Blog: Abandoned Places: 2018 By: John Heisz
It has become an annual happening, where my brother Don and I go out for a day to look for abandoned places that might be interesting. Last year around this time I posted about the Boyne River Natural Science School that we basically stumbled upon. As it happens, that was from the year before, our first year doing this. Last year we were not as lucky and really didn’t find much of anything remarkable. However, when the morning started with airplanes marking the sky above the area we were heading to look, I knew this year would be more fruitful:
Another strategy to help make the search more effective was to pin down an area and print a map to keep track of where we are. That helps to avoid backtracking, something we did a lot of last year.
While abandoned houses, farms and other buildings are relatively rare, not every one is worth attention. Quite a few are not interesting in any way. We generally look for older brick clad farm houses or others that have some history. Such was the case for our first find, a dilapidated aluminum sided bungalow that probably fell out of use over the last 10 years. The one interesting feature were the four dining chairs set out in a line on the lawn, and left untouched for as long as the house was empty:
Nothing else around, just the four chairs. Strange!
The first real find was a farm house set back from the road that I just caught a glimpse of while driving past. There’s a lot of that: driving past and then reversing to look again, and you really, really need to keep your eye peeled or you’ll miss all of the good ones.
This one was fairly unremarkable from the front, but that changed when we went around to the rear where the back end of the house had completely collapsed:
Looks to have been the bathroom, the toilet still attached to the cast iron pipe being a primary evidence. It’s difficult to fully see the wreckage from this angle, since there’s what looks to be a newer, partially built house in the way. And it’s that newer house that made this location interesting.
But first, the devastation from another angle:
Can see here that the stairs were also a casualty of the collapse, with one of the stringers still attached to the wall.
Onwards now to the newer structure, which I would guess was meant to be a replacement for the original house. It’s an eclectic mix of several different building materials and methods, including stackwood walls for much of the exterior:
Looking around the site, there were several piles of scrounged material (plywood, bricks, blocks, wood, etc.) and my guess is that the builder was in construction, and most likely was a mason. The windows used, for example, look to be commercial quality and do not open, so my guess is that he got a bunch of these either for free, or for very little.
More of the windows in this bump-out that’s clad with cedar board and batten:
It even has a roof with aluminum fascia. Note the blocks used for the foundation and how some are painted white. That tells me these were reused from a demolition and probably cost nothing.
Here’s another “wing” and there appears to be a basement, but I didn’t find a way down to it:
You can see the firewood used for the walls here really well, and how he had not yet finished filling the gaps on the inside.
The main floor of the house is a concrete slab and I’m guessing it’s on grade (no basement). Here you can see the piles of brick stacked up and one of the brick partition walls with a big arched opening:
Also the floor system for second floor is a steel beam with 3″ x 3″ steel angles welded on to support the 6″ x 6″ floor joist. Looks to be partially sheathed with plywood for the subfloor.
It was to be a stately manor, that’s for sure, and a shame that it was never finished. All of the code-quoters would be listing off all of the violations here, but I know I’d feel safer in this one than the original house that collapsed. Makes you wonder – was the owner badly injured or killed in the collapse? Or did it happen after he mysteriously stopped work on the new house?
There is a large barn out behind with more building material inside:
Mostly lumber and I didn’t go in for a more detailed look. While it’s obviously still standing, I’m not crazy about being under there after looking at how the floor above is supported:
The next one worthy of an extended visit was this abandoned schoolhouse:
This one is puzzling, because normally these are quickly bought and converted to private residences when they stop using them as a school. The build quality of these is generally excellent as seen here with the granite foundation and brick cladding.
The inside is just as stout with heavy framing and solid wood boards to sheath the walls, and lath and plaster for the interior finish. This one is slowly succumbing to neglect and the elements, and the large openings that have developed in the roof will accelerate that deterioration:
Don uses vintage camera equipment and got this shot of the rear of the building:
Black and white film gives buildings like this the sense of history that they have. How many kids went through this that are long dead and buried.
You probably can’t pick it out from this photo, but the date stone says 1900:
Looking in through one of the broken basement windows:
Quite a lot of debris completely covering the floor. Pity that such a well made building was left to decay like this.
There were a couple of wrecked vehicles on the property, a station wagon parked out front, like it just dropped off the kids at the moment the world ended:
And a van with various gardening things in the back, like a lawn mower:
Driving along and not seeing very much, we spotted something even more rare than abandoned houses: an airplane in the backyard of an abandoned house:
The house wasn’t in any way interesting, but the plane warranted a stop and closer look. It was a bit of a long walk through the tall weeds to get there, and there were car and machinery parts scattered all through it.
Engines missing, wings missing, but it was still on it’s landing gear and the tires looked like they were still holding air:
I couldn’t help but climb on top and strike a surfing pose:
There were other wrecks (another fairly rare sight in rural Ontario these days) there, including a Cadillac, a Ford Bronco in remarkably good shape (for buried in the tall weeds) and a mid 70’s Mercury Comet – a car we used to have when I was a kid:
The right colour, too.
The “I Thought That Was A Barn” House
It was getting pretty late in the day and we had nearly given up on finding anything else interesting, when we found this one:
Well back from the road, I could only drive about halfway up the overgrown driveway before stopping and walking the rest of the way. Total collapse on the side we could see from the road, but the rest was still fairly intact:
Actually, I’m still not sure that it isn’t a barn or shed of some kind.
The Halloween House
This was the last place we found and by this time the temperature had dropped and the wind was blowing hard enough to make walking around wearing just a sweatshirt uncomfortable. Add to that the sound the windmill was making, similar to a big dog barking, amped up the atmosphere:
It’s immediately obvious to me where the problems started for this house: the foundation is broken and heaved well out of place and the building has settled to fill the gaps:
Of the houses we’ve seen, this is absolutely the last one I would enter. I was nervous just standing near it, especially with the wind blowing as hard as it was.
Looking at the overall state it’s in and the damage done to the foundation and roof, it’s amazing that it’s still standing.
A view of the Inside. You can see Don lining up a shot from the bottom panel of the front door:
The foundation is concrete, and not the typical field stone wall used for houses of this age, so at some point it might have been replaced. Unfortunately, whoever did it didn’t place the concrete deep enough to avoid frost heave and the results are obvious:
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting expedition. These (and more) were found in a relatively small area, and being prepared with a map and a plan helped tremendously. When driving around through places that basically look the same, it’s easy to go in circles.
I posted some of these on Instagram before writing this article:
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Even more rare than abandoned houses is abandoned airplanes. We found this one and a few other wrecks down behind an unremarkable house and had to go in for a closer look. The green van was actually at the schoolhouse, but I’m putting it here, since it fits with the theme. #abandonedplaces #wefoundanairplane #bosstheplanetheplane #wrecks #junk