The story of this charming French factory is almost identical to those of countless other factories that rose on the banks of important rivers and thrived for many decades, only to later succumb to the merciless tides of post-industrialism. This made it the perfect destination for our traditional end-of-the-year outing: instead of great drama and adventures, we enjoyed a slow, quiet day out exploring the now-abandoned factory in a beautiful area near Lyon.

The factory area, easily recognizable by a tall tower-like structure pointing at the sky, has been photographed extensively by connoisseurs of urban decay in Lyon. The identity of the place, however, is usually not readily offered, so I won’t reveal it either.

The factory tower

 

Secret history

The story begins in the 1920’s. Built between the River Saône and the mineral-rich hills that dominate the region, the state-of-the-art factory quickly became a source of great local pride and wealth. The river, sailed by generations of merchants since the Bronze Age, connected it with Paris in the North and Lyon in the South.

The complex is composed of two buildings: a large four-story building and a smaller one with a tall tower planted in the middle. Partly burnt and stripped clean of any valuable materials, the vast halls of the main building today only hint at the manufacturing prowess they once held inside.

The complex was owned by a number of enterprises and used for the production of various goods throughout its almost century-long run. By the dawn of the new millennium, its activities had slowed down and the complex was on its way to becoming obsolete. The local pride was now a local eyesore.

The factory's main building

New hope

Fortunately, it seems that for every beautiful old building there is somebody – perhaps a dedicated neighborhood association, perhaps a mysterious investor – who wants to re-purpose it into something else. This is the case with our little French factory, too. Whether the plans will succeed or not, of course, another story, but there are subtle signs that the place isn’t completely neglected: upon entering, we found the front yard cleared of weeds.

We explored the grand main building of the factory, steering clear of the more dangerous-looking parts. At one point we ran into a group of 12-year-olds playing hide and seek and accidentally scared the hell out of them (sorry kids). After making our way to the building’s top floor, we said hello to the resident family of pigeons and then, ever so slowly, retreated to the local diner for some tea and cakes. Such was our holiday outing this year: sweet and simple as the place itself.

Entrance to the factory's main building

Stairs leading to the factory's second floor

A dark corridor inside the factory's main building

 

 

Graffiti on the factory's top floor

The top floor of the factory

The factory yard surrounded by hills

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