Still Stand­ing

When Wayne Si­mon moved to Wey­mouth, N.S., he was fas­ci­nated by the beauty of the old, aban­doned build­ings dot­ting the land­scape, and set out to pho­to­graph them.

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I‘ ve al­ways had a fas­ci­na­tion with old and aban­doned struc­tures, and since mov­ing to Nova Sco­tia in June 2015 from Pick­er­ing, Ont., I have found no short­age of such build­ings.

Nova Sco­tia is a prov­ince of youth­ful mi­gra­tion. The younger gen­er­a­tion tends to move to larger cities such as Mon­treal and Toronto, or they head out west to the oil fields of Alberta in search of work and em­ploy­ment di­ver­sity. In the wake of that ex­o­dus, many old build­ings are de­serted.

To me, aban­doned struc­tures seem to cry out for at­ten­tion, to be rec­og­nized for their thank­less con­tri­bu­tion to the pro­tec­tion and nur­tur­ing of the in­di­vid­u­als who con­structed and used them over many life­times. When I look at an old aban­doned struc­ture, I won­der about the lives of the peo­ple who passed through the door­ways and

oc­cu­pied the rooms. I won­der about the con­ver­sa­tions ab­sorbed by the walls and hall­ways. How many evenings were spent gath­ered around the ra­dio in the now va­cant liv­ing rooms and the mul­ti­tude of meals pre­pared on the wood­stoves left to rust in the back­yard?

Peo­ple some­times say, “If th­ese walls could talk,” but if you lis­ten, the walls do speak. After years of habi­ta­tion, the struc­tures take on an an­i­mated pres­ence. They lean too far to the right or wave loose shin­gles in the wind. Outer wall sec­tions swing on rusted nails, de­fy­ing the pull of grav­ity. Left aban­doned and to de­cay, they still cling to the for­got­ten charm and dig­nity their for­mer own­ers en­dowed them with. Win­dow dec­o­ra­tions, peel­ing shut­ters, sym­me­try of form and sim­ple dec­o­ra­tive ad­di­tions show they were once the pride of pre­vi­ous own­ers.

I re­al­ize for many who are in a con­stant rush to make ends meet, an old build­ing is re­garded merely as a land­mark, used to know which cor­ner to turn at, or to gauge a pro­jected time to the of­fice as we drive by. There is also won­der­ment, how­ever, that many of us feel when we come across a Vic­to­rian

home with its many or­nate gables and tur­rets, or the sym­me­try and pro­por­tion of Ge­or­gian struc­tures. The same holds true for me when I come across smaller aban­doned places with sto­ries of their own. But why bother tak­ing photos of old derelict places? What’s the point? I like to think a pho­to­graph cap­tures an emo­tional con­nec­tion re­lated to struc­tures.

An old struc­ture is like a fash­ion model. With­out the makeup, cloth­ing and light­ing, they are gen­er­ally quite av­er­age look­ing. But cap­tured in the right light with a bit of cre­ativ­ity and makeup, quite stun­ning. Old ne­glected struc­tures have ap­peal in the right light, at the cor­rect an­gle.

The Mar­itime Prov­ince of Nova Sco­tia is filled with aban­doned struc­tures. Passersby call them derelict, but ev­ery one, from the small­est log struc­ture to the largest Vic­to­rian home, has a story to tell. If you’re lucky, some­one is still around who re­mem­bers the peo­ple who lived there, and, when asked, can give some in­sight as to the per­son­al­ity of an in­di­vid­ual or fam­ily. Some­times strange, of­ten funny, but al­ways in­ter­est­ing, there is a his­tory les­son in ev­ery empty dwelling, stand­ing or lean­ing.

Th­ese are our time trav­ellers. Shel­ters of hopes and dreams long past, still strug­gling to re­main up­right as they age. Once the wel­come refuge at the end of the snow-cov­ered path, they stand for­got­ten. Aban­doned walls no longer echo with soft whis­pers in the night or re­sound with laugh­ter and tears. They will soon re­turn to the earth, pre­served only in our im­ages and rec­ol­lec­tions. ■

Clock­wise from top left: Dan­de­lion are among the first blooms an­nounc­ing spring in the prov­ince; con­structed in 1837, St. Jean Bap­tiste Church, Cor­ber­rie, is the sec­ond-old­est Ro­man Catholic church in Nova Sco­tia; an old homestead over­look­ing Scots Bay; t

Clock­wise: Over­look­ing the shore of Mav­il­lette Beach, this old school now stands silent; tat­tered cur­tains re­main in the pan­e­less bed­room win­dow of a de­serted homestead on Lake Ge­orge Road; an aban­doned ser­vice sta­tion in Lower West Pub­nico.

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