donetsk before its destruction


(Image: Andrew Butko. Iversky Monastery before its destruction)

In October 2015 Donetsk People’s Republic leaders announced plans to repair the shattered Ukrainian Orthodox Church building, including its bell tower, convent building and monastery gardens. But last year Essence of Time reported that the abandoned Iversky Monastery remained derelict.


The abandoned Iversky Monastery today


(Image: павел via Google Street View)

Nevertheless, in early 2016 a service was held amid the ruins commemorating the Panagia Portaitissa, the Eastern Orthodox icon of the Virgin Mary. A good number of worshippers attended. The site also reported that even the nearby cemetery became caught up in the fighting, as soldiers turned it into a minefield. Some of those soldiers who fought there in 2015 were at the service. A reminder that life “ and faith “ goes on.

Related: 10 Abandoned Churches Destroyed by War

Map Reveals Location of San Francisco’s Buried Ships


New map showing the locations of buried ships beneath the streets of San Francisco, California


(Image: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. New buried ships map)

We’ve covered our fair share of shipwrecks on Urban Ghosts, but the opening paragraph of Greg Miller’s June 2nd article for National Geographic takes abandoned vessels to a whole new level. In his feature, titled New Map Reveals Ships Buried Below San Francisco, the Portland-based science and technology journalist reports:

“Every day thousands of passengers on underground streetcars in San Francisco pass through the hull of a 19th-century ship without knowing it. Likewise, thousands of pedestrians walk unawares over dozens of old ships buried beneath the streets of the city™s financial district. The vessels brought eager prospectors to San Francisco during the California Gold Rush, only to be mostly abandoned and later covered up by landfill as the city grew like crazy in the late 1800s.”

Miller explains that the city’s eastern edge, at the foot of Market Street, was once an area of water called Yerba Buena Cove, where numerous vessels were moored for often-dubious purposes during the California Gold Rush. The shoreline then extended to the site of the landmark Transamerica Pyramid, and the 19th century scenes have been described by historians as a “forest of masts”. Over time, some of these ships were abandoned and buried in Yerba Buena Cove.


The original 1963 map showing San Francisco's buried ships, these ones beneath the streets of Sydney Town


(Image: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. 1963 map of buried ships in Sydney Town)

It’s now documented that the spectral remains of various abandoned vessels are still present beneath the city streets, but the circumstances of how they came to be there may come as an additional surprise. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park has now created a map of their location (top), based on additional discoveries made by archaeologists since the buried ships were first charted more than half a century ago (see above).

Richard Everett, the park™s curator of exhibits, told Greg Miller that during the Gold Rush, prospectors were so eager to reach California that all manner of vessels were employed to take them there. Having reached San Francisco, and with no cargo awaiting collection in port, crews would often leave their ships where they were moored as they, too, set out in search of gold.


Ships in Ships in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Cove around 1852


(Image: Nat’l Museum of American History via Nat Geo. Ships in Yerba Buena Cove c. 1852)

While some ships in Yerba Buena Cove were abandoned, others were repurposed, including the whaling ship Niantic, which was converted into a warehouse, saloon and hotel before burning to the ground in 1851. Its ravaged hulk, which now lies beneath the corner of Clay and Sansome streets, later became the foundation of another hotel.

Meanwhile, other now buried ships were deliberately scuttled in a bid to exploit a loophole in 19th century property law. Miller writes that ships could be sunk in order to lay claim to the land beneath them. “You could even pay someone to tow your ship into position and sink it for you. Then, as landfill covered the cove, you’d eventually end up with a piece of prime real estate.” Needless to say, shootouts weren’t uncommon as property was cemented and scores were settled.

Perhaps the strangest of all San Francisco’s buried ships is the Rome, “which was rediscovered in the 1990s when the city dug a tunnel to extend a streetcar line (the N-Judah) south of Market Street,” Miller writes. “Today the line (along with two others, the T and the K) passes through the forward hull of the ship.”

Click here to read Greg Miller’s fascinating article on Nat Geo in full

Read Next: More Haunting Maritime Graveyards

The Ruined Australia Hall in Pembroke, Malta


The Ruined Australia Hall in Pembroke, Malta


(Image: Continentaleurope. Australia Hall in Pembroke, Malta)

All wars bring with them horrifying casualties, and the Great War was one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. With it came an urgent need to care for the wounded, and in 1915 a small island in the Mediterranean found itself perfectly positioned for that purpose. Malta became known as the “Nurse of the Mediterranean”, and by the time the Armistice sounded in 1918, around 136,000 men had been treated there.

The BBC looked into the numbers, and they’re staggering. Malta had 27 hospitals in January 1916, which cared for some 2,000 new patients each week. The record for a single day stands at a staggering 20,994 patients, who came under the care of hundreds of doctors and nurses working tirelessly to save the wounded front line troops.


The abandoned ruins of Australia Hall, a 1915 entertainment venue in Pembroke, Malta


(Image: Continentaleurope)

It was in 1915 that Australia Hall was built at Pembroke, a town in the country’s Northern Region. As the name suggests, it was built by the Australian branch of the British Red Cross as an entertainment venue for convalescing Anzac soldiers. It’s function wasn’t merely to distract wounded soldiers as they recovered from their physical injuries. It also saw to their mental, spiritual, and emotional needs as well.





(Image: Continentaleurope)

According to The Times of Malta, the entertainment hall officially opened on January 16, 1916, with enough room to accommodate 2,000 people for stage productions, dances and other events. A library and reading room were later added, and after the war, in 1921, a projector was installed so that the venue could be used as a cinema. Providing soldiers with lighthearted entertainment was a big part of the care that Malta offered. Even after World War One drew to a close, Australia Hall remained a major entertainment centre until British forces left the island in 1979.





(Image: Freddyolsson)

But the years that followed were not so kind on the historic structure. Having passed into Maltese government ownership, the historic building was closed and became increasingly neglected. It was eventually gutted by fire in 1998, just two years after being formally recognised as a Grade 2 National Monument.


Abandoned Australia Hall from above


(Image: via Google Earth)

The derelict, fire-ravaged Australia Hall was controversially sold in 2014 into private hands, and last year it was reported that Australia™s High Commissioner to Malta, Jane Lambert, was pushing for the century-old venue’s restoration. With only walls remaining, renovation would cost millions of euros and require in-depth planning. But as an important part of Australia’s national heritage, many are hopeful that a solution can soon be found.

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