This place seemed even more mysterious, interesting and entertaining than it did last trip.
First, a short bit of history:
Built as a radar station for the DND in 1952, as part of the Pine Tree Line, this base closed in 1964. Approximately 170 enlisted served here. With thier families living in the Private Married Quarters (PMQ's) on site, the total population (at it's hieght) equaled approximately 350 people.
This massive site had offices, maintenance yards, a school, stores, mess halls, and a recreation centre which housed a movie theatre, swimming pool, and a bowling alley.
[ For more history, see http://www.pinetreeline.org/ - - a site previously maintained by the recently deceased Ren L'Ecuyer and now run my his wife Margret ]
The base was sold to the Province of Ontario in 1964 and operated as the Edgar Regional Centre or Adult Occupational Centre under the Ministry of Community and Social Services. The Ministry maintained the site for the mentally hanicapped until it closed under Mike Harris' Progressive Conservative regime in 1996.
Back to the present day, the centre sits sadly abandoned. Unfortunately, any prospective buyer will be accutely aware of the rapidly deteriorating infrastructure.
Although abandoned, it still is witness to some limited use by Provincial and Municipal SWAT Team tactical training. UrbEx Barrie made a number of interesting discoveries which include (but are not limited to), ammunition cassings, smoke grenades, well ventiliated target posters and city bus that looked like Swiss Cheese. The fact that almost every door lock was blown out in several buildings (very obviously tactical entry explosives), it shows that a lot of training was conducted here.
The last exploration took in only a fraction of the buildings and UrbEx Barrie hopes to return soon.
A ghost town, simply put is a town that has been abandoned, usually because the economic engine that sustained its population had failed. Other reasons may include some type of natural or human-caused catastrophe. In Simcoe County in Ontario, the 'gold' was found growing as far as the eye could see.
In the primeval woods, 45-metre (150 foot) white pines were common and some soared to 60 metres (200 feet). Today, over a hundred years after white Europeans left thousands of acres of stumps, it can be difficult to find a white pine over 30 metres (100 feet) and remnant old-growth white pine stands are few and far between.
In 1879 Joseph Budd erected a sawmill and small "village" to house his workers on this site. This small hamlet was known as Josephine, in Vespra Township named for his daughter. Joseph Budd was the last of the great lumbermen who cut the great primeval white pine forests around the Simcoe County area. Josephine was positioned well on the sprawling perimeter of the Minesing swamp where the dominant species were cedar, alder, black ash, soft maple, spruce, popular, and white birch.
For years, Josephine was a "flag stop" on the North Simcoe Railway, for passengers travelling to and from Allandale. This branch line serviced the junction at Colwell and terminated at Penetanguishene and would stop, 'on flag' at Josephine on Saturday's only. At the mill, many carloads of lumber were sawn for the farmers, when barn raisings were popular.
The Post Office opened in 1884 with Joseph Budd as the first and last postmaster. The same building housing the Post Office also served as a school (with Ms. McQuay as Teacher) and a Methodist church. A fire swept through Josephine in 1885 and destroyed almost everything but was quickly rebuilt. After all the larger trees were sawn, the mill still was able to operate but in a lesser capacity and produced shingles and staves as late as 1914.
Buildings / Structures of Interest:At the site, you will see some remains of the worker's housing, Joseph's house, and some other ruins, including a unique stucco outhouse.
These properties have always attracted my UE attention for a variety of reasons. From the rich ornate architecture to discovering the tragic stories of people housed within these places. By wandering through a patient ward, one can almost feel the last one hundred years of history saturating the building and grounds.
Presently, there have never been so many facilities to explore and given the rate of demolition, never again. Some modern ghost-hunters are also attracted to these places, believing in an abundance of restless spirits (think electro-shock therapy and straight-jackets).
Prior to 1791 in Ontario, there were neither formal facilities for the mentally ill nor public/legislative policy for dealing with them and until 1830, the mentally ill were often jailed with criminals. It was not until 1841 that a temporary asylum for patients was created from the Toronto Jail. This, only after a barrage of criticisms from magistrates, jail-keepers, families, and even the criminals pleaded with the province to provide appropriate facilities.
Finally, in 1850, Canada’s first asylum was opened in Toronto. The opening of the Toronto Provincial Asylum began the changes of the social organization for the care and treatment of the mentally ill in Ontario. During 1858 and 1875, additional facilities were constructed including the Asylums for the Insane at London and Hamilton, the Asylum for Idiots at Orillia, the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb at Belleville, the Central Prison, and the Mercer Reformatory and Refuge at Toronto. As a result, a Board of Inspectors of Prisons and Asylums was created to regulate the rapidly expanding asylums.
In 1851, a commitment law required that the insane individual could be placed in custody only if convicted of a crime or if considered to be dangerous to self or others.
At this time two certificates of lunacy were required to commit these individuals to an asylum but was later changed to three. I wonder if conspiracies were hatched and some were wrongly institutionalized. Many former tuberculosis hospitals in Ontario, with the decline of that disease were converted to facilities for the mentally-handicapped, such as the Oxford Regional Centre and the Muskoka Centre. Throughout the 19th century, tuberculosis – also called consumption or TB – was a leading cause of death in the industrialized world. Canada’s first tuberculosis hospital was the Muskoka Cottage Sanatorium, opened in 1897 at Gravenhurst, a location chosen for its clear air.
In the 1930's, almost every region within Ontario had a facility for mentally-handicapped:
Location - Name
Aurora - Pine Ridge
Brantford - Brantwood
Brockville - St. Lawrence Regional Centre
East Zorra-Tavistock - Oxford Regional Centre
Gravenhurst - Muskoka Centre
Montague - Rideau Regional Centre
North Bay - Nipissing Regional Centre
Oakville - Oaklands Regional Centre
Orillia - Huronia Regional Centre
Oro-Medonte - Edgar Adult Occupational Centre
Raleigh - Southwestern Regional Centre
St. Thomas - St. Thomas Adult Rehabilitation and Training Centre
Wallace - Midwestern Regional Centre
Whitby - Durham Regional Centre
By 1978, a plan of deinstitutionalization was placed on the political agenda and had been carried forward by each political party while in office. At this time over 7,000 people were housed in large (Schedule I) institutions throughout the Province. In 2004, the Government had funded a “quality of life” study that found that quality of life is greater for people who have moved out of institutions and now live in community-based settings. This, of course had nothing to do with $110 million is being spent each year to house patients in three remaining institutions (Rideau, Huronia & Southwestern Regional Centres).
A list of closures is presented below:
Date - Closure
2004 – Announced closure of last three institutions (Rideau, Huronia & Southwestern Regional Centres)
1999 – Prince Edward Heights (Picton)
1999 – Adult Occupational Centre (Edgar)
1998 – Midwestern Regional Centre (Palmerston)
1996 – D’Arcy Place (Cobourg)
1996 – Oxford Regional Centre (Woodstock)
1994 – Muskoka Centre (Gravenhurst)
1994 – Northwestern Regional Centre (Thunder Bay)
1988 – Surrey Place Centre (Toronto - residential)
1987 – Durham Centre (Whitby)
1985 – St. Lawrence Regional Centre (Brockville)
1985 – Bluewater Centre (Goderich)
1985 – START Centre (St. Thomas)
1985 – Pine Ridge Centre (Aurora)
1978 – Nipissing Regional Centre (Timmins)
From reviewing this list, I now bring you full circle to my opening line: "the hot Urban Exploration ticket in Ontario is abandoned Asylums and Sanatoriums and this is the decade in which to experience these institutions".
Get out there and explore while before the rest of these sites are demolished.
Take only photos, Leave only footprints.
I am republishing several blogs from my other pages so please do not be alarmed that it may appear I've done a herculean volume of exploring and blogging.
A few years ago, I picked up a hobby - Urban Exploration. Also known as urbex or UE. I should think that this was a realisation or evolution of a passion since I was a knee-bitter. I just loved going places I was not suppose to. I research, photograph, document and explore abandoned structures in and around Barrie and surrounding area.
Urban exploration is the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of the human civilization. Urban exploration is also commonly referred to as Infiltration, although I consider Infiltration to be more closely associated with the exploration of active or inhabited sites. There are about as many 'brands' of UE as there are explorers.
This can very basically be split into above-ground (structures, etc.) and below-ground (draining) and split again into active (an occupied location) or abandoned. My particular brand is above-ground abandoned and since I am a bit of a history buff, I consider myself an amatuer urban archaeologist.
I never disturb the site I explore out of respect for the location I am visiting, as well as out of respect of other explorers who may want to visit later. Because of this, I have a code of ETHICS common to many other UE individuals and groups:
1. Never remove any item from a site, even if it is to be torn down,
2. Never vandalise the property, and
3. Never place graffiti at any site.
CopySix is taking only Photos and Leaving only Footprints