Exquisite: Laura Kicey’s Photos of Former Lace Factory

“Get out of town,” said Cole Porter. “Don’t fence me in,” he said, also. The guy had serious wanderlust, and when it’s nice out, so do we. This weekend Property photographer Laura Kicey went to the former Scranton Lace Factory for another Abandoned America photo workshop. The photographs she got are absolutely gorgeous, but she also learned a bit about what’s happening to the building–which is more than to the SS United States, the subject of her last extensive photo gallery of this sort.

Though it looks abandoned, the building–which was featured on National Geographic’s Abandoned program–has had some recent good fortune: The current owners, Lace Building Affiliates, who purchased it in 2007, have been granted permission to repurpose it, and they have seriously grand plans.
Kicey explains what those are:
It is a complex of over 68,000 square feet that they plan on making into sort of a miniature self-contained city, complete with residential units, shops, restaurants, bars, a market, offices, a museum dedicated to artifacts from the factory (including the one giant Nottingham Loom of 30 that they did not sell for scrap), green space, a rehab center, medical facilities, etc. over the next four to five years with only minimal additional new construction.
They purchased the buildings for what the property manager, who gave the photographers an hour-long tour, suggested was under or around $1 million.
The property manager [also] described to us what had been in each of the rooms, which were now vast empty spaces, the contents sold for scrap. As a photographer, being led around and told about all the “junk” (his word) that had been in the space was rather disheartening.
Scranton Lace workers. Photo via rootsweb

Scranton Lace workers. Photo via rootsweb

Kicey says it’s not hard to imagine the space as a mini city since it’s so vast. “The place was so huge and labyrinthine that me and most other people on the workshop were constantly lost and kept going in circles, unable to find our way to the things we had seen on the tour.”

She searched for one room for an hour, and tried to go up into the clock tower wearing safety goggles and a respirator, without luck.
As for the question of whether Scranton’s economy could sustain or populate such a space, well, that remains to be seen. Does the process remind us a bit of that surrounding another abandoned building closer to home? All the best intentions, media tours, poignant photos and new owners in the world haven’t made a dent in the fate of the Divine Lorraine. If this pans out in Scranton, Lace Affiliates should come to Philly, wrest the Divine Lorraine from Blumenfeld’s hands, and make something happen here.

All photos: Laura Kicey