Sunday, April 24, 2016
Abandonment Issues: Small Arms Inspection Building
Co-written by Jerm & Ninja IX
It has been a while, but we're back with a BANG! Quite literally.
Yesterday, we found ourselves standing at the foot of Lake Ontario in Mississauga, on a plot known as the Arsenal Lands.
With nothing left standing of the original Arsenal Lands complex but the historic water tower and the Small Arms Inspection Building, we approached the building first, jerm and ninja, with our dear friends terapr0 and tash.0.
(Photo found online)
The Arsenal Lands are steeped in wartime history, we discussed...
Colonel Samuel Smith owned the property dating back to 1806 when he was a Queen's Ranger during the Revolutionary War. In 1910 it was converted for military purposes and became known as "The Toronto Barracks Site." And then of course during World War II the large munitions plant was built on the site to build and test guns, specifically Lee-Enfield rifles.
According to the City of Mississauga's website...
"The complex included a 212,000 square foot plant and the 81,000 square foot rifle inspection centre, and was erected by the government in 1940. The plant continued to operate until 1974 supplying military arms and other machinery. Ontario Hydro (now Ontario Power Generation) and the Cadet Organization Police School have used the building since."
The Small Arms Inspection Building, which was used for quality control, was designed by Allward & Gouinlock Architects. In 2008 the vacant building was under threat of demolition until the City of Mississauga declared it of cultural heritage value. The Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) has purchased the Arsenal Lands and is currently in the process of re-purposing the Small Arms Inspection Building to mixed use space for arts, culture, heritage and business purposes.
Similar to the Bata Shoe and Gibbard Furniture factories, women either volunteered or were conscripted by the millions to work due to the shortage of men and thus played a key role in supporting the war effort from home by providing vital munitions to the front line. It was dirty and dangerous work where serious acid burns could occur and the women's skin turned yellow due to handling cordite or sulphur. The work was boring and repetitive but the slightest lapse in concentration could cause an explosive blast. On Remembrance Day in 2012, 1.5 million women were finally recognized for their tremendous efforts at the Cenotaph after decades of receiving little recognition for their service.
(Photo found online)
"My grandfather managed a munitions factory during WWII and was denied three times trying to enlist himself in the war. The army felt his efforts were best utilized at the factory.", ninja shared, as we made our way inside.
Inside, the wide open factory floor was bright and looked out onto a green scape with large trees casting shadows into the building, moving slowly across the edges of the floor as the sun crossed the sky. Void of the hustle and bustle of war-time production, silence and emptiness abounded.
As Jerm scurried like a mouse from room to room snapping these images and energetically commenting on the variety of colours throughout the building, Ninja interrupted pondering aloud about the lives of the women that worked here during such tumultuous times. That thought stayed with us both as we wandered the halls, the four of us poking in and out of each and every room like a Scoobie Doo bit. We even stopped here and there to have some photographic fun, posing creepily behind the foggy, dimpled glass windows in the office doors, light painting in the boiler room and even morphing into unicorn people.
(Photo by terapr0)
Finally, after we finished up in the Small Arms Inspection Building, we sauntered carelessly through the field spotting hawks and other rare city birds toward the giant water tower spotted with graffiti written by people who are braver and more limber than we. Climbing a few steps up and looking up to the sky one can see where the rusted ladder juts out near the top platform, a death defying final vertical climb surrounded by nothing but sky and a momentary lapse of reason for those who take the challenge.
Below is a terrific three minute video on this important part of Canadian history by Heritage Mississauga.
Here's to a bright future for the Sall Arms Inspection Building!
********* UPDATE *********
***** October 16, 2016 *****
As the sun faded on Saturday Evening, we returned to camp out for the night inside the old Munitions Plant with terapr0 and Tash.0, with permission. terapr0 had hosted a light painting workshop here on the previous Thursday and invited fellow explorer friends to come and partake in some night photography of the building on this beautiful warm mid-October Saturday night.
It was a pleasure of course to share this overnight experience with a couple we have grown to adore, and we are grateful for the invite and their friendship. It was also quite enjoyable meeting and chatting with some new acquaintances, including Zen, Jono, Strange Places, magnoodles, banditt, Neil Ta, and a few others whose handles I didn't catch. And of course it is always nice to see my man yokes (even if he didn't rock one of his awesome custom bowties)!
Although many of us are so very different in so many ways, and do not see eye to eye on everything, it was the common ground we share that guided most of the conversation, which made for a wonderful night.
While I have been present at many of terapr0's light painting shoots over the years, and have even been a subject in some of his classic shots, I had never attempted light painting myself. So Nicole and I rifled through the lights provided by terapr0 and yokes, and wandered off from time to time playing around in the darkness. Overall, I'm not super enthused with many of the images we captured but it definitely sparked an interest and this was just the first of many light painting shoots.
After less than two hours of sleep, we awoke to a gentle rain caressing the window panes. We did a final walk through, packed up and hit the road once more.
Now...have you ever had that feeling where you wish there was something you could do to save one of these historic buildings from decay and the impending wrecking ball?
Well my friends, do I have good news for you! The Small Arms Society will be opening up this venue for a large scale art show and performance event from 7pm-12pm, October 27-29, 2016. I am overjoyed to be showing Abandonment Issues photographs alongside friends and photographers that I admire, as well as a poetry scroll that has been pasted up in the building. I'll be there on Friday the 28th and hope to see you there! Tickets are $20 and all proceeds go to the continued effort to revive this building as a community hub.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES