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Exploring an Abandoned Boys Prison

Welcome to The Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center


- Charlotte, North Carolina -

This is entry number 3 of my urban exploration blog. Click here to go read the last ones!

The Video

Every time I plan out an urbex adventure, I think about creating a video to capture not only my journey into the abandoned zone, but I also want to capture the story, the mood, and the feel of the location. This was the first time I decided to put a voice over into one of my "vlogs." I didn't like what I was saying in the video originally, so decided to take it a step further and write a small script. Enjoy and subscribe for more!

The Abandoned Boys Prison

Have you ever been sent to a juvenile detention center for acting up at school or calling a cop a "pig?" No? Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, that was the norm for the boys of Charlotte, NC, in 1909. "Troubled youths" were sent to the Stonewall Jackson Manual Training and Industrial School to recieve an education and learn a trade. However, these "trades" turned into torture as the years progressed.

I love light painting and wanted to capture the dark energy of the school, in an effort to encapsulate the horrors that must have taken place there and our need to educate future generations on our past, so that they can prevent it from happening again.

Abuse, rape, and prisoner violence became part of the daily routine at the detention center, leaving many traumatized into their adult lives and led one to become a prison activist.

"Russell Smith attended the school in the 1960's from age 13-15. He founded two coalitions supporting equal rights for all prisoners. He also brought to light the horrible treatment and practices that occured behind closed doors. Soon, the whole state and nation began to think differently about this 'boys school'." - Only In Your State

Getting Past Security

This one was a joke. I grabbed my tour mates Ashly and Jake, who I explored with in my last post, and took an Uber to somewhere near the bando's location. I was being overcautious, because I don't know how harsh trespassing laws are in NC, but I saw the location and laughed, as we simply walked onto the property. All of the cottages that the boys lived in were completely open, most didn't even have doors on the hinges and were almost inviting us in..aside from the "DO NOT OPEN. DEAD INSIDE" graffiti on one of the buildings. Imagine if there were actually zombies here? What a creepy place to have to hide from them. The crazy part was that directly behind the "school grounds," the city had built a new detention center.

In my last post I spoke about how i always get nervous before stepping into a bando,* but this time, that was not the case. the property wasn't fenced off from the street, there were no signs, and it was about 3pm on a Thursday.

*bando (n,): slang term for an abandoned location; an urban exploration trip

Let the Exploration Begin

There was a lot to explore on this property, but I wasn't sure how long we'd be able to stay, because there was a storm headed our way. It was almost unnerving how comfortably we strolled around the grounds.

The Spoils

Stonewall Jackson had a very interesting story to tell. In the basement of one building, known as "Cottage 5," there was a Premiere Soccer foosball table covered in cobwebs. The little soccer-men had been standing in the dark for years waiting for someone to spin them back to life and that's just what we did. There's nothing like an impromptu, soccerless foosball match.

Each cottage was adorned with the artwork of traveling taggers, party supplies left behind by bored local kids, and fake blood smears from students trying to prank their friends. All of these things give some life back to these long deceased locations that I travel to.


Every so often I'll run into other explorers while on a bando. This is where Urbexing can get a bit diecey. You don't know who or what could be in an abandoned building. Hell, you don't even know if the floor, roof, or walls are stable. We risk a lot for our art, some more than others. Take Rooftoppers, for example. These crazy fools climb up gigantic structures, like cranes, radio towers, skyscrapers, and play on them like they're jungle gyms. Anyway, on this particular day, we ran into a photographer, John, and a model, Michelle, who were doing a nude shoot in one of the cottages. They were kind enough to let me capture a few shots of them working together.

As our journey began to wrap up, the storm I had been cautiously watching, had begun dumping rain onto the town of Southpark. I ran outside and launched my drone, flew over the entire location and got my opening shot, and landed, just in time for the first big drop of rain to splash on the ground, next to my camera.


UBER UBER UBER TO THE RESCUEEEEEEEE...but also, no to uber, because peeps will FOR SURE know you had been there. Anyway, I ordered an uber and we just walked out to the road, in the pouring rain, and rode away. Simple, easy, unnerving, Stonewall Jackson.

The basement, though. Oh the basement. This was one of the scariest rooms I've been in. It wasn't even a room, more of a hidden space, but that protruding wall (on the left side of the frame) made the space feel like a cave like room. It trapped the air in and it had become cold and stale. The desk and chair were perfectly placed so that when you poked your head around the wall, you get the pants scared off of you.

*Disclaimer: I do not give out addresses to locations.

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