Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Abandonment Issues: O'Brien Cavanagh House

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Sometimes in life, an opportunity just falls into your lap. Such was the case with the O'Brien Cavanagh House in Indian River, Ontario. I was contacted by a gentleman that extended an invitation to me on behalf of the properties new owner: an opportunity to explore and document the abandoned farmhouse. This gentleman, hereby referred to only as "the neighbour", owns a neighbouring plot of land which has been in his family for many generations. In discussions with this new land owner, the neighbour shared with him what I do and the manner in which I do it. I was humbled and excited that this land owner would invite me onto his property to document the old log home, before it's fate is sealed. The neighbour informed me that if I was interested, he would meet me and act as a tour guide on the owner's behalf. “Sounds great, Saturday at noon?” It was settled.

Sure enough, at noon sharp, Ninja and I pulled up to the address marker at the end of a long driveway, where the neighbour stood beside his car, twiddling the long grass between his thumb and fingertips. A quick introduction ensued and an immediate level of comfort was established between us and the neighbour. “Follow me, drive up.” he said. And so we did.

Back outside of the cars, we were greeted by a street sign atop what was once a white picket fence before all of the paint had chipped and peeled off. The sign read 'DUBLIN ST.', and before it we stood and discussed the history of the home, as he knew it to be. I asked questions, and as he answered, my eyes darted to and fro about the farmland, scanning old overgrown machinery, as well as the exterior of the house. At one point, I stood up on the tire swing hanging from a branch on a hulk of a maple tree and swung back and forth, briefly pondering how long it had been since someone performed this act here.

The neighbour told us that the earliest information he could acquire from his own descendants, was that the home and land were owned by the O'Brien family in the 1930s, and sold to the Cavanagh family in the 1940s. The land had remained in the Cavanagh family until 2011, when it was purchased by this new owner. The new owner is considering demolishing the home, as he is bringing the land back to it's agricultural glory days, and resuming the farming that once took place here. According to the neighbour, when the elders of the Cavanagh family passed away in the 1970s, the younger generation left the farm. A nephew of those descendants inherited the land some time later, and would come to the home the odd weekend, he told us. In the early 2000s, the nephew Cavanagh passed away, and no one has been back since.

With the history lesson behind us, floating in the hot summer air, we walked around the house, and stood at the doorway. We hovered for a moment, standing over two wicker chairs on the veranda. Behind the chairs, keys hung from a thumb tac, beside a wooden sign that read 'THE CAVANAGHS, JIM & HELEN'. We entered together, all three of us, and then we seperated. Over the next two hours, not alot was said, all three of us poked around individually, staying out of each others way. We would intersect at times for brief discussions, such as sharing excitement over certain objects, or pondering aloud about the day to day family interactions that would have taken place in a given area of the home, and then we'd scatter yet again. I could go on and on about the religious and personal artifacts and the extreme mould and decay in certain areas, but I have said enough. It is time for the pictures to do the talking.

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We exited the house as we had entered, together. All of us dripping in sweat, our clothing literally drenched from the hot muggy air inside on this sweltering summer afternoon in the middle of a heat wave. We conversed for a few minutes before saying our goodbyes and going our separate ways. Driving away, Ninja and I discussed how it was a unique experience to explore the farmhouse with permission and an escort. We agreed that it was a nice change from the norm, but left something to be desired. Something was missing. It was the rush. The excitement of discovery was there, but the fear and adrenaline that pulse and excite while trespassing into the unknown was noticeably missing. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful experience, and I'd gladly take another property owner up on a similar offer anytime. Special thanks to the property owner, and the neighbour.

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

4 comments:

Addicted Wife said...

Jeremy, thank you very much for this post and all others. I've spent many hours entertained by your stories, through picture and text. You have an amazing talent and are very generous to share it freely.
Thank you.

Jennifer said...

Jeremy, thank you very much for this post and all others. I have spent many hours entertained by your stories, through picture and text. You have an amazing talent and are very generous to share it freely.
Thank you.

jerm IX said...

Thanks Jennifer.

Agatha said...

This is an awesome post. I'm glad you were able to gather the history of this house. And there are so many antique pieces in these photos that have the potential to be nicely preserved.