'San Meet 4

This will be the 4th (annual) Muskoka Sanitarium Urban Exploration Meet which I have helped organise. One of the reasons why this is the fourth such event at this wonderful location is that the organisers attempt to ensure that only mature, trusted explorers who respect the location are invited to attend. These explorers all believe in the UE tenet, 'Taking Only Pictures, Leaving Only Footprints' and share a respect for the property they explore. Although seemingly difficult, it is completely possible to have a large group of 20 or so explorers visit an abandonment and leave little or no trace that they were ever there. With the exception of one minor incident of stupidity, I believe that the event was a success.

Some of the less shy attendees . . .
Explorers who came out to the meet included faded_X, Axle, neX, MakeWithTheBits, syn, Shreddie, bTown, HelloKitty, ElectricalFire, Krista, Jono, Avatar-X, emiko, Darra, 'whats Left of the Psych', and Lowe. Others are not named due to complex issues arising from over-demanding parole officers.

Provided here for your enjoyment is a short 4 minute video showing some of the exploration.

At first glance, it appeared that very little had changed since I and other urban explorers have first started visiting this abandonment almost four years ago. Furniture and other movable items appear almost fixed in time within this space.

Closer inspection however does reveal a multitude of minute modifications manifested by nature. In a few limited cases however, it does appear that the Ontario Provincial Police or other agencies using the facility for training and exercises may have had wanton disregard for the property as shown below and right.

Evidence of police training exercises are throughout the facility in the form of bagged garbage (from lunches) and spent simunition. Shot-up target dummies made interesting subjects for photography or interview by budding journalists looking for a police-brutality headline story. Other popular locations or angles within the buildings act almost like way stations for explorers like the fountain image earlier or this stairwell.

The property care taker is fighting a losing battle it seems as the structures on the property are slowing deteriorating. Containers placed strategically to catch drips of water from a leaking roof now are encased in at least one to two inches of ice. In some cases, doors are seasonally frozen in place with access only granted after a spring thaw.

I do know that a number of regular blog readers here, although not urban explorers per se, do have interests in the paranormal. Abandonments of local historical significance such as the Sanatorium are, of course, is a natural environment for such ghost hauntings. I have personally not experienced any odd 'vibes' previously BUT did witness some unusual items of note during this exploration
There seemed to be a chair that would almost seem to follow me around the building. I'm unsure if it is the same chair or a different one, but it certainly did set me at unease.

By visiting in the winter time, explorers may limit certain inhalation hazards such as indoor mold or fungal spores which may become air-borne as they walk through an area. Alternatively, an ice-covered hallway floor or staircase presents an entirely different seasonal hazard. The bonus however, is that there may be a certain beauty to be found with an iced object.

It goes without saying that the structures on the property are unfortunately somewhat past recovery. Warped parquet floors offer an impossible jigsaw to the obsessive-compulsive and each room offers a vast buffet of lead-based peelers for the pica sufferer.

Until next time, Happy & Safe Exploring.
Remember kids, keep it clean . . .

UPDATE - 2.27.2008

There had been a significant increase in mischief offences in the Muskoka area. Police reports indicate a jump from 43 incidents in 2006 to 73 in 2007. Incidents include vandalism and spray-paint graffiti. I wish to recognise the dedicated efforts of the O.P.P. who are trying to curb this thoughtless damage to property.

My apologies to O.P.P. Detective Sergeant "S.G." for not returning his eMail. Please know that the 50+ urban explorers who have personally explored with me (and the hundreds of others active in the Ontario u.e. community at large who know of me) all realise that I personally do not condone any damage to property; In fact they know that I would deal very harshly with those who do not respect the structures we explore. The very best of luck in your efforts in bringing real criminals to justice.


Sundial Inn

The once-famous Sundial Inn built in the early 1960's was a landmark on the northern edge of Orillia which greeted travelers heading too and returning from vacation in the Muskokas.

This swanky hotel and adjacent restaurant incorporated a 'Googie' or 'Popluxe' design into its architecture (a style which I absolutely love). Googie was a style popular in the late 1950's and 1960's and originated in southern California. This type of futurist architecture, influenced by car culture, and the Space / Atomic Age featured bold angles, upswept roofs (often cantilevered), geometric designs, colourful signs, and daring use of glass, steel, and neon.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for this post's purpose), very little effort was made to renovate and update the Sundial Inn. With business starting to decline, the Inn was sold to Travelodge in the mid 1990's. This was a time when area business was beginning to pick up with Casino Rama (located a short drive away) becoming a popular destination.

Again, unfortunately, the new owners did very little to improve the facilities at the Inn. A small tower was added to increase the number of rooms to just under a hundred for the increased demand for accommodations from the nearby Casino.

By 2004, the round 'Googie-riffic' restaurant had closed it's doors and Travel Advisor members were already cautioning would-be guests not to venture into the pool. Coupled with the opening of the luxury 300-room hotel at Casino Rama, the end was in site.

Last year, the courtesy shuttle, operated by the Casino was canceled which may very well have been the last nail in the coffin. The Sundial Inn closed its doors on Friday 1st, 2008.

There was an interest to have the Sundial redeveloped to serve as a senior's residence but that too had fallen through. Lamentable as it is, there is very little nostalgia in Central Ontario for a wonderful hotel such as this. I can only hope that the wrecker's ball will spare the sundial on the restaurant's roof.


Approximately 4 hours after JFK and I left the saucer-shaped canopy at the Sundial Inn caved, tearing a hole in the roof.
Fire & Emergency as well as the mayor attended the scene to survey the damage. A combination of snow load and metal fatigue are thought to be contributing factors.
Royal Host, the owner has fenced the area off and are collecting repair estimates . . . I personally think they would rather see the buildings demolished and the property sold.


Odd to think that I may have been one of the last people to walk though the restaurant entryway before the structural collapse. I also have a feeling that a few people are riding on my coat-tails on this one . . .

The old place is starting to get a lot of attention from the Orillia Packet & Times as well as the Orillia Municipal Heritage Committee. I hate to tell Joanna Fonseca (past chair of the Committee shown below snapping a pic) that the only way to save this building is to amputate the hotel and find a developer willing to drop a lot of money into restoration of a unique 'retro-trendy' restaurant.



Welcome to the 2007 Post Archive where all the old posts come to wither and electronically decay.

These are arranged from Oldest to Newest

Old Folks Home - An exploration of the recently abandoned Versa-Care nursing home near Delaware.

Woodholme Castle - A look at the beautiful abandoned mansion known as Woodholme in north London.

Merry Christmas ! - A Happy Christmas to all. Enjoy this festive and humourus look at some Santas.

Wellington Hotel Fire - A very sad loss of a historic landmark building at Five-Points, downtown Barrie.

Kennedy Detention Centre - CopySix and JFK explore the massive Youth Detention Centre in Uxbridge.

Innisfil Heights Marche
- Empty tables set for diners who will never come.

Crowded Base
- CopySix and Jack Morningwood find quite a lot of extra company at the abandoned base at Edgar.

The Coffee Conumdrum - Odd findings in our old haunt at the Barrie Molson Brewery.

NYC High Line - A photographic report from my brother of the recent OpenHouseNewYork tour of the abandoned commercial rail viaduct in Manhattan.

The Cottages of Boston Mills - The team explores an interesting series of abandoned cottages near Cheltenham, Ontario.

Uxbridge Train Station - An exploration of the beautifully restored train station in Uxbridge, Ontario.

Allandale Train Station
- A journey through time at the Allandale Train Station in Barrie.

VeriFine Foods Bradford - An exploration of the VeriFine Vegetable processing plant in Bradford.

Barber Paper Mill - Part of the Mill Madness Tour with neX & JFK. A highlight of the tour and certainly the summer. Please check out the very cool UrbEx Video.

Mill Madness - Part of the Mill Madness Tour with neX & JFK. A look at the Harris Woolen Mill and Everton Mills.

Cheltenham Brickworks - A group exploration with neX and JFK of the Cheltenham Brickworks and nearby Cheltenham Badlands.

Severn Bridge Kiosk - A pint-sized roadside abandonment along the gateway to the north.

Oro Rural-Ex - Another fine rural abandonment found this time in Oro-Medonte Township.

UrbEx Potpourri - Some location scouting in Orillia, as well as Innisfil and Oro-Medonte Townships.

Molson Brewery 3
- My third foray into the brewery, this time with our trusty side-kick JuicyFruitKisses and our good UrbEx Buddy from UEKW, Mr. CrossFire.

Don Valley Brickworks - Our exploration is cut short due to a model shoot on location. This place has gone mainstream !

Gasoline Alley Motel - A quick foray into one of the many abandoned and odd places found in Gasoline Alley just north of Barrie.

Base Edgar Rainy Day - Our fourth trip out to the old radar base, turned mental institution. The heavy downpour confined us to a limited number of buildings on the site.

Molson Brewery 2 - My second exploration of the brewery and another video installment. Jef (aka White Trash) keeping us company this exploration.

Molson Brewery 1 - My very first urban exploration video. Filmed at Barrie's massive former Molson Brewery.

Naples Pizza - The disapointment of waiting too long before exploring a location.

Hillsdale Gristmill - This historical gristmill is quickly falling apart.

UrbEx Short Story BUSTED ! - A short fictional story of getting busted at abandoned Base Edgar while urban exploring.

Washago Grain Tower - A unique and interesting abandoned grain tower on the CN Rail line in Washago.

Fork Lift Truck Graveyard - Where all the Fork Lift Trucks come to die.

Holland Marsh House - Abandoned house on the Holland Marsh near Bradford

Then & Now 3 - Post 3 of a vintage postcard / photograph re-creation of locations in Barrie.

Then & Now 2 - Post 2 of a vintage postcard / photograph re-creation of locations in Barrie.

Then & Now 1 - Post 1 of a vintage postcard / photograph re-creation of locations in Barrie.

Innisfil Agrarian - Yet another interesting abandoned farmhouse in Innisfil.

Phantom Hosiery - A large and empty industrial building in Hamilton.

Hamilton Lyric / Century Theatre My tour of the Hamilton Lyric Theatre.

Rick Mercer @ Muskoka Sanitarium Rick Mercer and David Suzuki having fun at the Muskoka Centre.

Allandale Rail YMCA / Crazy Fox An exploration of the historic building and former home of the Allandale rail road YMCA.

Barrie Jail A look at the historic former Barrie gaol.

Barrie Horse Race Track A quick tour of the Barrie Events Centre / race track in its last year of operation.

Innisfil Gothic Crazy Dave's Innisfil Farmhouse A long-abonded and beautiful farmhouse in Innisfil.

Port McNicoll Grain Silos A look at the massive silos at Port McNicoll.


Foggy Day

I love foggy days. Whether it is a cool summer morning as the sun is beginning to drive the dew of the ground or a late winter day such as this, it really does not matter to me. Today, the snow in Barrie is still laying heavy in all the open places but milder weather and temperatures are producing a healthy layer of fog.

I had a space of approximately 20-minutes to myself after dropping of my three kids and when I had to be at work today. What better way of killing this small amount of time than driving down to the waterfront and snapping a few pics.

It is somewhat like urban exploration, just without the abandonments.

One stop I had to make was the old Crazy Fox Restaurant & Bistro, now the beautifully restored elegant Shutters Restaurant.

The owner, developer Mark Porter had effected a stellar job in restoring and preserving this historically significant building. The restaurant's courtyard is sporting a formidable ice fortification installed in the spirit of Barrie's Winterfest, held last weekend.

Next door, the dead shell of the Allandale train station still stands. Recently, Barrie's City Council has begun discussing the possibility of using this abandoned station as the terminus for the GO train service line which now is located at the hamlet of St. Paul's just within the limits of Barrie's south end.

Of course, I had to also stop off at the Spirit Catcher at Barrie's waterfront. This iconic sculpture was erected (tee-hee) in 1987 and is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Barrie.

With only minutes to spare to get to work, I swung by the old Barrie Gaol. Not much is happening at this abandonment either. The facility receiving new roofing last year but for the moment, it is just taking up space which could be used for parking at the adjacent Court House.

Next time you are out and about in Simcoe County on a foggy day and do see a photographer, there's a good chance it's me.

Happy & Safe Exploring !


UrbEx Time Machine

When exploring, I, like many other urban explorers I have talked to, love to imagine what the abandonment may have looked like 'back in the day'. This is not saying I wish to be part of those times at all. I am saying that it would be thrilling to view that location through a type of 'temporal looking glass' to distantly witness the bustle of lively activity.

One such place which has been completely erased from this physical plane and only does exist in the past is the former Prisoner-of-War facility just a short drive north of Barrie, Ontario. Although it was not always an internment facility . . .

Near Gravenhurst, the Minnewaska Resort was built in 1897. This establishment catered to the well-to-do of Toronto, seeking vacation at the time when the lakes of Muskoka were plied by a small fleet of regal steamers. The Minnewaska closed its doors and was promptly seceded by the Calydor Sanatorium to deal with the devastating tuberculosis disease. Where the Muskoka Sanitorium accepted people from all walks of life, the Calydor, located only a short distance away, was private.

With the introduction of antibiotics, the prognostics for a
tuberculosis patient was good and the hospitalisation time greatly reduced. With the outbreak of World War Two, the need for confinement facilities for prisoners of war brought a new use for the buildings and the premises. With the Calydor already in decline, the government took over management, rapidly converted the buildings and grounds and accepted the first prisoners in 1940. At anytime, the new 'Camp 20' held around 500 prisoners which were guarded by veterans of the previous war and other younger Canadian soldiers.

(L) German Prisoners being marched from the Gravenhurst train station to the camp.
(R) German Officers posing for a photograph at the prison camp.

With the war won, Camp 20 closed in 1946, but not for long. The Gateway Hotel opened up for business in 1949. Ironically, this kosher hotel catered to Jewish vacationers from Toronto. This hotel closed in 1967 and the location became a camp for youth but was soon destroyed by fire.

The grounds are now deserted, located on the edge of the residential area of Gravenhurst there is nothing there but some old concrete footings to mark the location. There is a rumour that after the fire, some of the damaged structures were bulldozed into the lake and may still be viewed by recreational divers.

Another location which needs very little imagination (and no 'temporal looking glass') to step into the past is this Mill . . .

Can you identify this place ?

Some more hints . . . If you grew up near the Greater Toronto Area, you may very have visited it on a school field trip . . .

If you guessed, the Blackcreek Pioneer Village, you would be correct.

It is recommended that you pop by Roblin's Mill at Blackcreek Pioneer Village, if you are an Urban Explorer who enjoys poking around old mills. This one has been restored very nicely and you just might learn what the heck that broken thing-a-ma-jig is you were photographing at your favourite abandoned mill.

Happy & Safe Exploring Everyone !