Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Abandonment Issues: Knob Hill Farms

The alarm started blaring as soon as I opened the door. I yanked her in behind me and closed it, spinning her into my arms. It was like someone turned up the volume on life. The alarm now seemingly twice as loud and echoing, announcing our presence for blocks in every direction. Its a scare tactic, I re-assured her, 98 percent of people would be frightened off by it. Then i kissed her on the cheek and walk hand in hand with her into the wide open emptiness, as the alarm screamed a song of urgency and fear from the sky. It screamed at us, warning us of the danger that surely must follow. I continued to re-assure her, and to re-assure myself.

She calls out to me
she loves purple thistle

She is virtually ignored
she is virtually ignored

She wants me inside of her
she wants me inside of her

Knob Hill Farms was a Toronto based supermarket chain that operated from 1951 to 2001. It was founded by Steve Stavro, who was also well known for his relationship with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. Mr. Stavro's groundbreaking concept of giant Food Terminals, such as this 226,000 square foot grocery superstore in Oshawa, Ontario, are seen as a predecessor to the modern box stores that litter the North American landscape.

Knob Hill Farms converted the abandoned Ontario Malleable Iron Company Limited's factory in Oshawa into what was described as the world's largest food store, and it officially open in 1983. Spurs for both Canadian Pacific and Canadian Nation Railway lines led directly to the store, which also housed a card shop, bakery, video rental store, pharmacy and dentist's office. The Ontario Malleable Iron Company used the building as an iron foundry after 1898, but the company began operations at the site way back in 1872.

Knob Hill Farms Ad

knob hill letter

After many re-assuring words and a couple dozen photographs, the alarm stopped. A sigh of relief exuded from inside her and a sense of calm returned. Her eyes smiled, as did her mouth.

She sounds the alarm
she sounds the alarm

She keeps yelling
she yells

She introduces herself
she introduces herself

She feels vacant, like when her father died.
she feels vacant, like when her father left.

She smiles
she smiles

Again, the silence is broken by the screaming alarm. It tells us to get the fuck out of here with it's screeching high pitched rings. Its just a warning shot, its all bluff, I told her, looking her right in the eyes. A sense of urgency and panic is the natural response to ignoring it, I said. We have been programmed since childhood to react a certain way to sirens and alarms. We equate these sounds to danger and urgency and that is exactly what they are counting on. They expect us to run. It is likely a very successful and cheap alternative to hiring full time security, and I can guarantee you that the police would not be wasting resources on responding to this alarm, unless the security guard across the street or someone else called it in. The alarm stopped again, its final chime lingered in the air for seconds. We continued to pass the camera to and fro, as is our routine. I was proud of her. I told her that.

She listens
she cries

She looks back
she looks back

She feels trapped
she feels trapped

She opens up to me
she opens up to me

She tells me that she doesn't want it to be like this
she tells me that she doesn't want it to be like this

She shovels all the shit that life can throw at her
she shovels all the shit that life can throw at her

She works it
she works it

She is yelling again
she is yelling again

She seems lonely in the staff room
she is lonely

She walks the linear path
she walks the linear path

She loves the dark
she loves the dark

She is always playing mind games
she is always playing mind games

She reflects on her inner beauty
reflection internal, she says jokingly.

She reminds me of these old commercials i used to watch

On and off, the alarm. A sense of calm and a sense of tension within her also turning on and off. Motion detectors in some areas could be avoided once we found them, but to explore the entire building, there is no way to avoid setting it off repeatedly. By the time we went upstairs, she had gained confidence. Likely a result of the fact that nothing had happened yet. Nothing was happening.

A few large letters remain in the back room on the second floor, set aside in pairs. They once spelled Knob Hill Farms, I assumed, followed by the thought that the rest of the letters had likely been stolen. A pipe is cracked in this room and spraying water onto the old wooden floorboards. All signs indicate that this is a very new leak. We kissed again, we danced. The alarm wasn't an alarm anymore, it was a song. It was a private symphony for only us and the whole world to hear. It was the chorus of us creating our own adventure. There was nothing cookie cutter or big box or prescribed theme park fun about it. It was a freedom song, and it just kept playing on repeat.

She leads me
she leads me

She winks
she winks

She blinks
she blinks

She bats an eye
she bats an eye

She opens herself up to me again and again
she opens herself up to me again and again

She gives freely of herself
she gives freely of herself

She never whispers
she plays with the old letters from the KNOB HILL FARM sign

She exudes beauty from within
she exudes beauty from within

She spells it out
she plays

She voices her opinion
she says "Cool J" and laughs under her soft breath

She never stops crying
she never stops crying

She reaches for a tissue
she reaches for a tissue

She cries a steady stream of tears
she cries a steady stream of tears

She wipes her eyes
she wipes her eyes

She leads
she leads

She follows
she follows

She points out the chair in the corner on time out
she points out the chair in the corner on timeout

She is happy here
she is happy here

She screams yet again
she screams

She makes me promise that I will return to her, and I make that vow.
she makes me promise that i will return to her, and i make that vow.

I remember shopping here as a child. I remember the cheesy commercials and the corny Christmas jingles. And now I'll never forget the song she sang and the dance we danced on this day.

She and her both, I love them.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES


Anonymous said...

Always good to see photos from you. I guess figuring out which alarms are scare tactics takes a lot of experience with various abandonments. Again, brilliant shots.

Anonymous said...

Great shots.
Did ya make it into the basement?

Medz :)

Unknown said...

Thanks guys, I appreciate the feedback.

Nah, we didn't mess with the basement. I try to cater to the lady a little. She doesn't like basements, so unless i'm expecting gold, i can usually skip it. Why, is there anything worthy of note down there?

Anonymous said...

Did you guys have sex in there or something? =D

Unknown said...

In this building, no.

Anonymous said...

Brings back memories

I've been to this Knob Hill before I remember my aunt thinking it was a good idea to buy 4 boxes of 4L ice cream on a super hot summer day. By the time we got home they were milkshakes.

I've been following your work since Building 9. Just wanted to say thanks and keep up the awesome!

BTW your "artwork" at Kodak is mostly gone now thanks to weathering.

Your Fan


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

i was just in that building yesterday, heard an alarm and ran :/

Anonymous said...

Along with the letters: K-I-L-L there is also: A-N so anyone have words you can spell useing all these letters?

Anonymous said...

your work really brings out the beauty of this place. toured up there yesterday. police actually saw us trying to gain access at the doors, we walked off a bit and waited. the alarm is either silent or inactive now, we found the little control panel in the electrical room, it read "area 1 alarm was triggered" or something. spent a couple hours there without incident.

KellyKelly said...

Weird, I think that's me in the last picture!

I often walk along the Michal Starr trail (which goes right past Knob Hill Farms) and seeing these photos and reading your comments reminded me that last summer on one of my walks, I could hear the alarm and wonder why no one was checking it.

On my way back (the trail circles back north), the alarm was still ringing and I remember seeing someone with a camera standing from the spot where this picture was taken.

I`ve enjoyed viewing and reading about your adventures. I wasn`t even there but was terribly creeped out by the house with the lights on in the basement!

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Laura said...

The old part of the building, with the leak, was the nicest to see (for me). My family and I shopped there. I can remember the huge shopping carts and getting boxes to stash everything in.

I guess you can't tell anyone about the water. Too bad cause that will finish off the structure a lot sooner. Not to mention the wasted water.

jemarie said...

Curious how you got in, I think this would make an amazing location for a concept bridal shoot I am doing. Is it trick getting access inside??

jemarie said...

Curious to know how you got in? I think it would make an amazing location for a concept bridal shoot I am doing. Is it difficult getting access inside??

Anonymous said...

Worked at KHF Pickering all through high school. 86-91
. Many fond memories. Sometimes it is even part of my dreams. Must have been something in the air. I know a lot about this organization. There will never be anything like it. Store was restocked and perfectly cleaned. This lasted about an hour after opening. The customers were the ones who made it dirty and smelly. Lots of first experienced at this store. Too bad its gone.

Unknown said...

Thank you for these touching images and story that followed. I remember visiting the store countless times with my family, cruising down all the long long isles of food with those black shopping baskets. The most memorable was waiting for mum to finish paying for the groceries while Grandpa and I walked over to a white pedestrian bridge to the west of the parking lot where we stood and waved at trains as they roared by. It was always a treat to go to the store. My favourite was the Nanaimo bars that they had made, that resembled their never forgetting logo that overhung above the store.

Thank You!

Anonymous said...

Skated in there when in was abandoned, until it got baited out!

Anonymous said...

AS a salesman for McCormicks/Weston Interbake Foods this was 1 of my favorite stores. I had the largest display of Granny Snap Cookies ever.. I felt small around this huge display. Mr Stavro met myself and our VP for a photo shoot at 5 am what a feeling of sucess RIP Mr Stavro.

Redwall said...

If this is the Knob Hill Farms that I think it is, I remember going into it shortly after it closed (became a sort of cheap goods store). And that there was a fire inside (we got some good deals afterwards as everything was covered in ash.) I hear it's soon to be torn down to make a new GO station.

Anonymous said...

is there access from the roof? my friends and I scaled the side of the building just a few days ago, but we could not see anything and security spotted us on our way down and ran after us for a few blocks

P.S I love the pictures I use to shop there as a kid, if you know of any other ways to get in without tripping the alarms please let me know.

Anonymous said...

How did you manage to get on the roof?

Unknown said...

What's the best way to make your way in? A friend and I walked around earlier and saw a car sat at one of the gates, and it was wide open

Tim Scammell, PTech said...

Hi there. Great post by the way. I have seen it before and just came back today. Is this place still there today or is it gone now? I remember these stores so well. When I was young my father and I used to go to the original store at Highway 7 when it was still working its way up.