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.