In 1895, Sir William Gage and his associates wanted to establish the first tuberculosis sanitarium of it’s kind in Canada. After visiting TB sanitariums in Europe and America, the philanthropist Gage had an idea that Canada should have its own TB sanitarium.
Gage, who grew up in Brampton, Ontario was the wealthy president of W.J. Gage Publishing. He approached the city of Toronto with a $25,000 contribution to help build a TB sanitarium. The city turned down his offer partly due to fears associated with such a TB facility. At the time it was believed that TB was a poor man’s disease and hereditary.
After the City of Toronto turned down Gage’s offer, the Town of Gravenhurst made an offer of a $10,000 towards the National Sanitarium Association to support the construction of a TB hospital. Gage contributed an amount of $25,000. Mr. Hartland Massey contributed $25,000 and Mr. William Christie contributed $10,000.
A businessman from Kamloops, British Columbia made an equally tempting offer – free train rides to the BC facility if the sanitarium were to be built in British Columbia instead.
It was decided to construct the sanitarium in Gravenhurst on the shore of Lake Muskoka. The weather, the lake, the open air would be ideal for patients. It was also ideally located away from rural living.
The National Sanitarium Association was formed in 1896 to collect and administer funds for the creation of a Canadian sanitarium. The president of the NSA was Sir Donald Smith (Lord Strathcona) and the secretary was William Gage. The association had two purposes: to build sanitariums and to fund research.
With funding secured, construction commented. On July 13, 1897 the Muskoka Cottage Sanitarium, Canada’s first TB sanitarium opened. The MCS accepted paying patients and conditions were similar to that of staying in a resort. The fee was $6 per week with the average stay being 98 days.
Patients had plenty of rest, recreation and good food.
Muskoka Free Hospital for Consumptives
The NSA Board of Directors felt that poor people deserved treatment as well. In 1902 the Muskoka Free Hospital for Consumptives opened on the same grounds, the first free hospital in the world.
When the MFHC burnt down in 1920, it was replaced with a new building named after Sir William Gage who had recently passed away.
In 1920 expansions were made to the Muskoka sanitarium to increase patient capacity to 444 beds. Buildings were constructed to allow surgeries, a laboratory, service buildings and homes for the professionals that worked at the Muskoka Cottage Sanitarium.
By 1934 there were twelve sanitariums across Canada.
A Medical Breakthrough
With the discovery of streptomycin in 1944, the need for traditional isolation lessened. This led to a decline in the number of patients during the 1940’s to 1950’s. In 1960 the site became a housing and care facility for development challenged individuals.
The site became known as the Muskoka Centre.
Conditions at Muskoka Centre were poor. There were too few staff and too many patients. Several patients suffered abuse at the hands of employees. A 1985 inquiry into conditions at the Muskoka Centre found that residents were not receiving adequate care.
A $36 million class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of patients who had been at twelve residential care facilities in Ontario. For patients of the Muskoka Centre the class-action covered those who’d been residents between August 28, 1973 and June 30, 1993.
The Muskoka Centre was finally closed in 1994.
The Muskoka Sanitarium property has sat dormant since that time. Every winter the inside stairs coat with slippery ice as more mold accumulates inside. The water pipes have burst due to the cold Northern Ontario winters. People tear boards off the windows, Infrastructure Ontario replaces them.
The location has seen increased foot traffic from urban explorers. In July of 2017 a media campaign was released to discourage people from trespassing on the ground. Fifty people had been charged with trespass in that year alone.
Don’t be surprised if you’re caught here. The OPP use the grounds for police dog training.
Gravenhurst Town Council would like to see the property sold. Potential buyers Maple Leaf Education Systems and Knightstone Capital Management, would like to redevelop the property.
Camp 30 located in Bowmanville, Ontario is the site of a former prisoner of war camp used during the Second World War. The prisoners were from Nazi Germany. This is the story of that POW camp – and some kittens.
After the war, the property was returned to the boy’s school.
Camp 30 has been caught in a tug of war between the Kaitlin Corporation who owns the property and would like to build a subdivision on the property, and the Jury Lands Foundation who is attempting to preserve the site.
In 2013 the property made Heritage Canada’s top 10 “List of endangered places of 2013” due to the developer’s intention to demolish the property. The buildings were named a National Historic Site which resulted in halting the demolition plan. The developer has expressed an interest in donating the buildings to the municipality however the cost to restore the buildings could reach as high as $15,000,000.
Some citizens would like to see a museum built on the site of Camp 30 which is Canada’s only remaining P.O.W. camp, others would like to see it become a community center or coffee shop. For now, the property is abandoned and sits unattended, unprotected and badly vandalized.
After a day spent exploring the Toronto area, I drove as quickly as I could to reach Camp 30 before sunset. We arrived at Camp 30 by 8 PM and upon exiting the car we could see (and smell) that something was wrong. Smoke could be seen billowing the upper windows of one building. We walked around to the rear of the building and observed two teenage boys walking away from the building.
I went inside the building to find that a bonfire had been lit using part of a wooden pallet. Arson is nothing new when it comes to abandoned buildings but this was my first time encountering one.
Given the potential for the fire to spread to the walls, my friend notified the fire department and provided a description of the two males we had seen leaving the area. The response time of the fire department was less than five minutes. The police arrived and took a statement. We hadn’t seen the youths lighting the fire so it could be they weren’t involved.
Had I not arrived 20 minutes late, had we not stopped for gas, had we not walked through a cornfield earlier only to discover a shed we would have arrived before this fire was set. As the fire department and police were taking care of the situation I remarked to my friend, “This is going to bring us good karma”.
The police indicated that these calls occur almost every day. A suspicious fire already destroyed one building in 2009 and the cycle of inevitable destruction is ongoing.
Once a building is abandoned, attempts are normally made to try to preserve it from vandalism and mischief. Boards will be put up, doors will be locked and security will make the occasional patrol. Graffiti will begin to appear on the outside of the buildings and glass will be broken. Unless something is done to continually monitor these buildings, someone with enough patience will find a way inside.
When interior access becomes available at an abandoned location, the graffiti spreads like a plague and almost every pane of glass becomes broken. We’ve seen it happen in abandoned hospitals, houses, and schools. Unless the property owner continually maintains security of their property it can easily be destroyed completely in a month along with it much of the resale value.
At Camp 30, attempts had been made to place large boulders in front of the doors and to place fencing in front of windows. Now makeshift ladders have been erected leading to the now smashed windows. Doors that once were blocked with boulders are now open. Security used to check up on the property regularly but the patrols are sporadic now. The fencing placed in front of the windows has somehow been bent down to ground level.
With an absence in security and the remote location of this property, the vandalism has left the buildings completely trashed.
My partner in karma and I continued to explore while the fire department and police finished their work. By 9:20 PM the sun had set and it was time to leave. My friend decided to have a quick cigarette before we left.
As we were standing outside the car, I saw a small dark animal moving through the grass next to the road. I asked, “Is that a squirrel or chipmunk in the grass?”
We didn’t pay much attention to it however it continued to rustle about in the grass just a few feet from us. As we moved closer to the grass we realized that these were two small kittens.
My next reaction was exclaiming, “Oh shit! A wonderful day spent exploring now ends badly.” along with a few other expletives. My mood soured because I knew we couldn’t drive away at this point – it was out of the question and I didn’t like being faced with this situation. I’d have to ensure these little kittens were safe before I could leave here.
We picked them up, one was a small tabby cat and the other a black cat. The kittens appeared to be no more than eight weeks old. We waited for a bit to see if a mother or other kittens would show up, but none appeared. Not sure what to do we decided to approach another group of people who were exploring Camp 30, to see if they might want the kittens. Just as we neared their car they drove off unaware of our wanting to speak to them.
The decision was then made to put them in my car and take them somewhere – we just weren’t sure where. I thought about looking up the local animal shelter and dropping them off but it was 9:30 PM and I didn’t have internet.
Fortunately my explore friend, who was not necessarily fond of cats, offered to take them to his place. We began to drive back home which took approximately 90 minutes due to construction along the highway. I was concerned that they might urinate or defecate inside the car, cat urine having a strong scent that’s difficult to remove.
It was painful to listen to their tiny meows from the back seat. After approximately 10 minutes my friend picked up the tabby cat (“Bowman”) which he proclaimed was his own, while the black one (“Blackie”) which was proclaimed to be mine, cowered in the back seat.
My exploring partner indicated that his girlfriend was more of a dog lover but I knew that he wouldn’t be able to resist these lovable little things. At one point along the journey I turned on the interior light and glanced over. There was this tiny cat (Bowman) curled up with her eyes almost closed, ready to go to sleep. She was looking up with her small eyes at this large tattooed exploring man who had plucked her from the grass not more than 30 minutes earlier.
At this point it dawned on me just how dependant these little things were upon us now. They had no food, no shelter and no mother to feed them. They were in good health, certainly not afraid of us, well groomed and not feral. The human and feline bond was already being established.
We stopped at a drug store and I picked up some litter and cat food. I gave my new adoptee the three minute guide to caring for cats and dropped the three of them off at his home. In an hour or so his girlfriend, the dog lover, would meet these little kittens.
Three things were certain on this day:
One was that every event of the day led to us finding these kittens. Had there not been a smoke break, a gas stop, or any of the other interactions that took place this day, it is quite possible we wouldn’t have been standing at the side of the road when these two kittens made their appearance. Perhaps they would have been there regardless when they heard us.
The second certainty is that this day saw two acts of karma.
The final certainty is that I knew my explore partner and his girlfriend would warm up to these kittens. As I was driving home I received a text message from my explore partner which simply read: “My girlfriend wants to sleep with them now. I will get you for this.”
We are all interconnected.
I worried that perhaps we’d taken these kitten from a mother who would be distraught and searching for her offspring.
It did not sit well with me. I sought the help of numerous people from Facebook who lived in the area by asking if they would visit the area and try to locate either more kittens or the mother. There were negative results. I also placed an online ad indicating that two kittens had been found in Bowmanville, again with negative results. There are no houses in the immediate area, although there is housing further to the north. I am satisfied that we did the right thing and saved these two little gals from a poor future. Were these kittens dropped off or did they stray too far from home? The online ad remains up just in case.
As for Blackie and Bowman, Blackie was quite small and we were initially concerned that she might not make it. I am pleased to inform you that as of tonight they have been adopted by a couple who own two older female cats. My friend felt that the kittens would receive the mother-like guidance that they might require. Where Blackie was initially shy and would hide, by the time she left for her new home she would come running every time my friend walked in the door.
I’ll close with the final words from the other half of this story who wishes to remain nameless: “A part of me is sad to see them go, but way better in the long run for them to be with cat people.”
This house is one of the top abandoned locations I ever had the privilege of exploring in Ontario. It was shared with me by a photographer known as The Secret Lens. The house sits along a main road in a small Southern Ontario town. The land is used for farming and the house could be easily mistaken for being lived in. It was purchased by John and Katerina in 1951.
I don’t have any information as to what happened to the family except to say that it still remains in the family name.
When I visited in 2015 the power was still working.
The era is evident with this cool pole lamp, a modern fixture of the 70’s.
What could be the master bedroom with cool wallpaper put up over that crappy wood covering. Is it any wonder the wallpaper didn’t stick? The safe box you see on the dresser had a hand grenade inside of it. I was never able to find it as it was hidden by others who found it, but it was there.
The bedframe is certainly vintage.
The living room is perhaps the highlight of the house. The old reclining chair, wallpapered stairs, and the aerial television.
Looking at the opposite end of the living room we see another pole lamp and not-that old couch.
A quite old clock radio (AM only) and a smaller clock clearly go back several decades.
In the kitchen is a hutch with collectibles placed on the shelves, a bottle of alcohol and some papers.
Down in the basement you’ll find it’s not so much different than that of the upper living room. Carpeted floors, old television and chairs.
There is water damage in the kitchen.
Katerina was born in Slovakia on April 29, 1910 and died August 13, 1968. John was born in 1905 and passed away in 1993. Based on the items inside the house it looks very much like John would have moved out around 1968 and perhaps went into a retirement home.
I returned in 2018 to a much different house.
The living room has been largely cleared out and a drum kit has been set up.
The basement has been filled from corner to corner with Christmas ornaments and assorted boxes. It’s difficult to navigate. What will become of this time capsule? Who can say.
Abandoned psych hospital with morgue in St. Thomas, Ontario
In August of 1937 construction began on a hospital in St. Thomas, Ontario which became known as the Ontario Government Hospital, St. Thomas. It was built on land belonging to six farm families. The 460 acres of land was able to provide crops for the facility’s food and produce.
The hospital opened on April 1, 1939 and took in its first 32 patients. By August the number of patients was close to 1,100 people. The maximum capacity is said to have been reached in 1958 with 2,238 patients. At the time the St. Thomas Psych had a reputation for being the finest mental health hospital in Canada due to its modern design. It also provided jobs during the recession.
World War II
When World War II was declared, the hospital was leased to the Department of National Defence. The last patients were transferred out on October 31, 1939. Supplies for the R.C.A.F. began arriving three days later.
Sixty thousand men and women from every country in the British Commonwealth, as well as American volunteers with the R.C.A.F. were trained here. The school was known as, “No. 1 Training and Technical School”.
The school was equipped to handle more than 2,000 students at a time. They offered six-month courses for aircraft electricians and aero-engineers, air-frame and instrument mechanics and training for fabric and sheet metal workers.
With the local economy now being increased, St. Thomas responded with drop-in centres offering free coffee and sandwiches for R.C.A.F. personnel, dances, and other activities.
By October 1942, 20,000 ground crew personnel had graduated from the school.
Patients were relocated to other parts of the province. The hospital was returned to the Ontario Department of Health and reopened to patients in 1945.
Patients were able to take part in the farming and food production process which contributed to feelings of self-worth and contributing.
Beginning in the 1970’s it was decided that rather than confine people to institutions, that through mental health transformation patient care should shift from that of an institutional model to helping patients learn to live productive lives in the community. It offered patients hope and recovery.
There was a nurses residence on the other side of the highway (Sunset Drive) and underground tunnels provided transportation. A bicycle at each end of the tunnel allowed nurses to quickly make their way from one end to the other.
In 1988 two patients at the hospital were given day passes to allow them to work. One patient earned enough money to purchase a car. On March 31, 1988 one of the two men told his boss that he wanted to “leave early and get laid”. The two men drove to London where they found a fourteen year old girl waiting for a bus. She was abducted and beaten in the car on route to the factory where one of the men worked. The girl was thrown into a river where she later walked to a nearby house for help.
The St. Thomas Psych Hospital was taken over by St. Joseph’s Health Care in London as part of a reorganization initiative ordered by the Health Care Restructuring Commission (HSRC) in 1997. HSRC directives called for the divestment of a certain number of long term specialized inpatient beds from St. Joseph’s to hospitals across southwestern Ontario and the construction of two new specialized mental health care facilities, one in London and one in St. Thomas. The report recommended significant transitional funding to build community resources that would offset the eventual closure of beds.
A modern state of the art hospital was built on the grounds of the existing hospital in St. Thomas. It opened in June of 2013.
The hospital has taken on several names: Ontario Hospital, St. Thomas Psych and St. Thomas Regional Mental Health Care.
The colours blue and green were often used on walls as they created a calming atmosphere.
While exploring this facility in 2015 we found a pigeon trapped inside. It was flying into the walls in a panicked attempt to escape. Using a pair of gloves, one of our crew plucked it and let it escape out a window. We then closed the windows to prevent a recurrence.
February 2016 – OPP warn explorers to stay out of the facility.
January 2020 – Actor Jason Momoa intends to film a post-apocalyptic television show inside the former hospital. It will be titled ‘See’ and will be released on Apple TV.
This breathtaking mansion has 7 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms and sits on 6,500 square feet of land. It’s definitely out of place among the multi-million dollar homes that surround it. Once you step inside, you’ll understand why. It was also a marijuana grow operation.
It was locked up tight for many months but in 2019 access became available. The house was built in 1982 making it only 38 years old.
It’s alleged that the owner rented the home out to a tenant for $3300/month. That’s an incredibly high price in my opinion. The tenant then used the property to legally grow marijuana. The tenant was eventually evicted for non-payment of rent. (Canucks747)
As with most grow operations, alterations were made to the home which sealed its fate.
The rear door of the house had a metal gate installed to keep out thieves. You can imagine the criminal element would take an interest in this place. There are also security cameras.
Most every room has been altered to allow duct work to snake through it. Walls have been removed, the fireplaces sealed with expanding foam and power outlets loosely wired in obscure locations. Above you can see the remains of a marijuana plant.
There’s soil scattered throughout the house and you can find the odd amount of ‘shake’. Despite the turmoil inside the house, the exterior appears normal. The backyard has a patio set and deck.
The rear of the house has been fortified and there are security cameras in the front. It’s unlikely this house will ever be sold.
Caddy’s Strip Club was located in Scarborough, Ontario. Part of the adult entertainment experience of course was the availability of lap dances. This was a private area where dancers would provide dances for men often with unwanted physical contact taking place.
Caddy’s Strib Club joins many others that have closed across Canada as fewer people utilize them. With the availability of adult material, who’d want to pay $8 a beer to see what you could see naked women at home?
Above the entrance to the building was a Cadillac cut into half.
There is no electricity so lighting proved challenging during our visit.
The basement contained dressing rooms and a backstage room for the live bands that played in the Rockpile East next door.
There’s now extensive graffiti covering the mirrors on the wall, the coolers shown below and several other parts of the bar.
In 2014 two men were shot outside of the establishment.
Despite power being on in various parts of the building, I was unable to turn on any of the stage lighting.
The basement is beginning to flood though you can walk through it with shoes on.
The property will be demolished to make room for 184 townhouses.
The Rockpile East was attache to the Caddy’s building. It opened in 2013 and featured The Killer Dwarfs for the debut band.
The cover fee ranged from $15 to as high as $30 per person.
The Hickson United Church was built in 1901 and opened in 1902. Given the small size of the town of Hickson, the church was used as a meeting place for community functions including baptisms, weddings, funerals, Bible school, Brownies, Girl Guides, Scouts, weddings and baby showers.
As with so many churches across Canada (approximately 9,000 of them due to close within the next 10 years) this one closed due to declining congregation sizes.
In 2019 there were approximately 20 families attending mass on Sundays. Final services were held on March 10th, 2019.
The church donated leftover items to other nearby churches. The pews will be sold and anything left over, put into storage.
The property has been purchased by a company based in Toronto. There is talk of turning the building into apartment housing, but as we know in this hobby, it could easily be vacant for several years to come.
There are signs of decay in the main entrance but otherwise the church is in good condition.
The church gathered up all of the contents such as books, glasses, and other small items and will allow other churches to pick up items they can repurpose. The pews will be sold and the remaining contents put into storage.
stained glass and staircase
I hesitantly approached a man who, along with his wife, were cleaning up the church. I explained that I was looking to take some photos to capture the history of the church. He invited me inside where I met his wife (Denise?). We spoke a bit about how society doesn’t have time to religion any more.
I enjoy speaking to people who have an attachment to their church. I find them down to Earth, easy to approach and overall decent people.
The Tivoli Theatre in Hamilton dates back to 1875 when it began as a carriage factory. The carriage factory closed six years later and the building remained vacant for the next 26 years.
In 1908 the factory was converted to a theatre with 200 seats and named the Wonderland, followed by the Colonial (1910 to 1912) and the Princess (1913-1923).
The theatre showed live vaudeville acts and movies. It was the first cinema in Hamilton to feature soundtracks.
In 1924 a man named Andrew Ross took over and converted the store theatre into an auditorium which was named The Tivoli. It opened on September 29th, 1924.
On Feb. 1, 1926, the Tivoli Theatre introduced “talkies” (talking movies). Only two other Canadian theatres offered talking movies at this time.
In 1950 the theatre began showing movies full time and was operated by Famous Players Corporation. The building was remodeled in 1943, 1947 and 1954.
Improvements made in 1954 inclued 1,300 flashing lights on the marquee sign and the, auditorium walls were covered in silk damask.
The theatre was the first in its city to feature soundtracks. It changed ownership several times until being purchased by Famous Players Corporation. Famous Players renovated the theatre.
September 28th, 1989 was the final day the building was used as a movie theatre. The final movie played was “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” with 42 people in attendance.
The theatre was last used between 1998 and 2004, rented out by the current owners, the Snidermans (Sam the Record Man), to a local theatre company called the Tivoli Renaissance Project.
The former lobby was damaged on June 29th, 2004 and subsequently demolished after contractors determined the wall was dangerous. The City of Hamilton took over the property, secured it and removed the third floor, front wall, cupola and the marquee sign. The following year the Sniderman family applied for a demolition permit to demolition the 750-seat structure.
The property was then sold to the CEO of the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble for $2.
The dance company was unable to keep up with the repairs on the aging structure and in 2013 it was sold to the CEO’s husband Domenic Diamante. Diamante is head of Diamante Investments.
Diamante Investments plans to build a new lobby that will lead to a restored auditorium. In addition a 22-storey condo tower will be built on the site. The tower would supply the revenue required to restore the theatre. The plaster work and mouldings would be preserved and restored as part of the heritage process. Diamante Investments would then donate the completed theatre back to the Ballet Ensemble in a partnership plan that would have to be arranged. The City of Hamilton approved the developer’s proposal to build the condo tower and restore the theatre
In 2015 their proposal was approved with the condition that the theatre open before the condos.
After the theatre closed, it was sold to the CEO of a dance company. The company wasn’t able to maintain the aging building and the building sold to the husband of the CEO.
Plans for a condo tower have been proposed which include restoring the theatre.
As with many other explorers, entry into this location took repeated visits to check for a way inside. What might be locked one day, could be open the next. Sometimes kids leave a door open, other times it might be a forgetful employee. I waited over a year to get into this location and it did not disappoint.