Muskoka Sanitarium 3

. . The Dogs are Barking . .

Additional history on Muskoka Centre HERE.
Remember kids, the business end of a police dog is a dangerous place to be.
'sani tour3' banner by buddy Axle.

The 3rd Muskoka Sanitarium Meet (aka Muskoka Centre) earlier this month was successful - co-operative weather, and no 5-0. There were at least 25 explorers on site for several fun-filled hours.

The following miscreants were in attendance:

ace of spades, Aggressive, Axle, bandita, Boffo, Chinstrap,
CopySix, Dark-Pariah, Dee, ElectricFire, faded_x, journeylady, Jupiter, K-Dizzle, Kellogs, levacas, LostintheWoods, lsd, Melt, neX_, Nonick, OneDeadHero, RegularJohn, ScreamingUrineMonkey, simmorill, SlipperyPete, and Vigilante.

The above serene scene of the group
photograph was preceded by this chaos. The standard 10-second camera timer presented a unique challenge.

Photo Credit - Our girl JourneyLady.

The reliability of transport for event attendees were questionable at best.

simmorill drove the group crazy (again).

Not many are aware that most
buses are NOT equipped with 'Auto-Pilot'.

This group of 'special' people had miles of smiles.

The water tower on the propert
y provides a familar landmark visible for boaters on Lake Muskoka.

It required a special breed of social care worker to be able to take a mentally handicapped person in a small boat on a big lake.

This being the third such occassion visiting the property, this explorer wanted to get to areas not previously probed.

However, I still could not help revisiting the grand Gage building again.

Going to great lengths to avoid the
so-called 'healthy' fresh air, explorers made use of the steam tunnels to safely move about.

Light-headed from glee, or perhaps malfunctioning boiler equipment, these tunnels presented a trippy experience.

Here in the boiler house, the wall bracket waits for time cards which will never come.

Forever mischievous, some members changed into uniform and proceeded to scare other explorers (could have happened).

Quiet Riot was an important part of the early 80's glam-metal scene. Speaking of riots, how about this shelf of nifty lids.

In great need of refreshment, the discovery of the O.P.P. beer
fridge was very welcome.

Axle, neX_, Kimeleon, Gazoo and yours truly, CopySix, take a load off. The upholstery was rather dated and in dire need of repair.

Photo credit - Axle again !

This image reminded me that not long ago, when the 'Cottage Sanitarium' was in operation on this site, many tuberculosis patients, checked out but never left.


Caribou Diner

The Caribou Motel & Diner, located on busy highway 11 between Barrie and Orillia opened in the early 1950's.

This establishment welcomed the weary or hungry traveler to or from their cottages in the Muskokas.

Architecturally, the over all symmetry, stepped ziggurat roof lines, glass block curved edges and corners strongly suggests deference to Streamline Moderne of the Art Deco style.

The property physically consists of a a two-storey structure containing the diner, with rooms above attached to a typical "I" line of additional rooms. The manager's apartment may have been added on at a latter date centered above on the "I" line.

Motel guests were treated to the convenience of an indoor pool and hot-tub within a hangar-like structure.

A screen door fitted on the kitchen offered little respite from the heat of the fryers.

More recently, the bulk of the motel rooms were converted to apartments. The restaurant business sustained and was last operated as Quigley's Diner Pub & Pizza. In addition to this, smaller commerical ventures made use of the property including the unoriginally-named 'Hair Dressers'.

The tenants were turned out with the closure of the diner in 2002. Currently, Petro Plus operates a gas bar out, strategically located just north of 'gasoline alley'.

Streamline Moderne expression is carried through to the diner with choice of colour, sweeping lines and decorative elements.

Although the environment of the restaurant recommends itself well to the traveling diner, a series of fugly exterior renovations had defaced a fair measure of the original work.

Layers of grease around the grill hood is the only evidence left of the thousands of meals once cooked here.

I imagine that this would be the room to the rear of the kitchen where apprended 'dine & dashers' were brought.

The building is scheduled to be demolished in April, 2007 to make way for a service center featuring a Wendy's restaurant.


Utopia Gristmill

On Bear Creek in Essa Township (halfway between Barrie and Anguish, Ontario), James Spink constructed the first gristmill and saw mill in 1864. In 1879, Richard Bell (an employee at the mill) and his two brothers, John and Manuel, took over the operation of the mill. On May 29, 1903, the gristmill, now named Bell's Mill burnt down, but the community of Utopia organised and a new mill was constructed and in operation in five months. The new mill featured 3 stories, and a solid 4 ½ foot thick foundation. Materials for construction were collected in the area and were horse-drawn to the site from up to 8 kilometers away.

The north side of the mill, appearing somewhat naked without its wheel.

The drive wheels initially powered by the water from Bear Creek and latter from diesel engines.

The mill could be a dangerous place to work in with no machine guarding on the gears and the lack of safety standards.

Here, the main shaft, called the 'pit wheel' in the basement leads out to where the water wheel powered all the equipment.

The first floor contained the bulk of the equipment such as sieves, grinding stone, slipper, etc.

This piece of equipment contained a very interesting wood auger which would push the product along to the filler.

The lid opened to show the beautiful craftsmanship employed to create the wooden auger.

The hallway on the second floor. Scattered throughout the building were large-calibre critter $hit and Tim Horton's coffee cups. It wouldn't be Urban Exploration without these ingredients!

One of the control handles which are needed to engage / disengage equipment from the drive wheels.

A handle on a hopper on the meal floor where sacks of flour are filled. Think of a snow-globe if one forgot to close the valve or loose grip on the sack.

A beautifully constructed wooden hopper on the 'stone floor' where the grain would meet its demise on the face of the grinding stone.

Stair-way leading up to the 'sack floor' at the top of the mill, where grain was loaded into the hoppers to be ground.

Some of the original equipment sits still intact and in decent condition.

The critter-cam showing another piece of equipment which I suspect still had the original manufacturer's paint.

Restoration Efforts:

The mill now sits derelict, a mechanical jungle of belts, shafts, chutes and pulleys, but this could change soon.

The NVCA is moving to enter into a lease arrangement with the community group, Friends of the Utopia Gristmill and Park. This is being driven by herculian community spirit and hope that they can work towards both restoring our gristmill and turning their park into a property worthy of the name, Utopia. Currently, the group's efforts are funded only through community goodwill as well as Visions of Utopia.

Hockey legend, Guy Lafleur centre (in tie), stands in front of the Utopia gristmill with members and supporters of the Friends of the Utopia Mill and Park Association. The former National Hockey League star is lending his support in the effort to restore the mill and surrounding park. - Brian Lockhart photo

To support this worthy restoration project:
Utopia Gristmill Project, PO Box 10, Angus, ON L0M 1BO.

sign the petition: Petition

Additional Details on the History:

A key industry in the early development of any Ontario town was the local gristmill and often became it became the nucleus of the community. Grist refers to the grain that is ground into flour. These mills were built and oftne supported by farming communities and in some few cases a percentage of each farmer's grain called a "miller's toll" (or one minot in fourteen in Lower Canada) was set aside for the miller in lieu of wages. William Cattermole, in his guide 'The Advantages of Emmigration to Canada' (London, Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1838), advised settlers to endeavour to settle near a saw and gristmill.

Image drawn by Colin Brown © by Brian Sothcott

The mill produced feed for the farmers and flour which was distributed to the surrounding communities under the brand names Gold Coin (for bread), Snowflake (for pastry), Paracon xxx, and Bell's Best. Due to the mill's strategic location by the railway, it was feasible for grain from the western prairie provinces to be shipped by train to be milled and distributed.

With competition from the larger mills, and the wide availablility of fresh bread from grocery stores, the survival of the smaller local mills were being threatened. In the late 1930s or early 1940s, the Bell Mill quit
milling flour, providing only gristmill services of chopping and mixing grain.

The Bell Mill sustained some damage when Hurricane Hazel which raged through south and central Ontario on October 14, 1954. The hurricane washed the dam away which altered the course of Bear Creek to make the water wheel useless. To rebuild the dam was prohibitively expensive, so Harold Bell had a diesel engine installed to power the mill.

After a year, the gristmill re-opened and now fertilizer was also sold. In 1965, the mill closed, having served the community for a century. Soon after that, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority obtaine
d the mill and land for a water conservation project and recreational area. In 1969, a new dam was complete.


Summer Camp Memories

Here is the Scout Stalag, er . . I mean Oba-Sa-Teeka Scout Reserve, located in Essa Township. This facility operated as a Scouting Camp from about 1965 and closed in 2004.

There were 25 separate
capsites located on 215 acres of land. Camp Oba-Sa-Teeka featured an Obstacle Course and an Olympic-sized pool. One of the highlights of the camp was the Railway Caboose, which has three authentic railway cars - two for sleeping, one for dining, which was moved to another scout camp when Oba-Sa-Teeka closed.

The property now is owned and operated as the Ontario Vipassana Centre which offers a venue and instruction in in this branch of Buddhist Meditation.

Scouts Canada sold 14 camps in Ontario after a two-year review which reviewed all camps against 11 criteria. General opinion indicates that low enrollment (membership now half of the 1970's level), coupled with required upgrades to provide potable water in a post-Walkerton environment sounded the death-knell for many of these camps.

The property had 3 'villages' named after indigenous aboriginal tibes. The Huron, Iroquois, and Cree villages consisted of small bunkhouses, and a covered dining shelter. Certainly an upgrade to camping in a field.

Campers often registered their troop names and the year of visit to available surfaces of these structure. One may be able to track the same troop's visit over the years to the site.

This is 'The Pen' where unruly Scouts were caged in . . . Or perhaps just an equipment lock-up.

Most of the obstacle course's structures are well on its way to become compost.

Not quite the 'de rigeur' Urb Ex Money $hot, many of our regular readers have come to enjoy, but we were in a bit of a bind here.
After feasting on dry cereal and under-cooked hot dogs in stale buns, the campers were afforded the luxury of a seated commode.