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Alexander Conca Machinist and Maintenance Shop


The Alexander Conca Machine Shop in Bristol, PA, was (perhaps not shockingly) owned by a man named Alexander Conca. Little information exists on Conca; he was the son of Italian immigrant Vincenzo Conca, who moved to Bristol in 1887 at the age of 17. Beyond the fact that Alexander had five brothers, was a member of the Bucks Moose Lodge, donated to local charities, and was second Lieutenant in the Bucks Consolidated Fire Department, there is little information to be found on him or his business. In 1966 his shop was listed as making and repairing machinery parts and employing two. His obituary lists that he lived in Bristol his whole life, that he will be missed by his surviving family members, and that he passed away in January of 2014.

I was able to photograph the shop a little over six months later, shortly before the machinery was cleared out and either sold or scrapped. Having never met Conca, and knowing next to nothing about the belt-driven machinery inside, it was a little like reading through a medieval manuscript in another language; you might be able to appreciate the beauty of the illustrations and lettering but the overall meaning is lost. Then again, in many cases this is the entire experience of documenting abandoned sites, which are by their very nature about absences and trying to reconstruct meaning with incomplete information. Death creates a void where a person or place's identity was, and a part of the fascination of ruins to me lies in staring into that void and trying to recreate something based on the shape of the edges. Conca's tools, the scraps of paper left tacked to his office wall, even the metal filings left in piles on the ground: all were echoes of actions taken years ago whose only real tangible remains were perhaps the oblique tableau before me.

Photographs and unattributed text by Matthew Christopher. For more images click the thumbnails below.