west trenton


The Cold War Relics Three Photographers Are Documenting Before They Disappear

It’s nearly nightfall and sage ranch park seems deserted. But just as we’re about to stop the pickup, headlights pass: cop car.

“Black-and-white!” Stephen Freskos yells ruefully from the passenger seat. It’s a bad omen for the plan that he and his two companions have made for their evening. They’ve chosen Sage Ranch, on the northwestern outskirts of Los Angeles County, as the departure point for an illegal infiltration into the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a massive former military installation closed to public view. Their goal: to photograph the site before it, like much of America’s hidden Cold War heritage, is demolished and swept away forever.

The three men—Freskos, a beefy construction manager; Scott Haefner, a wiry web developer with glasses, in the driver’s seat; and Jon Haeber, the smallest of the three and a preservationist by trade, in the back—have spent years exploring deserted spaces together. They started with vacant movie theaters and bowling alleys, then moved on to bigger game: resort hotels, Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, a mansion belonging to Steve Jobs. Now in their thirties, they’ve made a special study of military installations, the documentation of which they feel to be an important public service. During the past half decade, the three have penetrated an astonishing range of secret places, from a Minuteman launch control facility in South Dakota to a Titan II missile site in Marana, Arizona; from the Naval Air Warfare Center in West Trenton, New Jersey, to an Atlas E launch site outside Topeka, Kansas. In their home state of California, they’ve burrowed inside multiple former Air Force bases, four missile sites, and countless other forbidden military spots. This will be their eighth and likely final trip to Santa Susana, which tested ballistic-missile systems and spacecraft engines for the Army, the Air Force, and NASA from 1947 to 2006.

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