Some call it the world’s tallest filing cabinet. I can’t verify the boast, but regardless of superlatives, with thirty-eight drawers it’s tall enough. Reaching almost four stories high, it’s a skinny tower in a weedy field separating a middle class residential area from industrial style buildings near the railroad tracks on Flynn Avenue in the south end of Burlington, Vermont.
A stack of ordinary letter sized filing cabinets welded together and bolted to a concrete pad, they’re in various shades of gray, green and tan. Some of the upper drawers are partially open and a number of lower ones are missing handles, probably the result of senseless vandalism. The monument has substantial rust, and the bottom third of the structure is tattooed with scratched and painted graffiti and stickers. This may seem a desecration to some, but it creates a kind of curious, if indecipherable social register marking past visits. I found these contemporary glyphs intriguing.
The steel column bears no sign or plaque. Travelers are in the dark as to the artist, the title of the work, and its purpose. According to the website Obscure Vermont, the structure was built in 2002 by local Artist Ben Alvarez to poke fun at bureaucracy. Standing in the route of the “Southern Connector,” an interstate highway bypass that was never built, each drawer is said to represent a year of paperwork accumulated by the ill fated project.