Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Shortly after our tense and incredibly awkward interaction with Mr. Doxsee inside the Doxsee House, we find ourselves scoping out the property of the North Big Island House. We are slightly befuddled at first to find that the lawn had been manicured very recently. I'm talking yesterday or this morning, with the grass mowed right up to the vine covered walls of this dilapidated green gem of an abandoned house.
With a drive by, we discover that the neighbours must tend to the property, as the lawns appear to have been cut simultaneously. We are unaware though if these neighbours are the owners of the property or not. Either way, they are an older couple and they just happen to be sitting in rocking chairs in the shade on their front porch next door, sipping what I automatically assume is iced tea.
After the intense experience with Mr. Doxsee less than half an hour behind us in the rear view mirror, we are feeling pretty frisky, and we've come this far, so let's fucking do this.
Senses heighten, nerves fray, excitement overtakes.
And just like that, we're inside, absorbing it all, in silence, again.
The ground floor blows us away, much of it still in pristine condition, containing many fascinating contents to search through and a vibe of a time long gone by. It is a thrilling experience, but we are very aware of the neighbour situation and move through the house much quicker than I would prefer. A return visit may be in order. So much history to be uncovered, I feel as though I just scratched the surface here.
Enter at your own risk
Living in the past
So good, and good for you
As the light burns dim
Woody would peck her (The Globe And Mail Arts section - Saturday June 4, 2011)
Just another plate on the wall
Propane and propane accessories
The elephant in the room
Acoustic guitar solo
The beat of my own drum
The day the music died
The wicker throne
Like yesterday never left
Panning for gold
A guiding light no more
She played the spoons
Silver spoon fed
The world isn't black and white
Upstairs, well that was a different story. Decay decay decay.
The light no longer shines from within
The blue bed
Boom beddy bye bye
Waking up into a nightmare
No rest for the wicked
Time does not heal all wounds
Mirror mirror in my hand...
SUNSHINE by Ludwig Bemelmans
Vacation unknown destination (Kodachrome Transparency Processed by Kodak)
Life goes on (Kodachrome Transparency Processed by Kodak)
And then we are gone, having remained invisible.
Going going gone
And then we make our way back to to the camp site to climb the dunes and swim in the lake and chill fireside, enjoying our Sandbanks Summer 2013 Camping Tour.
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Friday, April 11, 2014
This was anything but your average abandoned farmhouse exploration. Don't get me wrong, it started out that way, almost.
It was the day before we discovered the Chuckery Hill House, August 30th, 2013. Yet another camping trip was under way and we were mapping the abandonments of Prince Edward County. The Doxsee House was a pre-set destination, having been intrigued by images of it viewed online, taken by other explorers local to the area. We did a drive by. All good. We turned down Bethel and parked.
As we approached the intersection on foot we took a closer look at the church on the southeast corner, which also appeared abandoned. And it was. At that moment, as we stood innocently staring at the church conversing about which building to try first, a large truck turned into the driveway of the abandoned Doxsee Farmhouse. Beep beep beep. It reversed and began unloading an industrial dumpster behind the dilapidated house. As this was happening our instincts had already drawn us into the church, and we were watching this unfold slyly out the church windows. We decided to spend some time looking around the church, hoping with every breath that the truck was going to leave soon.
W.M. CHURCH 1871
W.M. CHURCH 1871 (detail)
The W.M. Church was constructed in 1871. As of yet, I have not been able to ascertain any information whatsoever regarding it's history. We kept an eye on the driver, and the idling truck, as we poked around the collection of someone's long forgotten personal items stored throughout the old church, which was still outfitted with original windows and pews, and a functional piano and organ.
Women and the tangled webs they weave
SALVATION IS OF THE emptiness inside
The collection plate no longer passes
An old THE NEW BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE
When God closes one window, he opens another door.
MISSISSIPPI MUD FAMOUS SLOW BREWED BLACK & TAN BEER
Grade A Teacher
Fifteen or twenty minutes later, we heard the truck's engine revving and slamming into gear, and our hearts began to race. We were ready at the door before he made it out of the driveway, and we were running across the street the moment the truck crested the hill to the south.
Once inside, mesmerized by the discoveries, photographing and taking it all in, we heard a truck pass by just outside the house and drive deeper onto the property. A pick-up truck, I caught a quick glimpse out the window. We decided not to give up, but rather continue exploring in complete silence and hope for the best. Maybe he is just farming way back in the depths of the property, we opined. Many times we have successfully explored abandoned houses on active farms, why should today be any different?
We didn't put the picture together, you see. Not yet.
From what remained, it would appear that many generations of Doxsee's once called this home and farmed this land throughout history. It is sad to see a once beloved home reduced to to this, and that sadness was everywhere around us.
The living room was a true gem of a find and I felt grateful to be alive, experiencing and photographing this living room, just as it was. The couch, the painting, the wooden chair in the dark corner hiding in the shadows of the floor length drapes. The smell, the hot dense air, the feeling of so very many yesterdays passing. This room, this moment, it was perfect. This is why we do this.
It is tearing the family apart
The long and winding road to freedom
Don't believe in fairy tales...The family that prays together, doesn't get to stay together.
We exist in the shadows
The great indoors
We continued to look around the first floor, in a silence like no other, constantly listening for any sign of the pick up truck or it's driver. The only sounds however were the soft slow crunching of debris under our feet and the muffled hum of vehicles whizzing past along the country highway.
The last supper
I have no idea what is happening here, this image of this image has given me nightmares.
STERLING FAVORITE FINDLAY BROS. CO. LTD. CARLETON PLACE, ONT. AND WINNIPEG MAN.
Prince Edward County Council 1932
1920 S.S. #3 SOPHIASBURGH DOXSEE'S
(Standing in front of the W.M. Church across the road)
We fade to black
The end table was jam packed with magazines, I reached inside and pulled out the one on top: Chatelaine - January 1983 - $1.25
We made our way upstairs, and as we did, the truck passed by again in the opposite direction and exited the property. We breathed a calm sigh of relief and continued to explore in a stress free mode. But that was short lived as the truck returned within a mere matter of minutes. Again, we shot in silence, absolutely intrigued by the contents of the bedrooms and slowly and carefully traversing the unstable floors, all the time continuing to listening for any signs of the pick up truck's driver.
Ghosts of our former selves
The doors greatest hits
Blackness Bath & Beyond
Flowers in the Attic
She was literally filled with emptiness
The inevitability of death
The garden of Adam and Eve
Never out of season
We are born. We learn to crawl. We learn to walk. We learn to ride, and we keep pedalling, going nowhere until we become too decrepit to pedal, to walk, to crawl. We grow old and fall apart. We die.
The third upstairs bedroom was still filled with belongings, coins fell to the floor and danced on the dusty floorboards as I opened an old dust covered yellowed newspaper from a bedside table. It was dated September 12th, 2001, and showed an image of the infamous 9/11 attack.
DAY OF TERROR (The Toronto Star: September 12th, 2001)
Then I picked up a watch that indicated when time stopped, and photographed it dangling from my hand. I did this because I was frozen in the moment, as I heard a noise outside. Like, right outside. Sounded like heavy footsteps. I was frozen with this watch in one hand and my camera in the other. We locked eyes, the two of us.
Watching time stopped, just dangling in the air.
We didn't get a chance to poke around and discover what gems this room had to uncover, because they were footsteps, and they just came in the house with the screen door slamming shut behind them.
We stood in utter silence, frozen solid and whispering inaudibly. Don't panic, stay calm, deep breaths. Silence. Do we run? Do we hide? We had only seconds to decide as the footsteps drew nearer to the bottom of the staircase. I made the call: I shouted "Hello???" and made our presence known. Then I whispered into her ear "We are playing the touristy honeymooners, follow my lead, stay close."
One of those situations.
A brash deep voice muttered something downstairs after a long pause. He was beyond confused. I yelled again "It is just my wife and I upstairs, we are photographers and we thought this house was abandoned. We are very sorry."
He was a tall slender man in jeans and a plaid jacket. A man's man, farmer type. As I descended the stairs he looked enraged, until he saw Nicole following behind me. It was clear he was not familiar with this little hobby of ours and was bewildered why a loving couple would be upstairs in this dilapidated mouldy old house. I allowed Nicole's smile, cute curiosity and natural likeability to settle him slightly before I began peppering questions at him as he did something between ask us politely to leave and aggressively insist that we get out.
But he confirmed during this hectic and very tense interaction that he is indeed a member of the Doxsee family, and was raised in this very house. He also informed us that he was still the landowner and now that his dumpster had arrived, he explained, he was here to begin demolishing his childhood home. He was just doing one last walk through to assess the task at hand when we truly startled him by hollering from his former bedroom and descending down his family staircase. We apologized profusely and wished Mr. Doxsee all the best, and then we hit the road again, towards the North Big Island House.
Before a months time had passed, the Doxsee Farmhouse was completely demolished.
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