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


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: (no longer works)
North Humberland News

The Harvey Woods Building – an authorized visit

On Saturday (November 24),  3 photographer friends from the Residue Group (link no longer is valid), Peter Brickell, Rimma Skeini and Kevin McBride and I accepted an invitation to photograph the Harvey Woods Building on Vansittart Ave in Woodstock ON. Authorized opportunities to shoot vacant buildings  are rare and stranger still we were given unlimited access!  We were only asked to mind the broken glass and to not lock anyone inside the safe as the combination is still unknown and the former treasurer wouldn’t be back from Florida for a few more months! So we packed the car with everything but the darkroom sink (4×5, 8×10 view cameras, TLRs, SLRs and an iPhone camera) and to Woodstock we sped!

A little history:

Kenneth W. Harvey started Oxford Knitting Co. in 1906, on Ingersoll Ave. at Oxford, but sold it in 1909. In 1912 he opened Ken Knit, at 95 Wilson, in Woodstock ON. Ken Knit made ladies and children’s underwear. In 1920 Kenneth W. Harvey opened his second factory on Vansittart Ave in Woodstock  as Hoisery Ltd. to capitalize on the popularity of hosiery. In the late 1920s, the senior officers of a competing company, Zimmerknit Co. of Hamilton, were killed in a rail crossing accident. Kenneth. W. Harvey bought their company and he ran the three factories until 1937 when York Knitting Co (owned by .D. Woods), bought and took over the three businesses: Zimmerknit Co. of Hamilton, the Harvey Knitting Company and Hosiers Ltd in Woodstock. In 1964 York Knitting moved all its manufacturing to Woodstock and in 1966 officially changed its name to Harvey Woods Ltd. to match the retail name of its products.

Business began to fall off in the 1980’s and to reduce costs Harvey Woods Ltd began to consolidate it’s factories, but it wasn’t enough to keep the business independent and in 1983 it was bought out by the T.A.G. Apparel Group. Business continued to decline until 1990 when in March of that year the T.A.G. Apparel Group went into receivership and laid off it’s last 600 employees.

The Harvey Woods building, known as one of Woodstock’s top 10 neglected buildings  has been sitting “empty” since going into receivership in the 1990’s. It was recently purchased by Homestead Christian Care and they have plans to convert/renovate the building into a 50 unit affordable housing complex.

Today the building is a brick shell with little evidence of its former purpose left: the machinery, the socks, the underwear, the signage, even the toilets are gone. But as with all spaces that become neglected, the elements take over and an empty building transcends the neglect and decay and is now something wonderful to photograph.

Until I get my film back from the lab  you will have to be satisfied with snapshots from my super awesome iPhone 5.

UPDATED! I have added 11 new photos shot with my TLR.




Put the Needle to the Record

Wellington Destructor August, 2012.

I am in love with my new Rolleiflex E2. Not just because it’s a Rollei, my other TLR is a Minolta Autocord and it is an equally amazing photo machine that has taken many, many terrific, and sharp photos for me. Perhaps it’s because it’s new or that my E2 allows me to shoot without a handheld light meter, (it has a fitted light meter) or because I went a  little wild and accessorized the camera with a prism finder, filters (polarizer, UV, cloud, IR) and the like and it is just so easy to play with!

Although I was seriously disappointed with my regular labs developing of my film from the Wellington Destructor due to inadequate action of the bleach or bleach-fix that caused a muddy grey appearance on all my slides, (I am toying with the idea of dusting off my darkroom and doing it myself), with a little help from Photoshop, I was able to rescue a couple of the images like the one above. And although I know the slide itself isn’t perfect (i am hoping to repair my film), the image in my mind still delivers as I composed it.

Fisher Price was once a producer of well designed and built children’s objects and this turntable is a perfect example. It rolled off the assembly line in in the late 1970’s and besides some dirt it is still in near mint condition. Fisher Price could never match this product today. Instead we are left with quasi computer games for the TV that generally suck.  maybe I’m bitter and nostalgic, but a light weight, “portable” 1970’s turntable for ages 4 and up beats making photo albums with a giant 3 button console on the TV.