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  • Lake X - The Last Day

    Mercury's Legendary Testing Location

    It was the secret test facility where Kiekhaefer Marine conducted its performance testing and experiments. The Mercury Skunk Works, so to say. Although Lake X was really not a secret, the lake itself, which is actually called Lake Conlin, was not very easy to reach, especially back then. And that was the goal - a place that would not be within easy reach of photographers and other prying eyes. But there was a lot of work to be done before the location could be used; the 1400-acre lake in central Florida was a swampy wilderness full of alligators, snakes, and panthers.

    A construction team from Fond du Lac would travel down to Lake X to build up the test facility, which included boat launches, work buildings, and even a motel. The now-famous observation tower became its most identifiable structure.

    The aging observation tower as it appeared in 2003. It was no longer used by then and the structure was deemed unsafe due to nearly fifty years of corrosion.
    On the very day that Mercury was moving out of Lake X in 2003, I drove there to shoot some photos. It was a bit of a gray, windy day and the very last day that Mercury would be there. That night, the last of the trucks would leave and the property that was Lake X would go into history.

    Aerial image of Lake Conlin (Lake X) as it is today. The main structure appears to be present, however the observation tower is now gone. Image: Google Maps
    These are the photos I shot that day. It was kind of eerie seeing those famous buildings, somewhat rusted and run down, but knowing that they've been part of so much history there. Those characteristic plexiglas bubble windows were such a bold reminder of an era long gone. The tower was in such a decayed state that I was not permitted to climb up to the top, for fear that the structure was unstable.

    It was a sad day, but I was happy that I could at least see the place on its last day.

    The characteristic plexiglass bubble windows were a standout feature of the facility. The garages are open because trucks (including the famous Mercury Racing tractor) were being loaded for the move. That night, everybody would be gone.

    50,000 Miles by Outboard: The famous endurance test of a 1957 Mercury Mark 75 engine at Lake X.

    Lake X in 2003 - click images for larger size

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Lake X - The Last Day started by Scream And Fly View original post
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Ventura Boy's Avatar
      Ventura Boy -
      Amazing!! Thanks.
    1. props4u2's Avatar
      props4u2 -
      Great pictures and video Greg. There are many great memories from that lake.
    1. skatermike24's Avatar
      skatermike24 -
      My son and I fish the lake a few times a year, awesome fishing and a great place to visit.
    1. 27' Daytona's Avatar
      27' Daytona -
      That was Awesome, thanks! I have two friends that have tested there, and another friend just gave me a Lake X T-shirt last week!
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