Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Abandonment Issues: Edgar
The following arial photo was found online, it truly conveys the massive scope of Edgar.
In 1952, under threat of air attacks from the Soviets, RCAF Station Edgar was constructed on one of the highest points in Simcoe County, in Edgar, Ontario. The Radar Base was the southernmost base on the Pinetree Line, and was home to the 31st Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron (later renamed Radar Squadron). RCAF Edgar was a self-contained city, featuring 82 detached and semi-detached dwellings, a school, infirmary, church, vocational work shop building, recreation centre that included an indoor pool and bowling alley, food service building, two office buildings, an auto repair shop, a multi-resident group home, a fire hall, sports fields and three miles of road. In those early days, it also had it's own water treatment and distribution facility.
In 1964, March, only twelve years later, RCAF Station Edgar was deemed unnecessary, due to advancements that allowed other Pinetree Line bases to cover it's area of responsibility. By the end of that month, it was shut down and the RCAF flag was lowered, one last time. Later that year, Edgar was sold to the provincial government for $218,225.
In 1966, Adult Occupational Centre Edgar became home to people with mental and physical disabilities. People would live on site in the former barracks, in the the self-contained city. Treatment, recreational activities, church services, schooling and employment were all available to the residents. Supported employment was a key factor in the rehabilitation treatment offered at Edgar, designed to give a sense of purpose to the individual. Many Toronto businesses sent their products to Edgar for assembly and/or packaging. Recently, my father in law reminisced on his days in the warehouse at Bic pen in Toronto in his early twenties, when the van would come from Edgar to pick up shipments of pens that were to be sorted by colour and packaged into plastic sleeves. He recalled a young man that accompanied the driver, full of exuberance and excitement about his duties.
In 1999, as part of the governments de-institutionalization plan, Adult Occupational Centre Edgar was completely shut down.
Between 1999 and 2011, the only inhabitants of this twice bustling community were the security guards that patrolled the grounds 24/7, and the police and military units that occasionally used it for training purposes. Oh, and the urban explorers, of course.
Last month, when i got word that Edgar was to be demolished, it climbed up my list of must see spots and a camping trip was planned around this and other locations in the vicinity. I knew fragments of the information that I just shared with you as we trekked through the forest towards the unknown in early September, but the only thing i really knew was that security was tight here, and stealth must be used to effectively experience all that Edgar has to offer. For example, a prolific Barrie-based explorer that has made several trips to Edgar told me that "Security there are fucking Nazi's...". Honestly, that just makes it more fun.
A stealthy approach through the forest. Creeping quietly along the tree line, dashing through the wide open spaces, tip-toeing into the safety of cover. Ascending to a safer height and surveying the landscape, plotting a route. In that first building, yellow plastic bags full of asbestos lined the dark shell of a hallway, a scene that would repeat itself. Thumping bass was thundering up the hill at us, too close for comfort, covering up the other noises that would have let us know what we were up against. Between buildings, we felt exposed, we fluttered and hopped. Inside again, the bass was seemingly louder, which meant we were getting closer to the source. A subtle beeping noise faded in and out in the distance.
Again, we fluttered, and then we jogged, and then we ran. Building to building, we zipped to and fro like hummingbirds from foxglove to morning glory. Inside the food services and cafeteria building, something became glaringly obvious to us. The beeping was getting closer and closer, and was accompanied by several loud voices. We were now surrounded, not by security, but a full-scale demolition crew that was a quarter of the way through demolishing the entire complex. Dump trucks and backhoes were suddenly passing us by, we were surrounded on all sides, and so we waited. For several minutes, we were mannequins. We sneaked quietly throughout the building and photographed, careful not to step on the carpet of broken glass fragments that littered the floor. Watching the windows, waiting, and when our moment came, we took it.
Behind what must have been an office building, we hunkered down under a canopy of Sumac trees to catch our breath. The source of the bass was a pick-up truck parked near the garages in the southeast corner of the complex, blaring Black Eyed Pieces of Shitty Music, so we steered clear. We then descended the hill through a dense batch of Sumacs, exiting onto the main road inside from the front entrance, where we spotted a security guard beside his truck, chatting with members of the demo crew. Back into the cover of the Sumacs we went, west to the overgrown chapel, which was sealed tight. Beyond the chapel, the residential area once stood, but unfortunately, the majority of the homes had already been demolished. Concrete staircases rose from the ground above hollowed basements, amongst piles of salvageable metals. Cloud cover came and went repeatedly. Weaving back through the complex, it must have been luck. They were seemingly everywhere, yet we avoided them all with a grace that seemed natural. As soon as we'd get out of sight, they would round a corner. We dove into the thick roadside brush at all the right moments, playing possum to perfection.
Once off the property undetected, we meandered back through the forest at a slow jaunt, glowing with the satisfaction that comes with a successful mission. As we poked through the tree line onto the road and opened the doors to the car, two uniformed O.P.P. officers drove up in unmarked SUV's and slowed down, only to wave at us, and continue on their way.
By the end of September, 2011, all of the buildings at Edgar had been demolished. There are now plans in place for a private developer to build 82 homes on the site.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES