Camera club goes on photo safari in side Warden

One last look around

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen

Jason Liska, of Fort Dodge, at left, holds a light for his fellow Fort Dodge Area Camera Club members as they photograph a decaying old piano in the basement of the Warden Plaza Saturday afternoon. The club made a series of visits to the old building late last week and over the weekend.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Jason Liska, of Fort Dodge, at left, holds a light for his fellow Fort Dodge Area Camera Club members as they photograph a decaying old piano in the basement of the Warden Plaza Saturday afternoon. The club made a series of visits to the old building late last week and over the weekend.

Like cave explorers, members of the Fort Dodge Area Camera Club have given nicknames to some of the rooms inside the Warden Plaza.

One of those, called the “Mold Room” was among the ones photographer Roger Feldhans, of Pomeroy, went back to Saturday during one of the last photo safari treks they’ll be able to have before work is expected to start on the project.

It’s aptly named.

If a type of mold that will grow on drywall, ceiling tile, carpet, dirt or paper exists, it’s in there.

“It’s a major wow,” Feldhans said. “As an artist, I see all the colors and textures. Every element an artist chases after is right in that room.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen

Sheila Hansen, of Fort Dodge, uses a headlamp Saturday afternoon to check her camera settings while exploring the Warden Plaza with the Fort Dodge Area Camera Club. A series of late week and weekend photo safaris were the last opportunity for the group to explore the old building before some of the preliminary work gets under way.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Sheila Hansen, of Fort Dodge, uses a headlamp Saturday afternoon to check her camera settings while exploring the Warden Plaza with the Fort Dodge Area Camera Club. A series of late week and weekend photo safaris were the last opportunity for the group to explore the old building before some of the preliminary work gets under way.

Water drips into the Mold Room from somewhere above and forms a rust-colored puddle.

Feldhans spots a boot print in the mushy fallen ceiling tile that covers the floor several inches deep.

“Look,” he said, “man’s first step on the moon.”

Many of the rooms still hold artifacts from when someone once lived there — furniture, a pair of old socks, books and papers, broken sinks and busted toilets.

Most of it has been changed by time, the elements and even other humans who once upon a time broke in and damaged things.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen

Photographers Jason Liska, at left, and Sheila Hansen, both of Fort Dodge, ready their gear for a Fort Dodge Area Camera Club photo safari in the Warden Plaza Saturday afternoon. A series of late week and weekend photo safari were the last opportunity for the group to explore the old building before some of the preliminary work gets under way.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Photographers Jason Liska, at left, and Sheila Hansen, both of Fort Dodge, ready their gear for a Fort Dodge Area Camera Club photo safari in the Warden Plaza Saturday afternoon. A series of late week and weekend photo safari were the last opportunity for the group to explore the old building before some of the preliminary work gets under way.

“Everywhere you go you see things that you didn’t know could happen in a building,” he said.

For Feldhans, much of the photo exploration is about preserving something that will soon change form.

“It will give people a chance to see what they started with, what it came from.” he said.

Though he’s been in the Warden more than a dozen times, it’s still a place that’s easy to get disoriented in. The halls lead one in circles. Some stairwells only connect two floors and plenty of the doors lead to the annex on the east side of the Warden proper.

“All of a sudden you don’t know where you are,” he said.

Then there’s the basement — no light from the exterior reaches it or the decayed upright piano that sits sadly in a room with piles of other old debris.

“The basement is completely dark,” he said. “You see absolutely nothing when you turn off your light.”

Jason Liska, of Fort Dodge, was making his third trek though the Warden on Saturday.

He brought a full bag of gear, including an old Nikon film camera and a LED light.

“I like the history of the building,” he said. “The architecture.”

He’s encountered a few surprises on his wanderings.

“The piano in the basement,” he said. “Upstairs, I’m not sure what room it is, but it has check stubs from the ’70s. It’s supposedly the Capone Room.”

Sheila Hansen, of Fort Dodge, was on her second visit.

“I love taking pictures of old vintage stuff,” she said. “That’s what I love.”

She said that the last time she was there, some of the upstairs rooms were a little on the creepy side. It’s the sort of place one could easily imagine zombies emerging, ghosts wandering or, more likely, encountering a freshly disturbed napping raccoon.

Hansen’s experience, so far, has been zombie-, ghost- and critter-free.

“I haven’t seen anything,” she said.

Feldhans is sad to leave the Warden behind and return the key.

“I’m going to hate putting that padlock on for the last time,” he said.

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