‘Do not enter’: Student urbexer adventures into abandoned Nashville
The worn walls that once sheltered the working lives of iron welders years ago is now covered in obscure artwork and countless graffiti marks.
Artistic Ironwork was buried behind lonesome streets in the warehouse district of Nashville. Nestled between train tracks and a larger brick building still in use, the location could be mistaken for simply another neglected building rather than a place with history.
The door that was once used as primary access was now permanently rusted open as if to invite curious souls to explore further.
Despite the “do not enter” and “private property” warning, urbexer Basil Burnette ambled her way cautiously through the doorway and into the vast emptiness of the room. A tray of cat food lay on the ground near the back of the room where a giant cast iron gate was left open, leaving a gaping hole in the wall.
The one-story building, which was surely a bustling business at one time, was now simply a hollow room with four walls barely intact — the perfect urbex location.
Urbex, short for urban exploration, is slowly becoming a phenomenon among young adults and particularly photographers. The landscapes that the world of forgotten buildings present are often the perfect inspiration for photographers.
Belmont freshman Basil Burnette and friend Andrew Gleason explored abandoned buildings in their native Kansas City.
Belmont University freshman, Burnette, is no stranger to the urbex hobby.
The Kansas City native had been exploring abandoned buildings along with her friend Andrew Gleason since junior year of high school.
“There’s usually people who urbex like professionally who post it on Instagram and different forums and that’s how Andrew and I found out about it in the first place,” said Burnette. “Andrew just loves photography and I was just always down to go places, so we made a good team.”
The adventuring duo spent the summer attempting to explore the rooftops of every high-rise in the downtown Kansas City area.
“I think we made it to the top of every one but I’m sure there’s a couple we missed,” Gleason said.
Burnette continued her urbexing hobby after moving to Nashville as a freshman.
The duo split ways after going to separate colleges. Now, Gleason attends University of Chicago, leaving Burnette to explore the forgotten buildings of Tennessee by herself.
The act of urbexing is rather tricky for many reasons. The secretive tendencies of urbexers and their locations make it hard to find these locations.
“It takes more than just typing it into the Google search bar,” said Burnette. “A lot of times you have to be members of a website or secret forums because people really don’t like sharing the locations because they don’t want vandals going there and painting all over the walls.”
As for Artistic Ironworks, the location was nothing short of forgotten and took more than a quick search on Map Quest to locate.
After a series of Google searches, Burnette resorted to an old fashioned drive-by search to find her abandoned location.
Urbexing locations can be hard to find, Burnette said.
To some, the building may have seemed like a petri dish of bacteria and waste, but to urbexers like Burnette, it was the ultimate way to indulge in the history of a building that was once functioning in society.
The walls that had been covered in spray painted graffiti designs seemed to be the most recently updated aspects of the premise aside from the fresh coat of rust that played the dissolving infrastructure.
The rules of urbex vary but the standard urbexer is expected to respect and fence, wall or barrier that would prevent someone from entering. If the building is inaccessible without damage any part of the property then the building should be left alone. This abides by the common saying among urbexers, “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and break nothing but silence.”
“Andrew and I did a really good job of just respecting the rules or whatever you’d call them because if you mess up and get in trouble the building could be demolished and then you ruin it for other urbexers,” said Burnette.
Although these rules act as almost a peace treaty between urbexers and authorities, the act of urbexing is still ultimately illegal and considered trespassing. Often times urbexers are let off with a warning unless suspected of vandalizing the building.
“I’ve never worried too much about them because it was a cool little hobby they had but I told Basil as long as she’s not getting arrested I don’t really care what she does,” said Burnette’s mother, Diane Burnette.
The premise of Artistic Ironworks seemed to fit Burnette’s standards, lacking any sort of definitive barrier, and she was eager to go inside. It was only the third urbex trip she’d taken without Gleason by her side.
A popular urbex phrase is ““take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and break nothing but silence,” Burnette said.
The pink-haired adventurer showed no signs of reluctance when walking around the uninhabited room.
The walls of graffiti showed that Burnette wasn’t the first to stumble upon this forgotten property.
“Oh, wait, I have to call Andrew,” said Burnette, pointing to a question mark that had been spray painted on the barely intact wall.
The call to her friend went unanswered leaving her to recall the memory on her own.
“Andrew and I used to always see this question mark on all the walls at a bunch of buildings in Kansas City and so we got little question mark tattoos on our middle fingers,” she said.
Burnette continued to pace around the room slowly, examining what the floors collected had collected since the place shut down. Pill bottles, journals, needles, blankets and a variety of cigarette butts were about all that filled the room.
An iron spiral staircase in the corner of the room led to a box that was suspended from the ceiling as if it were an elevated room. It looked as if it wouldn’t even hold the weight of the still unseen cat that roamed around the property.
Though the top of the staircase may have given off a unique view of the crumbling room, the brave urbexer opted out.
“Most of the time these places turn into bum stacks so occasionally I’ll see a homeless person and you’ve got to be respectful because this is their home,” warned Burnette.
A collection of blankets in the corner of the room hinted as if someone had seemed shelter there the night before.
“I think I found the kitty that the food’s for,” said Burnette, motioning towards the iron gate where a cat casually strolled in and found its gift.
“It’s funny, even when this place is all shut down and not functioning, life is still going on around it.”
Some of the graffiti that Burnette has encountered in Nashville is similar to that she saw in Kansas City.
Burnette’s phone captured the allure of the building before she took to her phone to catch Gleason up on her recent adventure.
“We haven’t seen each other since summer so I can’t wait until we can go do this kind of stuff again.”
This article was written by Laura Waterbury. Photos of previous urbex adventures by Basil Burnette, featuring Andrew Gleason.