Kodak #9

Kodak Toronto blding #9 at night

 

The Kodak manufacturing site in Weston-Mount Dennis is back in the news and community is really pushing to save what’s left of Kodak Toronto. I understand, through photographing vacant/abandoned sites that most buildings are destined to become highway pavement, but Kodak has always been synonymous with magic for me. My first camera was a Kodak P&S, I shot Kodak film, printed on Kodak paper using Kodak chemistry (I still do! until my supply runs out) and watching the final remaining building of Toronto’s Kodak site fall into complete disrepair and possibly be demolished breaks my photographer heart.

Kodak made photography accessible and easy for anyone who wanted to to make pictures. In a cruel twist of irony the slogan “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest”  coined by George Eastman in 1888; with the thought anyone could be a photographer coupled with the advent digital technology (Kodak having invented the core technology for digital cameras) almost brought about Kodak’s near demise. In January 2013, court approved financing for Kodak to emerge from bankruptcy was approved. So there’s hope some of the legacy will live on.

Where would photography be if it wasn’t for George and his and his employees tinkerings with light sensitive papers, chemistry, camera designs and CCDs? We’d be nowhere near where we are today!

When word hit the street in 2007 that Kodak Toronto was ceasing operations and the plant was slated for demolition, I was just getting serious about photographing vacant & abandoned buildings slated for re-purpose and demolition. My first visit to Kodak (with a friend in the know), was on  extremely chilly night in 2007. The site had just been used (according to rumor and what we saw) as a training location for explosives detonation by the military. But it was a few weeks before we got to building #9.

We photographed and toured the complex of buildings several times and then some kids/vandals and/or hooligans ruined it for everyone by throwing chairs out of building #12 & #9 and so security was vamped up and you couldn’t even stand in front of demolition fence on Photography Drive without someone rushing up to the gate to tell you to get lost.

The post midnight tour we finally took of building #9 was near the end of our explorations – it was difficult to access the building – the lights were on or the asbestos curtains were up (good time to wait) and the fact that it was next to the road kept us in other buildings – and when we did get in the building, the lights were out and as almost every room of interest in building #9 has a window I couldn’t use a flash or flashlight to light paint – as the light would bring security running, so my photography in and of building #9 really didn’t begin until it was all that was left of Kodak Toronto. But I did get to see Kodak Toronto’s recreational building in all it’s magical splendor (albeit in the dark) – the staff cafeteria, the darkrooms and gymnasium before it was completely decimated by the demolition crews, vandals, graffiti, the elements and neglect. I really felt  devastated to see yet another building/factory/site still very full, of very useful equipment, antiques and materials closed to the public and declared trash. And I will admit we broke the take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints explorers rule and picked through the “trash” for useful things to use or share. For the record though, it was all dumpster diving, we didn’t rob or loot.

I am hopeful that Metrolinx and the Mount Dennis community can work together to breath new life into the building. A perfect example is the Field House that was once the offices of the Canada Linseed Oil Ltd company that provides washrooms, a meeting space, a kitchen for park users, storage and a winter home for the Farmers’ Market, and hose storage for the ice rink. More about the Field house is available here.

I’m excited to also report that I’ll exhibiting some of these images at the Mount Dennis: Toronto Public Library in July 2013! Details to be announced…

 

 

The Globe, Black Diamond & Nicholson File on a beautiful day

ph-room-1

Many of the vacant/abandoned and neglected sites I have a chance to photograph have had long histories and most have had an economic significance to the communities they existed and that  when they cease to exist it’s a blow to the communities surrounding them: Kodak Toronto, Color Corp Buffalo, The Packard Automotive Plant… but not as many have had a news worthy note like the Globe, Black Diamond & Nicholson File site and it was long after the factory doors had closed forever.

Photographing this site was a throwback to the days when I first started wandering around abandoned/vacant buildings with a camera. I knew almost nothing about the history of the Globe, Black Diamond & Nicholson File when we went save its national news coverage in 2012 (more on that below) and so I found myself wandering around in stupor of wonder trying to sort out how to capture the energy of the building/site.

A Brief History of Globe, Black Diamond & Nicholson File

Situated on the bank of the Ganaraska River in historic Port Hope Ontario (there are 270+ heritage sites in town and a giant TransformerTM sculpture),  sits the site of the the Globe, Black Diamond & Nicholson File factory complex of buildings. During the 100+ years of operations, the companies occupying the buildings produced hand tools and files and the factory was always a primary employer for the Port Hope community. I actually think I own files produced by Globe, Black Diamond & Nicholson File!  But i digress.

According to details culled from several blogs and news sites the property was in-use as early as 1853, but it was Frederick Outram who opened the Globe File Manufacturing Company there in 1888. In 1901 Globe File Manufacturing Company merged with Nicholson File Company, (a Rhode Island-based manufacturer – founded in 1834 by William Thomas Nicholson (1834-1893)) and they made files there until 1976, when the company was bought out by Cooper Tools (now Apex Tool Group). At some point the buildings on the West side of Cavan St. were torn down and houses were built in their place.

In 1988 what was left of the site was purchased in 1988 by Mr. J. Vernezos who maintained an apartment in the building and used the various other areas of the site for storage of a wide variety of personal items – which might explain the random scattering of children’s toys boats, vintage car shells and kiddie pools. There’s something unsettling and creepy about children’s toys in an abandoned or vacant factory. In 1985 the buildings were officially made a heritage site because of the various industrial and archeological features. Mr. J. Vernezos battled violent vandals who smashed anything and everything throughout the site on a regular basis and he was forced to replace the glass in many/most of the windows 3 times while he owned the site.

In 2008, someone attempted to set the building on fire. It’s cheaper than a movie!

In 2012 Toronto Barrister and Solicitor Yigal Rifkin purchased the property with hopes to turn the 75,000 sq ft of derelict buildings into a condominium/shopping/arts complex. But before he could get started, in November of 2012 the derelict site of Globe, Black Diamond & Nicholson File was raided and a very sophisticated marijuana grow-op was discovered inside with 1800+ plants worth an estimated street-value of $1.8 million! The 24 year-old man arrested at the scene was the tenant of the building and it was later revealed he had a license to grow medical marijuana, (a hilarious touch to the story!). Which the landlord probably didn’t have an issue with as his law office (in Toronto), does consulting work for medical marijuana licences through Grow Legally: Medical Marijuana in Canada.

When we toured the buildings last Sunday all the marijuana was gone (duh!), but there was evidence of a grow-op on the second floor and it was fabulous to photograph: tattered plastic sheets hanging between rooms, near windows, a giant makeshift pool collecting for rain water as well as a decimated apartment that looked as though it had barely survived a war complete with a near mint copy of a 1995 National Enquirer with headlines like:”Kevin Costner Love Triangle”, “Michael Jackson flies of with 2 boys” and “Christie Brinkley’s Hubby Accused of Wife Beating”! Combined with perfect sunlight filtered through filthy windows, the vintage structure of the building featuring vaulted columns, factory windows, skylights, 40+ years of vandalism (oddly very little graffiti), hoarding and neglect – each room was a magical space to be photographed.

As usual: Enjoy the iPhone snaps – when time permits I’ll post more from the magical Rolleiflex!

With files from:

http://www.heritageporthope.com/CAVAN121.pdf
http://vishwawalking.ca/get-lost/ont/pt-hope-file-factry.html
http://121cavan.com/?page_id=28 (no longer works)
North Humberland News

Buffalo Beautiful

Although it’s December and the it’s dark by 4:30pm the call of Buffalo was too much to resist until the weather cleared next Spring. And so we picked the gloomiest day to play tourists (last Saturday) and went to Buffalo to see what we could photograph.

Although the sun never came out, the rain subsided for a few hours in the afternoon so we could photograph the former Otis, Curtiss-Wright, and Niagara Tool & Machine site, attempt to access the Houdaille Industries site down the street, drive by the very boarded-shut Transfiguration Roman Catholic Church and wander some of the perimeter of the Buffalo Central Terminal.

Buffalo is a magical playground for photographers.

Below are my iPhone snapshots, photos from the Rolleiflex pending/at the lab…hopefully then I’ll have learned something about the former Otis, Curtiss-Wright, and Niagara Tool & Machine site. Right now the building is shrouded in mystery…