Urbex: Exploring an Abandoned Strawberry Farm

In this blog, we are exploring the abandoned Stoll Strawberry Farm in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. It is a more recent abandon, 2017. We came upon this find as a “trade” with another urbexer.

The video version of this urbex can be viewed here.

We only had time to explore the house, we were losing daylight and will have to return later this week to explore the very large barn on the property. Be sure to stay tuned for part 2, coming your way soon!

I’ll categorize the house into 2 parts – the main floor and the upper apartment. Both form part of the same large home, but the upper floor appears to have been converted to a separate apartment to live in, whilst leaving the main floor relatively unused.

History on the house’s ownership can be found further below.

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Main Floor

The front entry to the house was not used and was covered in plastic assumedly to prevent the cold air from entering and to try to stop heat loss.

The main part of the home – the entry to the left – appears to be an abandoned part of the dwelling – it contains a large kitchen with original Lakewood woods stove, a dining room on the other side of the kitchen with an attached lounge. The main floor also holds a formal sitting room containing the most gorgeous fireplace with stunning inner hearth tiling. Where the stairs to the upper floor would be situated, it is drywalled off.

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Lakewood Wood Stove

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Oct 10, 1915

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This section seemed to not be lived in on a regular basis as most of the owners belongings can be found upstairs in the apartment – which is the entryway to the right.

The most interesting items of this explore seem to be in the decayed addition at the rear of the house. The roof has partially caved in. Here we found old magazines – mainly from 1926 and 1930, an old Sears cash register and 4 deer hoofs.

Upper Apartment

The upstairs rooms were then made into an apartment, separate apartment in the house where the owner resided instead. The apartment has a look and vibe of the 80’s / 90’s; based on the carpet, the built in fireplace, the wood plank kitchen ceiling. We had just started the very large barn, but we lost daylight, so we will go back shortly.

What We Know About the Last Owner

The farm belonged to a 75-year-old retired strawberry farmer, who was mowing his grass on his tractor, pulling the mower behind him, in the late afternoon of July 19, 2017. He was going up a steep incline when the tractor tipped over onto him. Several passersby stopped, freed him from the tractor, and administered CPR. He was rushed to hospital, and later pronounced dead.

According to his obituary, strawberry farmer was born in Speyer, Rhein, Germany on December 3, 1941. He had a profound passion for farming and providing fresh food to families in the community. He started growing strawberries in 1975 in Germany amongst other fruits, vegetables and cash crops. He immigrated with his family to Waterloo Region in 1985 to continue the tradition of growing the well known Stoll Strawberries.

** STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF THIS URBEX **

Conjecture: based on the presence of numerous local, English-language documents, memorabilia, and paraphernalia dating back as far as the 1910’s-1930’s, these may not have been the strawberry farmer’s items. It could be that he moved into the house and it had a considerable amount of stuff left behind. These items seem to slightly predate the Hallman family’s occupation of the house, but they seem to have been the most settled owners, the ones most likely to have last lived in the main part of the house, and the items are an appropriate age for Mr. Hallman and his wife as things they would have acquired in their 30’s and 40’s. It seems likely to me that these may be the remnant of possessions they brought with them when they moved, that their family likely didn’t care to reclaim and that the strawberry farmer’s family had no interest in either. This makes this site an interesting and somewhat rare example of a family home with actual possessions from several distinct groups of inhabitants, rather than just multiple generations of one family.

Ownership History

Research and information compiled by Thomas Little.

The original Crown grant is to a British land agent [Richard Beasley] in the 1790s.

By 1861, Wm. Hope (William Hope) shows up on one map as the owner with a house squarely where the current one is now. He shows up in censuses as a freeholder, so he would have had title to the land. However, he does not appear anywhere in the records of land transactions, but his neighbour to the north, George Proudfoot, does. The Proudfoot and Hope families show up repeatedly in connection to Ayr [a nearby town] and seem to be Scottish settlers more strongly connected to the adjacent township of North Dumfries who “spilled over” into a township mostly populated at the time by Germans. They are surrounded by other English and Scottish landowners in their area.

Wm Hope property

Toward the 1890s, the Richardson family gets more and more involved, and buying/leasing/mortgaging of the land becomes pretty frequent — it seems that both Proudfoot and Richardson families more or less divided up the corner lot between them, leaving a small half-lot parcel attached to the house after repeatedly buying strips adjoining their own properties.

During the early to mid 20th century it goes through a dizzying succession of hands: Becker, Huber, Hallman. The Hallmans become involved in the 40s and it seems to go to a Mr. Hallman in 1951. One of the longest owners in the 60s is a man named Horst Dreger. The Dreger family seem to have also been postwar German immigrants, if they are the same people — more research might turn up something interesting. Mr. Hallman dies in the mid-60s and is possibly one of the last “in earnest” inhabitants of the house. The late 60s and early 70s are very complex and seem to involve failed attempts by the Dregers to gain the whole parcel of land, while Mr. Hallman’s estate is having complex interactions with the Dept of National Revenue — he could have owed back taxes perhaps.

By the 70s at least part of it is in the hands of the Bayer family who transfer ownership of the land to a company presumably owned by them, maybe for tax reasons. By this point the land parcel is totally chopped up and it’s not clear which was attached to the actual farmhouse, or if anyone was even living in it. This is probably around the time the house started to seriously decay.

The Dreger family members seem to have sued each other in the 70s and this dominates much of the property record for this period. This very likely includes the part with the farmhouse. It seems likely the Dregers lived in the house or at least owned it, while the Bayers farmed the attached fields and had a complex ownership arrangement. The Bayers presumably lived nearby and had other farming operations.

The strawberry farmer steps into the mix with a single clear transfer of ownership from a Hallman family member to him and his wife in 1986. They paid almost half a million dollars — the land would be worth considerably more now. This is the final transaction on record prior to microfilming.

For more urban explore adventures … be sure to follow my blog 🙂

Urbex: Abandoned Farm House, North Wellington

It’s been 3 months since I last posted. It feels good to be back to be posting again, thank you for being patient with me, as I worked through the new world as we know it.

If you’re a follower you know that one of my favourite pastimes is exploring abandoned buildings/relics. While in British Columbia (BC) I explored a 102 year old abandoned mining smelter in Anaconda, BC and the abandoned tipple of the No 7 mine in Greenwood, BC. I’ve explored old barns and sought out remaining relics of a wool company. This hobby of mine is referred to as urban exploration (urbex). The unspoken rule of urban exploring is “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”.

On my latest urban exploring trip I was up in Wellington North (off Hiway 6 North). It is quite amazing just how many abandoned places are in that area.

This place was a gem of a relic. Some of these homes have been empty for decades. I wish I had more information on this house, I’d love to go to the Land Registry Office and find out who owns it and understand why it’s been sitting abandoned and dilapidated. Why did they leave? Why did they leave their possessions behind? If these walls could talk … this old house …

 


Exterior Photos: Barn and Silo


Interior – Kitchen


Interior – Living Room


Upstairs – staircase 

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Are any of you fellow urbexers?

Namaste 

T xo