• Benji Sills

World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

Paige and I have long been intrigued by inexplicable art installations - our home base of New York City is packed with them. Burlington too, as it turned out, had a number of deliciously odd surprises. Our favorite of these was the self-proclaimed tallest filing cabinet in the world. Although I can’t imagine this is a hotly contested title, the sculpture itself does not disappoint. Arriving, we weren’t sure what to expect from the area. I was keeping my eyes peeled for a small sculpture park, but instead we found ourselves pulling into the abandoned parking lot of the Howard Center, a building complex so vague that it doesn’t appear to even be marked on Google Maps. The lot was completely vacant, so parking was simple (although it should be noted we were visiting on a Saturday - it’s possible that whichever methamphetamine lab owns the lot fills during the week). The sculpture is truly a blink-and-you-miss-it sight: if we hadn’t known in advance to look for it, we likely would have driven straight past without a second glance. But there it was, looming like the guardian of a long-lost landfill. We wandered through the overgrown weeds towards the structure and saw two middle-aged men struggling to take a selfie with their young son, who was wandering off looking confused as to why he was there. Paige offered to help with their snapshots and we got chatting. One of the men cheerfully explained he had come from Singapore to see this and then promptly packed his family back into their car and drove off, I assume to catch the return flight home. Although it’s hard to justify a round trip from Singapore to see it, the filing cabinet is certainly fun to look at. Built by local artist Bren Alvarez, it stands 38 drawers tall - each drawer representing a year of paperwork that Alvarez accumulated while working on a local street project. It’s been here since 2002 and at this point is somewhat grubby and weathered, covered by stickers for local bands, restaurants and other unidentifiable groups that felt compelled to leave their mark. There is also a disturbing number of band-aids hanging off the sides. Whilst the sculpture looks like it may need a few band-aids to keep it upright, they mostly serve to hand wetly off the sides, helping only to make the sculpture even more confusing. In short, it’s a wonderfully baffling sight and although it isn’t officially recognized to be the tallest filing cabinet (allegedly other structures also claim the title), it is certainly a fun piece of public art to marvel at if you’re passing through the Burlington area. So get saving, because flights from Singapore ain’t cheap.

To visit, go to Flynn Street - you’ll find it between roadside between Pine Street and Foster Street. It’s also landmarked on Google, so you can plug in World's Tallest Filing Cabinet for an exact coordinate.

Admission is free.

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