Jack is an anonymous, mysterious, new contributor. Please welcome “him”
Hi. I’m Jack. This should be the first post of what I hope ends up being a regular feature on Innermost Parts – (in)Accessible. My aim is simple – to document my attempts to place myself in locations that I’m not supposed to be, and then share the things I learn.
So, on to the documentation: An Eastern Excursion, Part I.
The plan for the night was to hoist myself (as well as two of my associates, Thurgood and Eliza) up to the top of D tower, whereupon we would clamber around onto various other parts of the castle’s roof. D tower contains a few doubles and triples on the first floor as well as the castle commons on the second. Attached to the side of D tower is an as-of-yet closed off spiral staircase leading from the first floor to the roof, and even a little further into an attractive-looking observation turret. The problem with rooftop activity is that it’s often limited by the weather – in this case, a light sprinkling of rain made the tarred surface of the roof too slippery to be gripped properly by hands. This ruled out our ascent to that particular roof – as I should mention again in the future, safety needs to be everyone’s first concern when doing stuff like this. Nobody wants their castle exploration adventure to turn into a bloody, limb-snapping adventure. Don’t do this stuff drunk. Don’t do this stuff high. Don’t go alone. Keep your wits about you. Don’t be stupid. Etcetera.
Anyway, with the ascent to D tower ruled out, our exploration party decided to get ourselves on to the roof of the reading room. The low, long structure that runs between the castle’s two arched entryways used to be a study lounge of sorts, with desks, chairs, lockers and such. It’s currently being used to store a whole lot of relatively uninteresting stuff – screens, window panes, miscellaneous pipes and fittings (leaves as well), but the real value to be found in the reading room is in the beautiful mosaic embedded in the southern room’s ceiling, as well as a hatch leading into a shallow tunnel system. Said tunnels should be detailed in a later post.
The door to the reading room’s southern room is currently unlocked, and can be opened with a push. After walking down a short set of steps, you can see the main room on your right, and a recessed re-bar ladder built into the concrete on your left.
The ladder led us up to the Purple Room – a small room overlooking the castle courtyard that’s been painted a rich shade of purple. There’s a hallway leading towards A tower’s spiral staircase, too… but it’s interrupted by a wall of masonry. From what I’ve seen of that staircase, it’s a fantastic place. Vintage graffiti, interesting items, small hallways to explore… that, and it’s pretty much the only way to get to the castle’s flagpole without climbing gear. For now, though, it’s behind brick and padlock.
We returned to the small window in the purple room. There’s a small concrete ledge underneath the sill that we were able to get a foothold on, and then reach across to the triangular red ornamentation on top of the roof to our left. A couple short hops later, and all three of us were on the roof, free to roam. Like most of the rooftops on campus, the area itself wasn’t exactly exciting – there’s waterproofing material, a few leaves, and a drain here and there. On the other hand, it does take you down the side of the courtyard to the opposite end of the reading room – the first floor of which is solidly locked most of the time. By basically reversing the process that we used to hoist ourselves on to the roof, we were able to squeeze ourselves into the north end’s open window.
Inside was a textbook example of the kind of disrepair that parts of the castle are in. Water damage on the ceiling, rust on most anything metallic, concrete and brick dust on the floor. Passage to the first floor, where janitorial supplies are kept, appeared difficult and slightly risky – the lower half of the spiral staircase was basically gone, leaving the twisted rebar skeletons of each step twisting out into the air. That, and the floor of the staircase appears to be mostly loose boards over the previously mentioned shallow tunnel system. It was then that Eliza noticed that the ceilings between the room we were in and the conical red structures above it had apparently collapsed, allowing us to peer upwards.
Continuing down the hallway, we found a surprise – art.
By the looks of it, most of the work has been rubbed onto the wall with the chunks of brick that you can find laying abundantly on the floor. This little room (probably about 12′ x 8′) embodies a lot of what I feel exploring the castle is about – the mixture of discovery with Brandeis’ rich history and spirit of creativity, all with a bit of breaking and entering thrown in.
After heading back down to the courtyard, Thurgood and I parted ways with Eliza, who made her way home for some well-deserved rest, leaving Thurgood and I somewhat at a loss for what to do. We decided to head down towards Hassenfeld and Pomerantz , that halls that give this series of posts its name. But that’s all for now, for there is still schoolwork to be done. Thanks for reading.