Barrie Fair

It being the 'lean season' for Central Ontario urban exploring as I had mentioned in the last post, I stayed close to home on this one. With deep snow and a frigid minus 30 degree Celcius, who can blame me.

I had decided to drop in for a quick scout which produced an unanticipated Point-Of-Entry in short time. This turned into one of those rushed running photo shoots as I was sketched out with an event that was occurring in the building.

On an autumn day in 1853, the crowds gathered from corners of central Ontario and beyond to Barrie for the very first Barrie Fair and Horse Show. Area farmers took this opportunity to show their produce and livestock, while ladies brought their preserves, baking and sewing. It was a time to gather and exchange ideas, practices, renew friendships and agressive recruiting tactics by the militant local 4-H Club.

In this image above, circa 1890's, a parade of new ploughshares and other agricultural implements pose in front of the City Hall & Market building. This provides evidence of early Barrie's strong agricultural roots.

In the early days, the fair did not have permanent home. Even until the 1940's, the fair was held at Barrie's Market Square and the plowing match held on a nearby farm field. In the early 1950's, the Board of Directors of the Barrie Agricultural Society decided to purchase property just outside town. This property would soon hold an enviable location at the intersection of the newly built Highway 400 and Essa Road.

On January 24, 2007, Paul Timpano, president of the Barrie Agricultural Society announced the sale of the 38-acre property to a Toronto-based real estate investment firm, Osmington Inc for $33 million cash. The property is to be developed into a large retail complex sometime after the 2008 fair.

Given this, I decided to make tracks down to the fairground and check out some of the fugly-a$$ buildings before it met the business end of a wrecking ball.

Here, one can see that krazy korn mascot, 'Huskeroo' madly dancing his sweet niblets off on top of the racetrack's grandstand roof.

. . . go Huskeroo !

Not a creature was stirring,
not even a cow.
Yippie yi Ohhhhh
Yippie yi yaaaaay
Ghost Riders in the barns.

Empty seats watch the atomic explosion outside.

The grandstand is divided into two; steerage, and LLBO licensed.

This is the 'other side' of the glass, where beer flowed freely and thick clouds of tobacco filled the space.

I remember when I first moved to barrie, I dropped a few bucks on a lame horse. I drowned my sorrow in a domestic beer here.

The wall-to-wall in the licensed section is highly adorned with a fantabulously designed fabric.

Upon closer inspection, one could see the stained evidence that Mr. Spilly-Pants frequented this track. It also smelled like an ashtray.

There also was evidence of a rushed meal, most likely taken by the catering staff before an event. The sour cream on the potatoe was . . well, sour.

A large portion of the second floor is now home to 'The Barrie Victory Centre' church which, according to their website are "restoring the fire of God".
I would like to know whether the landlord and the local fire marshall know about this.

I have until some time until after next year's fair to revisit and do a proper exploration of this place. One objective is to find my way up to the announcer's booth, fire-up the P/A system and be a human boombox.

Huskeroo scared generations of kids at the Barrie fair. Why? Because he looks like the radiated afterbirth of a Martian grudge-fvck.

Please provide comments as to what you think happened to this mascot.


Innisfil Gothic

We've been very fortunate in central Ontario to have had Winter take a vacation until almost mid-January. With the first permanent snow on its way in, I took the opportunity to make a brief forray to a location in Innisfil I had my eye on before the exploration 'lean season' set in.

This beautiful gem is in plain view of heedless commuters, just west of the busy Highway 400 in Innisfil, south of Barrie. I suspect that before the highway was constructed in 1952, this house had road access to this paved precursor.

Some items among the detritus of personal effects left inside the house suggest that this may have, at one point in time, been a livestock farm, most likely a milk operation. Contrary to its working rural heritage, the front door presents to us with a shadow of its stately past.

Much of the structure is threatening to collapse into the basement. Sensing this danger, the stairs, which should have been here in the main hallway, took flight.

There is a saying that 'A wise man can see more from the bottom of a well than a fool can from a mountain top'. With the very unsecure boarding at this old dug well, I will speculate that any person falling down here would see the inside of an emergency ward.

Speaking of wells, I will further speculate that neither a dry well, crop pestilence, or diseased livestock drove the family from the farm but the matron's deplorable taste for frightening wallpaper.

Perhaps given her singular tastes, is what gave cause for the gentleman-farmer to heavily imbibe as evidenced by the poliferation of glass bottles of every shape and volume scattered throughout the location.

The area's early farmers, by necessity, had to be fairly independent. To this end, these rural folk had to fabricate or mend a good deal. As 'Red Green' often says, "If the women don't find you hansome, they should at least find you handy". From the numerous tools found on location here, I will assume that the man of the house was rather grotesque.

The area settlers used this early version of Windows which required no electicity.

Remember kids, Crack kills . . . just like a structurally unsound barn may.

From the look of this cast iron frying pan found underneath a bed mattress, things got quite hot in the bedroom.

I will leave off this post with some sage advice - A falling and depressed real estate market may result in a housing crash.

Happy & Safe Exploring !


Port McNicoll Silos

This concrete behemoth is known as the Port McNicoll grain elevtors. It was in operation from 1912 to 1989.
JuicyFruitKisses, Mr. Jack Morningwood and myself hooked up with Jannx and Air33 for an exploration.

We were enthusiastic about the recent success of another colleague's attempt to access the top of the structure.
This site is a favourite among explorers but only a select few have explored the entire structure.

The weather on the day in question was gloomy and overcast and did not present the best conditions in which to photograph.
It was la
te afternoon when we arrived and the light was already starting to fade. To make things worse, snow flurries were expected latter on in the early evening.

Not much is still standing after the demolition of the port's other structures in the early 1990's. Only the massive grain bins and the occassional light standard still exist.

Rampant vegetation, unchecked for almost 20 years has erased much of what little evidence remained after the demolition.
The odd find such as this knocked over fire hydrant presents a hint of the extensive infrastructure that was once present.

This roof drain would be one wild ride for a golf ball . . . or perhaps an egg.

The basement interior of the the structure is as black as hades. One quickly realises the importance of adequate lighting and VERY long exposure times.

Unfortunately, by the time we stopped f@rting around and found the access up to the roof structure, natural light was rapidly deteriorating denying us the
opportunity of good photography.

Fortunately, however, our very excellent colleague 'Cadilac911' had presented some great images from a recent trip he had taken with his crew.

Three of his images are presented here to whet our appetite.

This structure is beautiful. A certain level of risk is presented to even some of the more seasoned explorers.

Some History

In this image, taken in the fall of 1952, we can see the 678-foot ship, the John O. McKellar being unload. This was Canada's largest lake steamer at the time. It took approximately 17 hours to unload the 20,500 tons of wheat and barley into 410 CPR railcars.

In the early 1880's, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), needed to open a way to transfer goods and immigrants west, and funnel prairie grain back east to the markets. Serious consider
ation was given to a water route between the CPR's Thunder Bay terminus and new Georgian Bay terminal as this would be more efficient than an expensive rail route through the treacherous terrain of northern Ontario. Owen Sound was considered, but the steeper terrain and farther distance from Toronto made the location economically impractical. In 1905, the CPR then surveyed the Victoria Harbour area and decided to site its operations across the bay. This new port, and the ensuant company town which sprung up here was named for then CPR vice-president David MacNicol.

Here we are treated to a rare sight of the bulk of the CPR fleet anchored at the Port McNicoll docks.

To extend the railway to Port McNicol, the CPR constructed a massive wooden trestle bridge across Hog Bay just to the south. When completed in 1908, the bridge was one of the longest wooden structures on the continent. The bridge was over 2,100 feet long and 50 feet high and was constructed of 8" by 16" timber and 65 foot pilings of British Columbia fir. Due to the strategic importance of this bridge, it was patrolled by armed guards during both world wars. The bridge was last used in 1971 and was demolished in 1978.

Once completed, Port McNicoll was a superb deep-water harbour, hosting the second largest grain elevator in North America. Port workers also prided themselves in operating the fastest unloading elevator on the great lakes for many years. The CPR transferred both its freight lines and passenger fleet to its new facilities at Port McNicoll. On May 4, 1912, the Assiniboia became the first passenger ship to sail out of the Port McNicoll harbour. While grain rolled into the colossal elevator, increasing numbers of immigrants, travellers and latter tourists poured onto the ships of the CPR fleet to make the trip across Georgian Bay in luxury. The graceful twin passenger ships, the Assisiniboia and the Keewatin, serviced the Port McNicoll terminal for over forty years, along with their freight-carrying contemporaries, the Alberta, the Athabasca and the Manitoba.

Here, passengers are assisted from their cars or from the train onto the elegant steam liners.

The 1920's were banner years for the CPR’s passenger ships, as tourists took a three-hour train ride north from Toronto, to take the scenic route across Georgian Bay and Lake Superior. The passenger ships were luxurious, with richly-furnished staterooms, a two-deck lounge complete with stained glass windows with live music and dancing. Before boarding, passengers were treated to the magnificent CPR gardens at Port McNicoll which became a tourist destination unto itself. The flowers for the gardens were grown in greenhouses, which were heated with steam from the CPR’s laundry. The gardens were famous for their flowers laid out in geometric patterns, there were sunflowers, hollyhocks, sweet William and geraniums maintained by a gardening staff of six.

The Assiniboia and the Keewatin put their early competition out of business and enjoyed a profitable career, but the era of the great ships did not last forever. By 1951, the Assiniboia and the Keewatin were the only Canadian ships still carrying passengers through the Great Lakes. The Alberta was the first ship to leave the Port McNicoll fleet when, in 1945, it was sold to a company in Orlando, Florida and latter scrapped. The Athabasca followed, which went to the Steel Company of Canada in Hamilton in 1947. The last regularly scheduled departure from Port McNicoll occurred on November 28, 1965, when the Keewatin sailed under Captain Ernest H. Ridd with only two passengers, both members of the Great Lakes Historical Society. The Keewatin is now used as a floating museum in Michigan and the Assiniboia was destroyed by fire shortly after.

In these two images, one may see some of the service buildings.
The image on the left is suspected to have been the laundry building where linens from the passenger ship's state rooms and dinning rooms were cleaned. The steam plant here also provided heat to the CPR gardens.

The federal government
cancelled rail subsidy in the late 1980's which sounded a death knell for the operations at Port McNicoll. The port elevator unloaded its last vessel, the Black Bay of Canada Steamship Lines in July of 1989. Along, with the Port McNicoll Elevator, the Tiffin Elevator and Simoce Elevator in nearby Midland also closed. Marathon Realty, a CP company sold the elevator and some 30 odd acres in 1980 to Maple Leaf Mills. The property was was resold again to Cargill Grain which had held a previous lease back in 1927.

The Port McNicoll elevator facility was fully intact until the mid 1990's when Cargill, hoping to redevelop the land, demolished the work house, office, and marine towers. Only the main bin structure remains as silent witness to the last 100 years of rich maritime history.