Moonrise over Peters Cartridge – photo by Sam Smith © 2016


by Sam Smith

For years, the decaying tower, inscribed with a tile “P” stood next to a smokestack, looked down at the Loveland Bike trail. There is an allure and a mood that is almost palpable from the structure. Dark, foreboding and inviting all at once, it is a landmark that manifests itself in that part of our psyche that yearns for the temporal and the damaged. So many have passed it, so many have worked in it, and so many have died both in the building and as a result of the artillery manufactured in the crumbling edifice. It has been 100 years since the original construction, and after generations of abandonment, construction has began again. Excavators have begun to push the mercury-laden soil and twisted rebar aside in preparation for loft apartments, as an era of dilapidation nears a close for this factory with such a rich history. Bloomfield-Schon began a $5 million renovation project on the grounds to convert it into apartments.

In an earlier structure in the same location, musket balls and gunpowder were manufactured under the name Miami Powder Company, starting in 1887– 126 years ago. Through its time, there were multiple explosions, killing scores. The structure was adapted and expanded in order to accommodate the increased demand that World War II brought.

The iconic tower and smokestack – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

At one point, the structure reached across where a street now runs, marked by concrete relics hidden in the woods next to the bike trail and side of Grandin Road. Previously, there was a ballistics testing room. The iconic tower still holds a weathered and rusty vertical tunnel where bullets would be dropped and tested for aerodynamic efficiency.

Aerodynamic Testing Tube – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Elevator Shaft – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Welcome to the Machine – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

As the war came to a close, so too did the factory. In 1944, the factory was sold to Columbia Records, where it went on to produce vinyl records until 1949. For the past 67 years, the factory has been used as a warehouse intermittently. It temporarily housed an artist’s studio, and was subject of the now lost B-Roll horror movie, The Ghost Factory. But, for the most part, it has been vacant.

Wanderer – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Catwalks – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

From the Tower – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Time and nature have taken their ultimate course, and Peters Cartridge has given way to decay. It has been added to the registry of National Historical Place and considered an emergency by the EPA due to an extremely high concentration of lead, mercury and copper. Desite the danger and rust, the factory is both beautiful and eerie. 

Ovens – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Coal was burned in these imposing ovens, and smoke was funneled through the smokestack – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Inside the top of the tower. The iconinc “P” is on the outside just below this space. – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Evening Light – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Bridge – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Columns and Decay – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

In its abandonment, it has been an unfortunately popular site for vandals. “It’s an iffy sort of thing. There’s places to stand around it and take pictures, but entering the actual building is illegal” said Loveland photo teacher Jim Barrett. Urbexers (urban explorers) have adopted the building as a popular photo site, despite the risk and illegality.

The smokestack on expired 35mm film
The smokestack on expired 35mm film – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Double Exposure on Expired Konica 200 – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Apparitions 7 – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

Apparitions 8 – photo by Sam Smith © 2016

There is something in decaying structures like this one that is so very evocative– something that reflects the human condition and our unavoidable sway to the palm of nature. “It’s the only real piece of history Kings has. And it’s the reason Kings is there at all.” claims Loveland photo teacher Mr. Barrett. The renovations will bring commerce and help preserve the factory from being lost entirely. They will no doubt make 130 wonderful, market-rate, polished apartments and encourage commerce. But one can’t help but feel melancholy at the gentrification and loss of the such a rich monument to terminality.

Sunset on an Era for Peters Cartridge – photo by Sam Smith © 2016


Sam Smith is a reporter, videographer, and photographer for Loveland Magazine.

To see more of Sam Smith’s photo work, visit his Tumblr and Instagram.


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Map to Kings Powder Factory

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