On the second day of orientation I was sitting at a table with my friends having lunch, when We were approached by a guy with a rather full backpack. He introduced himself as Jake, and seemed to have a layed back, yet attentive demeanor to him. We had only exchanged names and a hello before he began to take of his backpack while asking the attention getting question of “Hey, do any of you want any ducks?”. We all looked at each other, chuckling, until he opened his backpack and revealed about 30 or so old, beaten up, dusty and dirty rubber ducks. What an introduction.
All of us clearly bewildered, he explained how there was an ‘abandoned duck factory’, or at least that’s what he called it, within a 5 minute walk from uptown. Apparently there were thousands of ducks all over the place at one point in time, and no one knew where they came from. Now, they were apparently a much harder find, but there were still ducks there, lurking on the nooks and cranies of the old abandoned lot. This certainly sparked all of our interest. In the mean time, he was telling us how he was selling the ducks to people to make a quick buck and to meet new people in a unique way. What a guy.
Later in the week on Saturday, me and my friends had been talking about going to the duck factory, and decided to pay it a visit. Setting out, we made the short walk down past the train tracks going towards Little Italy, took a right, and boom; duck factory. It was much larger than I would have thought, and at first we didn’t see any entrance, until my friend Brice pulled back an old door with old, rusty nails coming out of it. While very sketchy, me, Brice, and the others held the door open for each other, and we entered to a breathtaking sight.
Shattered porcline covered the ground, old un-cashed checks for as little as .24$ were everywhere, and rubble, glass, boxes, and graffiti filled in the rest of the gaps. We were not two steps in, and we were captivated by the scale of the place. Even though we did not see any ducks at first, we were not going to leave utill all four of us had one for our own. As we continued, we discovered that the place was far more vast than even the first room would have suggested.
The most interesting room I thought was what seemed to be the center of the factory, where the roof had collapsed spectacularly. This was a telling sign, because we had wondered what had happened to this place, and just what this place was exactly. Upon a not so close inspection, there were clear signs of a possible fire that may have caused the abandonment.
When researching the place latter however, I found nothing mentioning any fire as a reason for its abandonment, which of course only added to the mystery an wonder of the place.
Back at the factory, we continued our search for those rare and elusive ducks. Going further into the building, it was too dark and too cavernous to see without flashlights (or our phone lights). We had started to split up, until we heard the long anticipated “I found a duck!” from Brice. The girls were all excited, but I was too busy being absorbed by this quasi hidden gem of a place. We all grouped back together and kept walking, and eventually stumbled across a huge open room with four dock like walkways all running parallel to each other with about an 8 foot drop in between each (thankfully with stairs to get up and down). While at a first glance, it was just another big open room to explore, but then… Ducks.
Brice and I had been sifting through ruble and under broken bath tubs, and we started to find ducks all over the place, tucked away from those who didn’t dare to dive into the dark ruble filled depths of the factory. Our friend Emily was laughably bitter sweet because while we were finally finding ducks after having been there for good 30-40 minutes, but only me and Brice had actually found them. We all had a good laugh about it.
We finally started to wrap things up, walked through the rest of the place just to see what else was there, and headed out with a good 12 or so old, weathered, creepy yet charming little rubber ducks. Upon leaving, we ran into some other people who were just checking out the place with their dog, as well as some people who were there to take photos like Emily was. We exited a different way to find a pleasant kind of courtyard of sorts with all kinds of refreshingly green overgrowth, in contrast to the dusty and muted colors and textures inside the actual factory.
With our adventure over, I wanted to find out more about this mystery of a place. Very quickly, with the simple search of “Cleveland Ohio Abandoned Duck Factory”, I got some good info, even though there wasn’t much.
For starters, it wasn’t a duck factory. We had all figured that out when we got there and saw the amount of shattered porcline on the ground along with other various not duck related things. I had guessed that it maybe was a factory that made plumbing, and as it turns out, it was. The factory apparently made different plumbing materials along with various tools and such.
The reason it was abandoned was because of maintanence issues. The building was under disrepair even when it was in use, with the roof starting to bow inwards, the floors becoming weak in areas, and the use of huge sheets of metal to Brice the gaps between various wooden walkways. It was also abandoned because of the location. Because it was so close to downtown, it was very hard for the huge big rigs to manovour their way through the small city streets, and so eventually the business moved, leaving the lot for the public to mess around in.
The rate at which the building has deteriorated has been rapid, with many people dumping boxes, cans, papers, etc, the contents of the building practically changes weekly. Additionally, there either could have been a small naturally occurring fire, or it may have been arson, but there is little to no documentation of it as it had to have happened after it was already vacated.
And as for those infamous ducks:
This is a picture before the ducks became a rarity. There’s no way of really knowing when the ducks became especially scarce, but what’s more interesting, and possibly unsettling, is that no one knows where the ducks originally came from. There is some speculation, but no one really has any idea where they all came from. At one point in time, there apparently were thousands of ducks all troughout the place, wether they were filling boxes, or were just scattered in clusters on the floor and on shelves. Over time of course, people would pick one up (or 30 if you’re Jake), and now, they are almost like a precious gem.
Regardless of wether or not you find a duck for yourself, this old abandoned ‘duck’ factory is an amazing place to (cautiously) adventure around in. A unique place with a lot of interesting history that makes for a photographers dream land, this old run down factory is a place to find surprising beauty, hints of whimsy, and a breathtakingly wonderous and adventurous atmosphere.