Lost and forgotten Newfoundland
There’s something about old, abandoned and dilapidated buildings that holds me in their grasp.
As I drive around, I often focus on such weatherbeaten structures. My attention is immediately drawn to rundown and decrepit structures, especially those which once served as homes, but are now unoccupied and forlorn, left to the inevitable ravages of time and tide. Many questions arise in my mind. I wonder, Who owns that house? Who built it? When was it built? How long was it lived in? Why was it abandoned? Why was it allowed to deteriorate? What transpired in that house? Were there children? Where are they now? Why haven’t they made an effort to restore their home? What decisions were made there? What conversations took place there? What secrets do the walls conceal? Is i t s lated for destruction, either deliberately or as a matter of course?
A big attraction for me personally is the history inherent in such buildings. I wonder, Has anybody captured the image of this structure for posterity? Has it been painted by an artist, captured by a photographer or filmed by a filmographer?
Eventually, there will simply be no extant record that the building ever existed. How sad!
Catherine Burgess, writing in Memorial University’s Gazette, notes, “ Our province is home to a rather impressive collection of the structures, many
of which are relics from the resettlement era.”
Twenty-one-year-old Matt Reynolds, a MUN folklore student, has taken up the cause of chronicling what he calls “ lost and forgotten Newfoundland.”
He w r i t e s o n h i s w e b s i t e ( http://mattreynolds.webs.com)http :// mattreynolds. webs. com, “ I love shooting photographs that have strange textures, strong shadows, strange highlights, and I definitely don’t mind pushing the boundaries where I feel necessary.
“ It all started with a simple thought and my first exploration of an old radar station. I knew after spending an entire day observing and photographing, I was hooked exploring abandoned places.
“ The magic with an abandoned location is that it’s in a state of ‘ limbo.’ No longer inhabited, it sits waiting to be restored, demolished or to rot into nothing.” His series of photographs will eventually form the basis of a book. Until then, one can access his photos online
( http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattreynolds/collections/http:/ /www.flickr.com/photos/mattreynolds/
There are several galleries to choose from, including an Old Broad Cove Road home, a collapsed residence, Grandfather’s place and a Victorian style home. The photos are evocative.
Witness, for example, his comments about a home on Witch Hazel Road in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s.
“As we approached this home,” he recalls, “ we quickly realized it had collapsed in on itself. This place was heavily damaged because it was entirely open to the elements.
“ The place did contain an interesting array of shoes, however. As we explored around, I kept finding random shoes of all sizes and genres scattered about.”
What’s with the shoes? I wonder. Who owned them? Why so many? How many different people wore them? Why was the shoe collection left behind? Are the shoe-wearers still living? If so, do they ever think about the shoes they wore when they lived in this house?
The sad fact is that most of those buildings will implode with time. The residue of rot will continue to relentlessly remove all remembrance of reality. The structures will die an ignominious death. One day they will be no more. And we will be the poorer for it.
The photograph that accompanies my column tells its own story. I found it in an album belonging to my late parents. Unfortunately, I don’t know where the snap was taken. Nor am I certain of the identity of the trio of women.
If a picture tel ls a thousand words, then I have an equal number of questions. Where was the building located? Was it a house or a church? Who
lived there? How much longer did it remain standing after the picture was taken? Who are the three merry women posing outside? What’s the joke? Who’s playing the guitar? Was she also a solist? The answers to my questions are few at this late remove.
Reynolds revealed to Burgess, “A lot of locations that I’ve shot don’t even exist anymore. It’s interesting that people will contact me afterward and say, ‘ This is great that you got this photo. (The house) is gone now, and no one else would have taken (the photo).’ “
Reynolds is doing his part to preserve the past; performing a labour of love, one building at a time. Such individuals help to keep alive an important part of our past, culture and heritage that otherwise will be lost to history.
The rest of us are in his debt.