Atherley Narrows

The Atherley Narrows which separate Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching is one of those Central Ontario locations steeped in history. Pre-historic fish weirs constructed here fed the local Mnjikaning natives and Samuel de Champlain passed through here way back in 1615. More recently, the Midland Railway constructed a swing bridge in 1873 which is the topic of today's post. Just after 10 p.m. on Saturday, 30th October, 2010 one or more arse-clowns set fire to the historic control building. Having been there a few months ago, I think it à propos to post pics from the day . . .

Here's the story from Jennifer Burden of the Orillia Packet & Times -

The abandoned Canadian National Railway (CN) control building for the Atherley Narrows swing bridge burned down in a suspicious fire on Saturday. Orillia firefighters were dispatched to the site where the Millennium Trail ends at at The Narrows, behind Crate's Lake Country Boats on Atherley Road, just after 10 p.m. on Saturday, 30th October, 2010. Numerous 9-1-1 calls reported a fire in the area, deputy fire chief Jeff Kirk said.

"(Callers) thought it was actually Crate's Marine because of the location of the building," Kirk said.

It took 12 fire fighters approximately three hours to extinguish the fire completely and crews had to return to scene on Sunday to deal with further hot spots. The fire was brought under control quickly, Kirk said, but because the building was so old and dried out, it collapsed shortly after personnel arrived at the scene, making it difficult to extinguish entirely.

"We had a terrible time getting at the timbers underneath all the rubble," he said.

The fire has been deemed suspicious because there were no inhabitants, no power and no utilities of kind at the site, he added.

Frank Kehoe, Orillia native and railway enthusiast, said the structure was built in 1873 by Midland Railway, which later joined the Grand Trunk Railway and then the Canadian National Railway. His great-grandfather, Francis Gaudaur, was a Midland Railway surveyor and one of the swing bridge's first keepers. His childhood home backed onto the railroad tracks close to the swing bridge and he fondly remembers visiting the swing bridge's control building and whoever was operating it "hundreds of times," as a kid, he said. He remembers the historic, two-storey wood tower as being simple, with no wallpaper or drywall, and nothing in it but a wood stove on the main floor and a lookout on the second.

"It's a damn crime because it should have been a historic building to begin with. It's in so many photographs of historic value," Kehoe said. "I hope they catch the kids that did it."

In recent years, there has been talk about restoring the site of the old swing bridge with plans of building a pedestrian bridge in its place connecting the Orillia and Ramara trails. The charred remains of the historic structure have been turned over to the CN Police, owners of the property, whose responsibility it is to clear the debris. Julie Senecal, CN spokesperson, said CN would hire a local contractor to remove the debris in the next few days.

The bridge has been locked in the open position since 1996 when CN abandoned the line into Orillia and lifted the trails.



Niagara Tour

Hey all,

We're back from a weekend touring the Niagara Wine region - wine, cheese, and . . . accidentally getting lost on Winery tours -

Loads of fairly nifty process and piping images were taken but none of them held any real appeal for me until I walked into this area . . .

Yep. Happy times. The next leg into the facility was truly epic as we encountered entire walls constructed of thousands of bottles of wine . . .

All and all, a very good day. There were also quite a few juicy abandonments in the area, mostly residential with a few commercial / industrial sites which beg for further exploration.

If you are thinking of taking a wine tour, we strongly suggest you take an organised tour or at the very least consider hiring a taxi for the day if you plan to try a number of wine tastings.

Safe and Happy Exploring everyone.


Bolton Camp

Hey ya folks,

It's been a while but we've been biding our time, collecting our resources, effecting meticulous planning, and training our crack squad of urban explorer ninjas to bring to you this, our latest exploration. Unfortunately, like any decent Shakespearian play, we get caught by the caretaker or in this particular case, a witch in a Ford Truck posing as a caretaker.

Before we carry on too long, let's watch a short video . . .

A bit of History now on the Bolton Camp

This camp was founded in 1922 as Fresh Air Camp for mothers with small children, boys and girls from low income families by the The Neighborhood Workers Association of Toronto. The camp physically consisted of 92 acres of hillside, wooded glen and the properties adjacent to Cold Creek Stream which had been once used as a local Angler Club. The Association had purchased the property for $11,500 ( a large amount of money back then).

In it's very first year, 160 city children and their mothers travelled from Toronto to Bolton by steam train and then by truck to the 39-hectare camp north of the city. In the 1930's and the great depression had hit many hard in the area and this camp was a bright place for many unfortunate kids to escape the heat and extreme poverty of the city. This camp was available free of charge to many families (on a case by case basis) through the Fresh Air Fund.

In 1928, it cost $8.56 per child for a 12 day program at Bolton Camp, which included food, transportation, medical care, upkeep of buildings, sanitation system and some non-volunteer staff positions such as
a resident physician and a few nurses.

The children were weighed on entering and before leaving for home. There are stories that some underweight children at that time gained a pound a day. During the first 17 years of Operation, 17,641 children and mothers enjoyed a holiday at the camp. There were a total of four separate camps which shared property and resources - Rotary, Sherbourne, Hastins and Howell.

In 2000, the Bolton Camp property was sold by the Association (now known as the Family Service Association of Toronto ), when it was decided that collaborative, community-based programs would more effectively engage families at risk due to low income or discrimination. Part of the proceeds from the sale of Bolton Camp were used to fund many needed and worthy projects.

The camp and property was purchased by the Toronto Montessori Schools which had constructed a large modern complex on the north side of the camp which was named the Caledon-King Campus. This campus had closed its doors in just five short years (reasons unknown at the time of posting), and the property is now for sale. The property has an assessed value of approximately 4.6 million (OPAC / MPAC 2005 assessment).

Unfortunately, local a$$-clown vandals have found their way onto the property and smashed just about anything they could lay their paws on. Due to this, the caretakers are now extremely sensitive to anyone coming onto the property and will likely run you over with their truck. (yeah rlly)


Orillia Asylum

Local businessman Henry Fraser began the construction of a large stone and brick building at this site for use as a hotel in 1858. Only partially complete, the province including many municipal councils in the area acquired the property and building in 1860 and began preparing the site to accommodate mentally handicapped patients from other over-crowded facilities including the nearby Convalescent Lunatic Asylum located in Orillia's Couchiching Beach Park.

Huronia Regional Centre opened in 1876. It was originally called the Orillia Asylum for Idiots but was renamed the Ontario Hospital School for obvious reasons. In 1974, it was renamed the Huronia Regional Centre.

Initial construction included a female residence (opened in November 1887), a male residence (opened in February 1888), a central building serving as a water tower, boiler house and kitchen and, about a quarter mile distant, a small plant to create coal gas for lighting located near the railway tracks. The present Administration Building, added to the front of the existing complex, was opened in April 1891.

There are approximately 1.5 kilometers of tunnels which link most of the structures on the property - some tunnels have been sealed.

Video time - grab your respirator and bag 'o' popKorn.

The peak population at one time was approximately 2,800 in 1960.
Beginning in 1987, the Province of Ontario began closing all such facilities and began integration of those with developmental disability into the general community.

The facility closed in March, 2009.

Many buildings now on the formers grounds have found new life such as the Ontario Provincial Police Academy, the family Courthouse and offices for other crown agencies.