South Boston Naval Annex Building 16 – Night Shots and Exploring Stories

One of the wonderful things about Building 16 was that the area was ABSOLUTELY CRAWLING WITH POLICE. State police, Boston Police, MBTA police, and various other security and law enforcement agencies all seemed to have some role in monitoring activity on the pier.

On the other hand, Building 16 was a completely empty abandoned warehouse at the end of a pier in a deserted area with absolutely nothing of value in sight. Let’s say, hypothetically, that a human being with a tough job (like maybe someone in law enforcement, just as an example) needed to take a little rest. When a human being like that is in the mood for a rest and looking for a quiet place to take such a rest, that human being is probably not in the mood for a big ol’ hassle over trivialities like people walking around a deserted area they have absolutely no legitimate reason to be in right in the middle of the night.

During one of my many solo nighttime trips, I was photographing and relaxing on the roof. I didn’t leave until after 2 AM. I had just rolled under the fence and started the walk back towards my car when I noticed a car coming the other way down the only road running to the end of the pier. As it drew nearer, I could see it was a State Police car. There was nowhere for me to go and since I had exited before he turned on to the street, I wasn’t technically doing anything wrong.

Since there was not a single person anywhere nearby other than the two of us, pretending I didn’t notice him would have been ludicrous. It would have been insulting. So, when he slowed to a crawl just before passing me I bent over a bit and looked directly in to his side window while continuing to walk towards my car. I felt like leaning in to the idea that I had absolutely nothing to hide was the preferred strategy. The car continued right past me towards the end of the pier.

Building 16 also presented the classic exploring conundrum – do I take the nice easy parking spot right next to where I am going? Or, do I park far away and walk some ridiculously convoluted route to minimize exposure to passers by, security cameras, suspicious looking birds, etc? (For the record, the correct answer is always to park far away. No good ever comes from parking close.)

Parking was available right next to the building. It could not have been more convenient. Foolishly, we decided to take advantage of this convenience one time when we had some friends from out of town visiting. We spent the day exploring and eventually retired to Building 16 to enjoy the excellent view over beers.

The view of Boston Harbor and the airport (especially when the wind was blowing the right way and the approach for landing planes took them right over your head) was unprecedented. If you were really lucky, one of the booze cruise boats that ply the waters of Boston harbor might pass by while you were up on the roof! There is nothing more relaxing than the sound of a DJ screaming at people to “put your hands up” over shrieking four on the floor dance music over…and over…and over…and over…

Several security and law enforcement cars came past the building while we were enjoying the fantastic night we were having, but it required only the smallest amount of care and discretion not to be noticed on the roof.

Eventually, we were ready to head out around 2 or 3 in the morning. We walked to the windows facing the area where our cars were parked to make sure the coast was clear. The coast was absolutely not clear. For the first time in countless trips to this place, there was a State Police car parked directly behind our conveniently parked cars blocking us in.

We hemmed and hawed for quite some time trying to decide what to do. Should we leave, take a taxi home, and come back for the cars later? No, because a big group of people walking down the only road past the only two cars parked over night in a business lot would be rather obvious. Should we just eat shit and bank on talking our way out of any trouble? If it were only locals we probably would have done that, but with people from out of town accompanying us it was a complete non-starter.

Some very intelligent person in the group suggested that there was a shift change for the cops around 5 or 6 in the morning, and that waiting for a shift change had worked for them before. So, we bedded down on the dusty concrete floor and tried to get some sleep. Several of us woke up at various points with the hopeful feeling that the statie would be gone as we walked over to the window, only to have our hopes dashed. Naturally, we would quiz each other on WHY the statie wouldn’t just MOVE ON after sitting there for HOURS already!? It could be a couple of employees of the company who were travelling or having a night out! Imagine our tax dollars being wasted on this frivolous stakeout! How unreasonable! There’s obviously some perfectly normal explanation that doesn’t involve recreational tresspassing! Oh…wait…

So we waited some more.

Sure enough, like clockwork, the statie took off right at the predicted time, leaving no one to take his place. The sense of relief was pretty intoxicating. This was the longest, by an order of magnitude, I ever had to wait it out for security to disappear in my entire exploring career. We walked to the cars without further incident and drove home none the worse for wear.

One of the coolest things about Building 16 was its proximity to the very-much-active Drydock 3, the only active drydock left in the former South Boston Naval Annex. The yard worked 24 hours a day, so it was not unusual to see workers sandblasting hulls and performing other maintenance. Many of the ships were military supply vessels. Pictured in my other posts on Building 16 are shots of the military hospital ship Comfort in the drydock for work.

I have around 20 trips to Building 16 in my Lightroom catalog, and I know there were a few where I (ghasp) didn’t take any pictures. Despite being an empty warehouse, it was an absolutely wonderful place to go hang out at night. Building 16 also had other charms which I will talk about in part 3.