Urban exploration is the pursuit of a time gone by, involving the documentation of abandoned man-made structures and the not-usually-seen components of the man-made environment. With digital images and traditional film, it allows us to preserve a piece of history, memorializing a way of life and a particular period of time before demolition, erosion and looting take their toll.
It pushes limits and begs us to question the traditional notion of beauty. And, in the exploration of abandoned buildings, entire towns and the infrastructure that supports them, our imagination runs wild - envisioning how these now-silent places were once bustling with activity. It is both calming and humbling, and an important reminder that people lived before our time and will go on long after us.
This is the portfolio of Jonathon Much.
Originally constructed at the turn of the 20th century to serve as a Christian Science Church, the St. Stephen’s congregation took over the church in the mid-1980’s. In the late 1990s, the congregation had difficulty covering expenses and sold the church to a residential developer. To alleviate preservationists’ concerns, plans were made to keep the beautiful 1917 façade intact as part of the development.
Serving as a prison from 1858 to 2002, the facility is, perhaps, most well-known for its appearance in The Blues Brothers film. The prison also served as the location for the first season of the show
Nearly 150 years ago, this hospital opened its doors as a training school for nurses. At the turn of the century, the institution was reorganized as a state hospital. During the 1970’s, the hospital focused on mental health and became a center for the care and treatment of the mentally disabled.
Known as a place where society took care of those who could not otherwise afford medical care, many immigrants sought treatment at the hospital that was often referred to as “Ellis Island.” From its beginning, the hospital was known as a significant center for medical education, as physicians and interns alike could gain hands-on medical experience with a wide range of illnesses and diseases.
Saint Boniface Church was established for German immigrants in 1865. With roots in Chicago history that predate the great Chicago Fire of 1871, the church helped to reshape and rebuild its neighborhood and city by providing makeshift housing within its buildings, as well as clothing and meals for people whose homes had been destroyed in the conflagration. Many of these people moved to the surrounding neighborhood, constructing the St. Boniface Church brick edifice that was completed in 1904.
Opened by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1911, this now-demolished church could be found in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. The church and rectory were designed by Joseph Molitor, a prominent Chicago architect known for his churches, including Sts. Cyril and Methodius, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, St. Bonaventure and Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church.
Constructed in Chicago’s Uptown community in 1922 and described as, “the last grand Chicago synagogue,” the synagogue was a result of a merging of two congregations - the First Hungarian Congregation, known as “Agudath Achim” founded in 1884 on Chicago’s West Side and the former Uptown community-based, North Shore Congregation known as the “Sons of Israel.”
Built in 1918 for the once-predominantly Polish neighborhood, St. John of God is one of several architecturally revivalist Chicago churches designed by Henry J. Schlacks. His work for the Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese from the 1890s through the 1920s includes St. Adalbert's near 17th and Ashland; St. Gelasius at 64th and Woodlawn and St. Paul Church at 22nd and Hoyne.
Named in honor of Octave Chanute (1862-1910), a friend and adviser to the Wright Brothers, the base dates to World War I. To bolster U.S. air strength, Congress appropriated $640 million to build up the Air Service by opening ground schools at eight colleges and establishing twenty-seven flying fields to train pilots. The Chanute Airforce Base in Rantoul was a level site very close to the Illinois Central Railroad and the ground school at the University of Illinois.
A building that symbolized Englewood, the South Side Masonic Temple was built in 1921 and housed fraternal organizations up through the 1950s. The seven-story, Classic Revival structure, designed by Clarence Hatzfeld (who also designed fieldhouses for several Chicago parks) was on preservation groups’ “most endangered” lists for many years before being demolished in 2018.
Founded in 1893, Sears, Roebuck and Co. was the country’s largest mail order company by 1900. In 1925, the company began to open retail locations, with the first location established in Evansville, Indiana. In 2005, the company was purchased by the management of Kmart, which formed the Sears Holding Company upon the completion of the merger. Sears maintained its status as the largest retailer in the United States until October of 1989, when it was surpassed by Walmart.
Although Chicago never quite rivaled Detroit as the nation's auto capital, Chicago is steeped in automotive tradition. During the first decade of the twentieth century, no fewer than 28 companies produced 68 models of cars in the Chicagoland area. In addition, Chicago’s industrial base, which included a profusion of machine shops able to turn out automotive components, established the city as a center of manufacture of automobile parts through the 20th century. In the decades before rural roads were paved to permit intercity travel by auto, out-of-towners would travel to Chicago to purchase vehicles along the Auto Row south of the Loop and ship them home via train.