Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Abandonment Issues: G.W. Martin Lumber Mill

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While lounging lakeside and soaking in the sun at one of our family cottages (on Diamond Lake) this past weekend, I received a message from a fellow explorer about an abandoned Veneer Mill in nearby Wilberforce. We arrived at the location the next morning only to discover that it was in the latter stages of demolition. I sparked up a conversation with a local at the general store and our discussion eventually shifted from the demolition of the veneer mill to other abandoned buildings in the area, including the ruins of the Standard Chemical Plant in Donald, which we explored last year, and the G.W. Martin Lumber Mill to the northeast in Harcourt.

After stopping at a unique antique shop and conversing with the eccentric gentleman that has filled his home from top to bottom with antiques, including thousands of bottles, and purchasing a few items from him, we were back on the road. We crossed over a small bridge at the southern tip of Algonquin Park, where a river empties into Benoir Lake, and then into Elephant and Baptiste Lakes, and there it was, the G.W. Martin Lumber Mill.

Martin Lumber logo

Logging began in this area in the 1800s, and continues to this day. The mill at this location was one of three in the Baptiste Lake area, and was promptly rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 1930. An internet search revealed that the G.W. Martin Lumber Company still operates a transportation service, with one driver and one truck in their fleet.

On this day, the transport truck is parked in front of the massive warehouse, and no one is around for miles, but for the occasional vehicle passing by and four or five young children jumping from the nearby bridge into the river below. Machinery and stacks of lumber are peppered about the massive fields, amongst the many buildings, most of which are easily accessible. The kiln rooms that once dried the timber sit empty, but for the singing sparrows dancing above our heads. Care is taken with each and every step on the unstable floor down the long hallway above the kiln rooms, as we photograph the kiln room control boards and valves. Calendars, permits, and paperwork found in desk drawers all read 2004, indicating a likely date of the mill's closure. Back outside, deer frolic and forage in the distance in the open pasture, as the long weeds tickle my poison ivy covered legs.

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Back outside, wiping sweat from our brows.

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Forklifts and wood piles block all of the entrances into the large warehouse building, but where there is a will, there is a way, and then there is a dirty explorer with a small cut on his back inside of the building. The dance and song of the sparrows continues inside on a much grander scale, echoing in the vast open emptiness. My whistles join the symphony, to the tune of 'An Episode of Sparrows' by Astronautalis. A stray cat adds his voice to the choir and cries for attention, standing beside an RV parked inside and surrounded by a posse of white plastic chairs. A quick jaunt from end to end, and then I squeeze back outside.

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Near the front entrance, a long narrow building is in a sad state of decay, collapsing in on itself. The small rooms inside still contain bundles of printer paper, small machinery parts, and boxes full of company records, partially buried under fallen ceiling tiles and insulation.

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Back in the car with our exploring urge satisfied, we crank the AC, crank the music, and hit the road back to the cottage. Life doesn't get any better than this. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to pack up, after returning home for two days of work, we are heading back to the cottage.

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

11 comments:

terapr0 said...

shitttttt I was just in Algonquin and paddled past this place yesterday! We were debating whether it was actually abandoned or not! The one decent looking building + new heavy equipment lead us to think it was still at least partially active. Damn I'm kicking myself for not having a look!

Anonymous said...

Sad to see what has become of a once vibrant lumber operation. I hauled logs in to there and lumber , woodchips out years back.

It was quite thye place .

Wide Plank Flooring website said...

it was a beautiful place....

Anonymous said...

I lived on the property in one of the houses when I was a little girl. We played on the grounds all the time. Were the houses still there? There was 5 of them.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately none of the houses are left... for that matter very little that wasn`t bolted down is left. Including all those expensive looking tractors, trailers and forklifts.

I grew up in that area as well, good honest Polish descendants, our family worked in the business, my grandfather actually was a logger in the true sense, and to see people steal and take whatever they want without impunity does not seem right.

Just because a place seems to be abandoned doesn`t mean someone doesn`t own it. And it certainly doesn`t mean misguided individuals can help themselves to anything on the property. Shame on those who helped themselves to whatever they wanted - it did not belong to you!

Jerm IX said...

Sorry to hear that things have been stolen. Kinda the way it goes. Is it possibly the company just sold or moved the machinery? Last I heard there still is a lone driver working off the property.

Thank you all for your stories, the personal connections truly enrich this experience for me and my readers. Thank you.

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Jonathan Freymond said...

Great Pics! My Grandfather was a sawyer there for many many years. There's a few pictures we have of him at work, covered in sawdust sawing the logs. During his time there he saw it expand and grow and it wasn't long after he retired that Grenville was killed in the plane crash. Its sad though just how quickly the company died without Grenville's touch at the helm. It went from being the largest lumber operation in north America to a pile of direlect rubble in less than a decade.

Tanya said...

Just curious as to what happened to the owners? Talk on a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/699186153509134/?fref=nf they are saying the mill was operated by a family and that they died in a plane crash...True? or Not? would be nice to have the real story with the photoes...

Jonathan Freymond said...

Grenville Martin who was the real brains behind the operation died in a plane crash. He was survived by his son and daughters. The son took over operations, but unfortunately much of inner workings of the operation died with Grenville.
On an unrelated note I could sure use some of those tarts Tanya.....

Anonymous said...

I think the daughters run it ,not the son