Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Adventure Time!

And I don't mean the mathmatical kind! (100 points of you catch the reference!)

Over the past week or so, I've stumbled across some great "urban exploration" videos on YouTube. Basically, videos of people visiting abandoned buildings, old farm houses, and industrial sites. Some of the houses are simply jaw-dropping, while others are eerie, mouldy, and packed sky-high with years of trash and filth.

So far, I have two favourite channels DaaDeeOh, and TikiTrex (and both happen to be in the southern Ontario area). Below is a sample video from each channel so you can go find them if you want.

DaaDeeOh is one of the first I found, and all his videos are filmed with no voice or commentary. He has some really wonderful finds (also check out the video for "Abandoned 19th Century Farm House at Taunton Rd." which was my second pick to feature).

Abandoned 1870 Victorian House North Durham:

Then there's Pam (TikiTrex), who also has quite a lot of great videos. She tends to be a bit slower, or skips over stuff I'd like to see, but she also has some great house finds!

Untouched Abandoned Farm House:

Having watched dozens of these fascinating videos, one of the things I learned very quickly is that the vast majority of these places are easily accessible. Either the doors are wide open, unlocked, or there's some sort of gaping hole (or window) where you can easily enter to explore the building.

For months now, there's been a boarded-up Victorian just down the road from me (near a busy intersection) that I've really wanted to explore, but in this case, it's completely boarded-up, locked, and inaccessible.

That didn't discourage me, though, and I went out today actively looking for an accessible house I could explore. I decided to walk around the streets in the really poor end of town to see if I could get lucky, and stumble upon an open building.

And I did!

Now, when I say the "poor" end of town, I MEAN it. Some of the houses were in such rough shape that it's hard to believe they are actually inhabited. It's not uncommon to see windows covered in plywood or plastic, so I really had to look for the right clues. One clear indication that a building is abandoned is that the doors and windows are boarded-up, but I often had to double check. I saw about 3 or 4 of these, but none had access. Another good sign is if the power has been cut off.

The house I came across was a lucky break. It is a duplex located on a street corner, where one half has suffered damage from a fire. The half of the house nearest the corner appeared to be completely undamaged.

Going down the sidewalk towards the back of the house, I noticed that the power was disconnected, and I spotted an open door on the back porch (the barely visible screen door), so I decided to go around the house and check it out. In the photo, the porch with the yellow caution tape leads to the boarded-up (burned) half.

Here's the burned half.

It's too bad this half of the house wasn't accessible (and it wouldn't have been safe), because this part is actually much older, and it still had the lovely old wooden windows.

Moving on, I quickly darted around into the back yard, and up to the back porch of the undamaged half. The screen door was ajar, and the door leading into the kitchen was closed, but unlocked. In this photo, I'm standing in the kitchen, and you can see into the small back porch a bit (note old computer chair).

Walking into the house, I was made immediately aware of the sound of running water coming from the basement. The house had been cleared-out, and it was clear that no one had been around for quite a while.

I did peek into the fridge and freezer, and yes there were a few items of mouldy food left behind. Eww.

Aside from this, the kitchen was quite cute, and I like the simple layout.

A calendar next to the basement door was left open on January 2013. I'm guessing it's been empty for about this much time (almost 2 years).

The kitchen is open to the living room with a large open archway (right next to the calendar wall).

As I headed towards the stairs, I noticed that the front door was also unlocked.

The house was definitely fairly old (1920s? 30s?) and you could feel a slant going up the stairs. I had expected the house to smell like fire/smoke, but it didn't really have any smell. The fire was completely contained to the other half (and there was no access from this half, it's literally two separate houses stuck together).

The house is pretty tiny. The entire first floor is just the living room, the stairs, and the kitchen, and the upstairs was even smaller because of the sloped ceilings, with 2 bedrooms, and a small bathroom.

The bathroom was directly ahead of the stairs. It had a toilet (with a chunk broken out of the base), a shower stall (no bath), and a small sink and vanity. The area to the left of the toilet was just a small area of floor with a trash can. Over the top right of the toilet was a small (built-in) storage cabinet, with the rest being an alcove (presumably for a dresser) in the small room on the other side.

Not much was left behind, but there was shaving cream, and a few toothbrushes in the medicine cabinet.

Here's the top of the stairs. The landing is quite small, and it led to 2 bedrooms, and the bathroom. There's a larger room at the front of the house (2 windows over the front porch), and one at the back of the house (1 window over the back porch).

Just about the only thing in the entire house that I would consider "worth taking" was this old cast iron floor grate (which matches mine) but it was broken, so I left it there. I'm 99% sure this place will be demolished at some point.

Here's the front bedroom, overlooking the front porch, and the street corner. The windows looked pretty new. Note all the junk in the front yard across the road.

Then here's the second bedroom. It was quite small, and it had a large exercise machine in the middle. The bathroom is just on the other half of the left wall.

There wasn't really much to see in this house. No interesting old fixtures, no interesting old junk, so I headed back down to the first floor. Here's the calendar which gives us an idea of when it was vacated.

Throughout the entire explore, I was really surprised to see no signs of vandalism (other than the broken toilet upstairs, which could also have been accidental). This is a house you can just walk right into, and it's in a very sketchy neighbourhood, and it's in near perfect shape.

The only place left unexplored was the basement.

It looked quite dark, and I really didn't know if I should go down there or not. I came prepared with a small flash light, so looking down, the stairs looked very solid, and I decided to go have a look.

Again, I'll mention that there was the sound of constantly running water coming from the basement.

The basement actually wasn't too dark, since there was a small window, but it was very low (5 feet high?), and definitely a bit creepy (though I wasn't really creeped out).

I thought it was neat that it had a tree-trunk beam, similar to my house.

It also had bits of old knob and tube ceramic insulators (making it definitely old, 1930s or earlier).

The entire floor was covered in crushed stone (I'm guessing it's a dirt floor?), and the rushing water was coming from this unconnected water pipe next to the hot water tank.

The main water line (and shut-off) was just next to the bottom of the stairs, but the valve didn't seem to work, so I couldn't shut the water off.

Otherwise, nothing really interesting to see in the basement. As I came back into the kitchen, I noticed that the pipe from the washing machine hookup (just to the left of the closet in the first interior photo) was also leaking onto the floor.

Overall, a very neat little adventure. It's really too bad about this little house. I think the burned half could be knocked-down and this half rented out, but who knows what will happen to it. It might be fun to find out who owns it, but I don't think I'll bother.

After the initial thrill of this house, I also tried to get into this wonderful old foursquare, but without any luck.

As you can see, both electric meters have been removed, but there's also a power line going to another spot in the porch (an old fuse panel?) which I think isn't hooked up (but who knows). The general state of the house seems to indicate that it could be abandoned (look at the roof!) but the front door (leading to 2 separate doors) was locked, and I wasn't 100% sure if it was empty or not. The entire front porch was piled with old junk, and so was the alley way on the left. The mailbox was also crammed full of old faded mail.

I did keep looking for other houses, but my adventuring was ended by the weather. It started to rain, so I got on the bus and headed home. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for other house exploring opportunities. I know I missed a FANTASTIC opportunity to explore an old house 2-3 years ago. It had an open side door, and it looked empty (and gorgeous, with unpainted woodwork, old grates, hardwood floors, etc), but I chickened-out and it was demolished not long after that.

Friday, October 10, 2014


If you follow this blog, I have to assume that you enjoy (at least on some level) my personal style, which tends to be a mix of fine antiques, rich woodwork, with a touch of simple modern colours and patterns. That said, I thought I would invite you to check out my Pinterest. I'm not advertising this to get followers (I don't really care about that sort of thing) but rather to share with you some of my wonderful internet finds.

JC's Pinterest Gallery

The boards currently include wonderful interiors, bathroom and kitchen ideas, upholstery, antiques, and other neat things. I started this account not too long ago, and I'm not on it very often, but I keep slowly adding to it.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Salvaged Front Door (Photos)

Here are some photos of that gorgeous antique door (that weighs a freakin' TON - actually probably close to 80-100 lbs) that I salvaged from the trash several weeks ago.

There's a section at the top that needs to be reglued and clamped, and the entire thing needs refinishing, but otherwise it's as close to mint condition as I could ever hope to find. No newer lock was ever installed on this door, which is pretty amazing (I almost hate to drill into it, but I'm going to have to do it), and there are very few small nail holes for curtains, etc. No deep gouges, or other damage (with the exception of one spot on the moulding), and it still has the original lock, handle, and plates (as well as half the hinges). I'm hoping that I can find another set of identical hinges.

Part of the reason that the door is so heavy is that it's 1 3/4" thick, and it's made of solid BC fir (which is a very heavy and dense hardwood). BC fir was used to make factory floors, as well as large supporting beams, and the masts of sailing ships (tall ships). It was also frequently used (around the 1880s to 1950s) for millwork in homes. Today it's almost only ever found as fir plywood, and to buy solid lumber is ridiculously expensive. The wood to build this door (new) would cost over 1000$.

You will note that the mouldings on both sides of the door are different. The extra deep ones are on the exterior (around 1" thick) and the plain ones are on the inside. There is also a decorative frame around the upper glass on the exterior side.

You will note the one small damaged corner on the horizontal moulding just under the glass (to the left). This will be easy to patch.

Nice deep mouldings.

I kind of like the deep crackled varnish, but I'll be completely refinishing the door to give it an even colour, and better weather protection.

Interior side:

The door had been set down onto the lock side, and I assume that the lock must have been jammed in place to cause this much damage to the catch. You can see the extreme bend, and the blue line represents the correct line that the steel should follow. I took it to the vice and anvil, and straightened it out.

Once the catch was repaired, the rest of the lock was cleaned, the rust was removed, and most of the pieces repainted in flat black.

I will be cutting a custom key to fit this lock (which is a pretty simple thing to do if you can find a suitable blank).

Side notes: This door came off a foursquare just a block away (at the end of the block across from mine), and I will be installing it as my new front door. This means that I won't be using that "prairie" door (the blue one).

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's The End of Summer Already

I just thought I would comment on the recent lack of content on the blog. The truth is, I've been busy/lazy, and I haven't been working much on the house. I've been doing a few things, but nothing exciting.

I bought insulation (and installed 95% of it) for the garage, I installed plugs (11 of them) and new lights in the garage, as well as additional light switches. I've also bought the wood for the porch sills (Cedar) and all the 2x10s to rebuild the rough staircase (main staircase). But now that the weather is getting cool, I don't know if I'll have time to tackle those projects anytime soon. I was hoping to be able to buy all the drywall for the garage, and start putting it in, but I was off work again for a bit, and ran out of cash (I'm back to work now).

I also salvaged an absolutely beautiful antique door. It was an absolute brute to carry home, and it was literally just at the other end of my block. It's 1 3/4" thick, and made of solid BC Fir. It has 3 raised panels, and and the original wavy glass pane above, surrounded by decorative mouldings.

I'll be posting a photo of it as soon as I can scrape-up some free time. I also have some neighbourhood historic home updates/photos to share soon.

Monday, August 25, 2014

An Incredible Find!

I just got back from a quick trip around town (by bus) to go fetch this wonderful antique frame:

I was amazed to see how wonderfully preserved the frame was. It has the original finish, with strong corners, original wavy glass, and most surprising: no breaks or losses to the ornate and very delicate gesso decorations. I have come across a fair number of these frames over the years, and I would say that 80% of them are damaged in some way.

The frame is a generous size, at 16 x 20, which is a standard (older) picture frame size, and the decorative mouldings are 4 1/2" around that, making the entire frame around 25" x 29".

Best of all: 20$

Here's a detail shot that shows the 4 different combinations of profiles used. As is often the case, the interior moulding in the centre of the frame is made of a separate moulding, which is simply (and crudely) nailed to the larger one.

I hadn't noticed that there was actually a glass with the frame (from the ad) so I might look for a wonderful antique print for this. I was originally going to use it for an oil painting (and I still could).

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Seaway International Bridge Walk

Hey blog buddies, I can't believe how far behind I am with posts on my blog lately. I've been meaning to make a post for the bridge walk for over a month now.

For those of you who aren't familiar with my home city of Cornwall, Ontario, I'll give you just a very quick overview.

For the longest time, we were mainly known for our stench, as a paper mill town. If you've ever passed through a city/town with a paper mill, you'll know what I mean by the smell. For the most part of my life, I lived at the far end of town way east of the paper mill, so the smell wasn't an issue, but any time we'd drive near the factory the smell was unmistakable. The stink is mainly caused from the boiling of the wood pulp in chemicals to soften and bleach it. The paper mill actually shut down operations several years ago, and 90% of the vast property and buildings have been cleared.

One of the other major landmarks in Cornwall is the Seaway International Bridge, which connects Cornwall to Cornwall Island (Native Reserve) and then leads to New York state (USA) by a second (suspension) bridge.

A few bridge facts:
- Built in 1962.
- 3000 tons of rebar were used in the construction of the deck.
- 41,000 tons of concrete were used.
- The bridge contains 5700 tons of steel girders.
- It took 32,000 gallons of paint to paint the bridge.
- The bridge is 120 feet high. The bridge was originally built to allow tall ships to pass underneath it, but none ever did.
- The bridge cost 8.2 million to build in 1962, which is roughly equivalent to 43 million today.
- 78% of the bridge is over land.
- Over the past 52 years, 78.2 million cars and 3.9 million transports have crossed the bridge.

That said, the bridge is being demolished starting this week. A new (and short) low bridge has been built, and is already in use, and will replace the old bridge. The old bridge has been costly over the years to maintain, and is in pretty poor shape (as you'll see from the photos).

I had been hoping to be able to make it onto the bridge to take photos for several months, but as soon as the new bridge went into operation, the old bridge was barred-off with a barbed-wire fence.

Then, in early July, just a few days before the event, I saw on Facebook that the Seaway International Bridge Corporation was going to open the bridge to everyone for the "Final Bridge Walk" which was to take place Tuesday July 8th, from 2pm to 8pm. I found it a bit odd (and unfair to a lot of people) that the bridge would only be open to the public for such a short time, and on a Tuesday (when a lot of people would be at work), but I made plans with my boss to leave a bit early for the event.

I left work around 3pm, and I made it to the bridge around 3:45 or so. This was a VERY hot and hazy summer day. One of the hottest days this summer.

When I arrived, I was pleased to see that MANY people had turned up for the event.

The first portion of the bridge has tall chain-link fences, so some photos were difficult (or a bit tricky) to take.

This photo shows Brookdale Ave. on the east side of the bridge. The east side has the majority of Cornwall, while the west end has smaller subdivisions, and newer neighbourhoods. Directly to the west of the bridge is actually the Howard Smith Paper Co./DOMTAR paper mill property. As I was touring/walking on the bridge, all the first photos focused on the east, and I planned to take photos of the west side on my way back, since there was much less to see on that side.

Here is a good photo that shows the condition of the deck. 52 years of patch work in every conceivable material has taken its toll on the roadway.

One of the old lights. The gaps in the fence on each side of the lights provided the only easy way to take good photos.

Here's a good shot pointing north-east towards my house (completely obscured by a tree, but visible later). In the FAR distance (under the crane), you can see the water tower.

Cornwall Water Tower:

A little farther down, my house was visible. It was easy to spot by looking for my neighbour's distinctly shaped front porch.

Note the three houses with the triangular pointed roofs to the left. Here's the "ground" view of my place, also showing those three houses.

This was the best "bird's eye view" (zoomed-in version of the earlier photo) that I was able to get of my house 'as viewed from the bridge'.

This was farther down the bridge.

Some of the views of the bridge may seem odd, as this one below, because the bridge actually has an "S" shape, so the curves allowed for some neat photos. Showing west side. You can see the second bridge in the distance at the upper right. You can also see the new low bridge at the bottom right.

General view of Cornwall/downtown. If you look very closely on the far right, just barely touching the horizon is the dark brown-black steeple of Trinity Church (my favourite church). I made an entire post over a year ago, showing the interior of the church (along with a video clip that shows the exterior) here:
My 1923 Foursquare - Cornwall Homes - Trinity Anglican Church

The church steeple in the centre top is St. Columban's which will be shown again. Here's a photo from the ground that shows this church. The church is a few blocks east of my house.

Centre of the bridge/girders.

A shot straight down Water Street, which then turns into Montreal Rd. (Hwy 138 South). The park along the waterfront is Lamoureux Park, and it's the location where all our outdoor concerts/events, hot air balloon festivals, and Canada Day celebrations take place. There is actually a carnival that was going on at the time, and you can spot a Ferris wheel.

Also visible in this photo is Nativity church (the church I attended as a kid) with the red roof (just right of the centre, and actually on the same street, which curves).

There is also a white dot visible on the horizon, just left of the centre road, and this is the ball over the Nav Centre (formerly Nav Canada) building (see image below).

Here are two photos of Nativity Church. This first black and white photo was photographed by Cory Marsolais from the apartment building directly across from the church.

Here is a shot of the interior of the church, taken by Richard Pilon. The interior is beautifully painted in light blue and gold, and features ornate oak woodwork.

A small paragraph of info about the church can be found here:

This is an overall view of Nav Centre (viewed from the river, pointing north):

To give you a rough idea of distance, it would take me about 30 minutes to walk to the church (from the bridge), and another 40-50 minutes to walk all the way to Nav. It doesn't look that far in the photo, but it's quite far.

Also just barely visible in the park is the clock tower. If you scroll back up to the photo and look just a bit south of the red church roof, near the road in the park is a tiny triangular roof (just over a dark tree top), which is the roof of this clock tower:

This shot is taken from the same spot, but turned towards the north. Again, you can see St.Columban's church,

This is past the portion of the bridge with the chain link fence, and this time, looking to the west across the St. Lawrence river. The portion to the right is part of the old canal system, and to the right of this is parts of the old DOMTAR/paper mill property.

In the distance above, you can sort of see the Saunders Hydro-Electric Dam. Here's an up-close photo of the dam by Dean. I have other photos farther down. If you want information about the dam, have a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses-Saunders_Power_Dam

Another shot of Cornwall, a little farther down the bridge. In the lower right is part of the new border/customs location as part of the new bridge. The water here is part of the old canal.

Another shot back on the west side, showing the remains of the former paper mill.

I took some photos with the railings partly to show how low they are. They come up just above knee-level, and made me quite nervous. In the distance is the dam.

West side, showing some of the curvature of the bridge. Again, the water here is the canal, not the river.

Here is the brand new low bridge. It was built right alongside the old bridge on the west side. This is the portion that spans the St. Lawrence river.

Here's a close-up of the dam. In the water, you can spot one of the old piers from an old train bridge, which collapsed long ago (early 1900s).

I'm not a huge "selfie" guy, but I took a few with a great view of the city behind me. It was starting to get cloudy at this point.

I like this one because you can see the steel girders in the sun glasses.

More artsy/interesting photos.

Second street (one of the main roads through town) looking west. This smoke sack was attached to the huge main building of the paper mill, to the left of the road. There were originally plans to blow it up in a big celebration, and have a big draw for who would win to push the button, but apparently there were too many concerns about carcinogens/chemical residues from all the dust it would create, so nothing has been done with the stack for a few years now. It's one of the last remaining things left to demolish on the property.

All the residential areas to the west are a few blocks away past the trees.

One of the 2 main designs of expansion joints used on the deck.

Heading back into Cornwall (back to the starting point).

I finished the bridge walk just shortly before 5pm, and as soon as I got home, it started to rain.

Overall, it was a great afternoon, and they had the entire event really nicely set up. They had large placards (not shown) that had photos of the bridge's construction, along with the facts I noted earlier. They also had one or two spots where they were handing out free bottles of water (because it was insanely hot), and a few benches set up for people to sit. Near the middle of the bridge, they had sidewalk chalk and were letting people (lots of kids) write their names and draw on the bridge. It was too bad that my Mom couldn't come (she was at work) and that my friend Lynne couldn't come (she lives over in Ottawa).

I hope you guys enjoyed these photos!