Urbex: Exploration of an Abandoned Bowling Alley

After three quarters of a century in the Cambridge area of Waterloo Region, the pins fell for the last time at this bowling alley on May 7, 2017.  The longtime family business sold the land to a developer, who plans to build apartments.  

The developer ran into financial problems and the site has been untouched for 3+ years (the property was on the market for $4.25 million). It has sat abandoned since that time and is quite the disaster on the inside. 

We came across the site as a second location when the place we were hoping to scope out beside this was one was impenetrable – it was an old antiques/junk shop.  

Before we get into this explore, I’ll share some photos I located prior to its doors closing in 2017.

This isn’t my typical type of explore, I prefer abandoned farm houses, they tend to tell more of a story. This bowling alley has become home to those who have none and to intravenous drug users. This is by far the most derelict site I’ve explored to date.  So … I guess it does have a story after all.  

There’s only one way in and out. It’s been scavenged by scrappers looking for copper to sell for some coin.  It’s super dark inside, the only light is from the flashlight on our phones. It has a stench of wet carpet, urine and discarded rotting food.   

Toward the back corner, there’s a bed – it’s made and there’s some personal affects with it. We happened upon a gentleman who was using the space as his home. He’s had some family issues and said that no one in his family liked him much and wanted him to leave (sad). He says he does his best to to keep the place as “tidy” as he can, kicking away and throwing IV drug needles toward a pile that no one ventures into.

It is only mildly reminiscent of a bowling alley that was the at the height of its peak 10-15 years ago.  

Despite it being sooooo dark – and mostly decimated – we were able to take pics of a few items (including but not limited to) that identified it as bowling lanes:

  • League banners that once hung from the rafters
  • An old nacho machine
  • Bowling ball returns
  • Snack and Drink Bar Menu
  • The old stove – and a pot from the kitchen
  • TV Score Boards
  • The alley’s Mascot costume

Although a very different explore than my norm, it was still an interesting location. There’s history in every place we enter.

IF these walls could talk, I’m sure they’d speak to all the fun times kids had here for their birthday parties. The giddiness of first dates. Of bowling records being broken and personal bests being set. What about the tales of friendship, comradely and competition? The laughter of bowling a gutter ball or the fist pump of bowling a strike …

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: Northern Ontario Abandoned Hotel Explore!

The Lookout Inn is situated just south of North Bay, in Callander, Ontario. It used to be a hotel with a dining area and patio overlooking Lake Nipissing. The two buildings became a popular destination for vandals over the next decade.

The well known and unique resort in Callander had officially re-opened its doors to the public in 2017. They repaired one of the buildings and opened Terrace Suites Resort. There’s a golf course on the property which sits between the old and new buildings. 

“The old Lookout Inn, we are going to have some engineering people come in and look at it to see if it’s restorable. If not we would have to demolish and decide whether we want to do anymore building on the property,” said 1 of the owners John Jameson in 2016.  

From the current state of the building and from something I saw posted online, it doesn’t look as if the current owners will be able to utilize the old hotel in the renovations of the current suites. After it closed in the 1990’s, the property has become derelict – the owner has said it will have to be torn down, but they are mulling future development plans for the site.

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The hotel is pretty emptied and gutted, no exterior windows exist, however the glassless windows still overlook some of the most gorgeous panoramic views of the Lake Nippissing lookout. 

Some pretty cool graffiti.  The one part where the room is filled with water, it’s damp – nature is slowly taking over – moss covers the floor and old tubs.  

While there isn’t much to see in this abandoned hotel, it was still very cool to have been – sometimes it’s still better to have been late than to not have been at all – and if they’re going to be tearing it down in the next little while, I’m glad that I was able to urbex it prior to.

What’s the best place you’ve urbexed? Any hints or tips on the Ontario area? Comment below.

Urbex: Exploring a Well Known Meat Processing Plant!

This weekend I did another awesome urban explore at an old abandoned factory in town.  I’m not gonna share the exact location. You may think it’s ridiculous to not share the location of a place you’ve explored. It is an abandoned building after all, what’s the big deal?  The reason I don’t share location information with just anyone is that urban explorers aren’t the only ones that will see and visit that place. If you openly advertise the address of an abandoned building, you’re inviting just about anyone on the internet to go visit. The only things I like to take are photos.  

The plant on the day of closing

This urbex had a personal feel to it for me. Not only is it a well known and loved staple in the core of my hometown, the very first house I ever bought in 1999 was right across the street from the plant (like 200m away). The smell of BBQ would waft over our yard every afternoon for the 2 years we lived there, sometimes if the air wasn’t moving – it sat thick and heavy.

Living so close to a factory can have its moments – I recall being awaken in the middle of the night by a police officer knocking at the door, asking us to evacuate as there was a leak at the plant. I assumed it was an ammonia leak from one of the AC or refrigeration units. Hundreds of workers on the night shift were also evacuated while firefighters contained the leak. We returned home the next morning, opting to not rewake the kids from their sleeps at nana’s.

You can watch the YouTube video of this urbex here. This well known Canadian founded the company in 1886 after injuring his hand on the job at the Dominion Button Works factory. Unable to work, he and his wife began making sausages which they sold door-to-door, which they kept up after he was able to return to work. The recipe was based on one his mother used for pork sausage. He later expanded (in 1924) operation into a butchering service and retail store next to his home. Built in the 1890’s, it was constructed to look like a home in case the business failed – the location was then on the outskirts of the town which was then called Berlin. The company grew and survived the Great Depression, becoming one of the largest meat producers in Canada. It specialized in wieners, luncheon meat, sausages, pepperettes and other forms of specialty and delicatessen meats for generations, and was the first company in Canada to introduce vacuum packaging.

The landmark plant’s 125 years of history came to an end in February 2015 as the very last pack of bologna rolled off the line and was celebrated by teary-eyed employees …. the last 97 of those years were at the mammoth, oft-expanded facility … only 3.5 years after Maple Leaf Foods announced it was closing the aging factory, cutting 1,200 jobs. Workers in hard hats and blue coveralls crowded around the final production run to watch their plant fade into history. The plant was simply too inefficient, too landlocked and too old to modernize.

The property southwest of the downtown core sat vacant for 3 years before it was announced that Auburn Developments purchased it.  The development firm plans to transform the 27.6 acres into a new mixed use neighbourhood.  The building itself went through a 6-month decommissioning process.

They’ve demolished the waste water treatment facility, the powerhouse, and the entire processing plant, leaving the warehouse and office for mixed used commercial offices/retail space. Finalized concepts offer a range of housing forms and densities on the site along with some office, commercial space and parks and green space.  The redevelopment will add 2,800 homes and 11 buildings to the site. Construction of The Metz development is expected to start this June and continue for the next 10 years. The plant’s history to the city and its legacy will live on in the names of some of the streets in the new development.

More urbex coming your way soon!!

What are some of your fave spots to explore? Comment below!

Urbex: Abandoned Leather Tannery Explore!!

On the coldest day registered this year, my friend Thomas and I decided to stay local for our #urbex and decided to explore an abandoned factory in town.  It has been abandoned for decades and I drive by it quite regularly,  for some reason it never occurred to me to explore it …. so 2 weekends ago, Thomas and I did just that and it was definitely worth it, even in the sub zero temperatures.  I could have stayed and explored longer than the 1.5 hours we were there – but in all honesty – I couldn’t feel my hands any longer – it was that cold out!

When I first arrived upon it, I actually didn’t know the history of the building or what it was used for, Thomas did and I had asked him to not share, so I could just explore with no preconceived notions …. turns out I was exploring the old Robson Lang Leather Tannery — or at least an abandoned storage facility for it — it appears as if the original tannery part has already been demolished.  

I’ll give you the history of the building as I know it to be — you can also check out my YouTube video for the full explore by clicking the link.

In 1963, Robson Leather (in Oshawa, Ontario) combined forces with Kitchener, Ontario based James Lang Leather Co. Ltd.   In the same year, Robson Leather Company also purchased tanneries in London and Barrie as well as one in Cobourg. Under the new business name of Robson-Lang Leathers Limited it became part of Canada’s largest tanning company.

The company stayed in business only 14 more years before its Oshawa doors were closed forever due to many strikes and a decline in business.   The entire Robson-Lang industry closed in 1986. 

The Kitchener building stands open and is easily accessible – despite this, I will not be divulging its exact location.  It’s pretty obvious that many other people have used and abused this place. A definite squat and play-area for locals. In fact, there were other “non-urbexers” in the property while we were there.  No idea why they were there, and I wasn’t about to ask them (lol).

I was able to locate a few articles on the site:

Barrie deaths investigated:
The Ontario Ministry of Labour is investigating reports of deaths and illness said to be linked to a company that operated tanneries in Barrie, Oshawa, Kitchener, and Coburg. The Simcoe County Injured Workers Association says that it has received reports of appalling working conditions at the plants, and the dumping of hazardous chemicals into city sewers and creeks. The company, Robson Lange Leather Inc. closed in 1986. Dr. Jim Stopps, chief of health studies services for the Ministry of Labour, said that 44 reports of death and illness are being investigated.

In 2016 there as a fire at the location:

A fire official at that time believed someone set fire to the abandoned warehouse. “It’s likely vandalism,” Blake Moggy, assistant platoon chief with the Kitchener Fire Department, said. “Somebody lit it on fire.” Click here for the link to that newspaper article.

Photo: Courtesy of the Waterloo Region Record
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

There was apparently an earlier fire at the site in 2013 … apparently a camper and boat parked outside the building caught fire in September 2013, also under suspicious circumstances. The exact cause of the 2013 fire was not determined.

Super cool explore … loved every minute of this one … stay tuned, next I’m hoping to explore a large, well- known factory that has closed its doors in the last few years shortly.

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