Lost and for­got­ten New­found­land

The Compass - - OPINION -

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.

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