Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Abandonment Issues: G.W. Martin Lumber Mill
While lounging lakeside and soaking in the sun at one of our family cottages (on Diamond Lake) this past weekend, I received a message from a fellow explorer about an abandoned Veneer Mill in nearby Wilberforce. We arrived at the location the next morning only to discover that it was in the latter stages of demolition. I sparked up a conversation with a local at the general store and our discussion eventually shifted from the demolition of the veneer mill to other abandoned buildings in the area, including the ruins of the Standard Chemical Plant in Donald, which we explored last year, and the G.W. Martin Lumber Mill to the northeast in Harcourt.
After stopping at a unique antique shop and conversing with the eccentric gentleman that has filled his home from top to bottom with antiques, including thousands of bottles, and purchasing a few items from him, we were back on the road. We crossed over a small bridge at the southern tip of Algonquin Park, where a river empties into Benoir Lake, and then into Elephant and Baptiste Lakes, and there it was, the G.W. Martin Lumber Mill.
Logging began in this area in the 1800s, and continues to this day. The mill at this location was one of three in the Baptiste Lake area, and was promptly rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 1930. An internet search revealed that the G.W. Martin Lumber Company still operates a transportation service, with one driver and one truck in their fleet.
On this day, the transport truck is parked in front of the massive warehouse, and no one is around for miles, but for the occasional vehicle passing by and four or five young children jumping from the nearby bridge into the river below. Machinery and stacks of lumber are peppered about the massive fields, amongst the many buildings, most of which are easily accessible. The kiln rooms that once dried the timber sit empty, but for the singing sparrows dancing above our heads. Care is taken with each and every step on the unstable floor down the long hallway above the kiln rooms, as we photograph the kiln room control boards and valves. Calendars, permits, and paperwork found in desk drawers all read 2004, indicating a likely date of the mill's closure. Back outside, deer frolic and forage in the distance in the open pasture, as the long weeds tickle my poison ivy covered legs.
Back outside, wiping sweat from our brows.
Forklifts and wood piles block all of the entrances into the large warehouse building, but where there is a will, there is a way, and then there is a dirty explorer with a small cut on his back inside of the building. The dance and song of the sparrows continues inside on a much grander scale, echoing in the vast open emptiness. My whistles join the symphony, to the tune of 'An Episode of Sparrows' by Astronautalis. A stray cat adds his voice to the choir and cries for attention, standing beside an RV parked inside and surrounded by a posse of white plastic chairs. A quick jaunt from end to end, and then I squeeze back outside.
Near the front entrance, a long narrow building is in a sad state of decay, collapsing in on itself. The small rooms inside still contain bundles of printer paper, small machinery parts, and boxes full of company records, partially buried under fallen ceiling tiles and insulation.
Back in the car with our exploring urge satisfied, we crank the AC, crank the music, and hit the road back to the cottage. Life doesn't get any better than this. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to pack up, after returning home for two days of work, we are heading back to the cottage.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES