The decaying charm of the Gates Rubber Factory
Sometimes it feels plain unjust and careless how places, people, everything is eventually let to drift so far into the sea of the past that there’s no chance of it ever returning to shore. After a while, it starts to seem as if they can’t have existed because they seem so unreal now, so completely erased.
I was driving past the vacant Gates Rubber Factory at the intersection of I-25 & Broadway in Denver, CO (whose future is in the middle of a contentious debate right now) just yesterday and foresaw that very future for the desolate edifice. It is a massive, dilapidated, gloomy structure that is utterly wrecked – nearly every square of its giant gridded windows is cracked open. It is apocalyptic. It is from another time. It is a stark visual of how much the times have changed.
Whenever I see it, I’m always possessed with an urge to run through it, to traverse every one of its littered, rotted rooms to feel how the light might have felt coming through those giant windows, to be up close to it, to press my hands to its toxin-drenched brick walls, to find the rubber-making ghosts of half a century back rubbing chugging machinery parts with solvent-dripping cloths – the very ones whose use would lead to a decades-long argument over whether the walls and concrete foundation should be ripped from the deadened soil or left to stand for a new purpose.
Whatever happens, Gates Rubber can’t stand much longer. A college-age boy has pulled the reins on development plans in hopes of turning the abandoned factory into a historic landmark, but the chances of that happening seem slim.
While it still stands though, I hope we can all appreciate how its mere presence and beaten-down visage can tell a story, a loud story – something more and more rarely found in the constantly constructed, reconstructed, and rapidly growing city of Denver.