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Old Posted Jun 19, 2017, 2:07 AM
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Infamous Thunder Bay

Infamous Thunder Bay, land of hockey players, persians and racism.

I've spend much of the past 12 years photographing this city. In this thread I'll share with you just some of the many photos I've taken over the past 18 months. Captions for photos will be located below the photo in this thread.

All the photos posted here are hosted on their website, and you can view them here.



The Queen stayed in that hotel once. I know someone who has the silverware she used while she stayed there. Today it's low income apartments, the elevator doesn't work and the hallways are stained with urine. The mountain in the background was called Anemki Wachieu until a white guy walked to the top of it in the 1800s and they named it after him instead.



Mount McKay is a 1,000 foot high diabase sill, and one of the tallest "mountains" in Ontario.













Drew Street School. It's located on Syndicate Avenue. Syndicate Avenue was called Drew Street until two years before the school was built. Why they named the school after the old name of the street when it wasn't built until after the street was renamed is a decision that has been lost to history.





McVicar Creek in Downtown Port Arthur. A little piece of nature downtown!



Our oldest apartment building.





On the right is the former courthouse. It's going to be turned into a hotel later this year, which is actually pretty exciting.



The city ordered him to remove this a few days after he put it up.


Last spring I got an 80-200mm telephoto lens. Nothing fancy (which will be made obvious by the photos you're about to see) but it gave me an opportunity to try some compositions I've always wanted to take but didn't have the ability to until recently.



Thunder Bay's tallest building, a 16 storey condominimum located on a hill above downtown. The roof is over 100m above the lake.



Downtown Port Arthur. In the background is the Resolute Forest Products paper mill, the city's largest single employer. Industrial facilities dominate our skyline and waterfront, and you're about to see most of them.







The large Canada flag in the middle is, of course, a Husky Truck Stop.



The two large buildings in this photo are part of a 600+ bed seniors living facility.



The grain elevator in the middle still operates. The Thunder Bay Community Auditorium is in the foreground.



Downtown Fort William's skyline, hiding behind the "Sports Dome". The "Sports Dome" collapsed last November (the same day that I was supposed to leave to go to Toronto, see this thread). For months now, it's been a pile of torn vinyl and debris. The operators have abandoned it and the landlord claims to not have enough money to clean it up.





An abandoned grain elevator and an abandoned iron ore trestle. The trestle is actually made of concrete, and the orange colour is the result of iron ore dust being sprinkled on it by trains over the 40 years it was in use. This whole area used to be a sawmill, and will eventually be (if things work out for the developer) a mixed use business, residential and parkland area.



Bay Street. The centre of culture in Thunder Bay.





Wholesale Club is the closest thing we have to Costco.



Downtown has strict height limits to ensure that little lighthouse can be seen from the park in which I took this photo. They work!!!!!!



That little green and red building burned down a couple weeks after I took this photo. The Italian Flag is flying above the Italian Cultural Centre. Thunder Bay is about 17% Italian, and the language is spoken more widely here than French.







While we don't have many tall buildings here, the large buildings we do have are arranged in a fairly aesthetically pleasing way.





They rebuilt the McDonald's last fall, but the sign is still large and obnoxious. We're probably the only city in Canada where a McDonald's sign figures prominently in the downtown skyline.



Thunder Bay's East End is replete with history and industry. It's the original site of Fort William, a trading post set up by the North-west Company in 1803.



Our fancy new court house.











Every year, we had a ten mile road race on Victoria Day which results in the closure of one of the main north-south corridors in the city. This street is the begining and end of the race. I love how the telephoto lens pulls the mountains so close.

That's all for now. Next time: Bay and Algoma; *inside* a 105 year old grain elevator, and some pretty awesome street art.

Here's a song from my youth to finish us off:

Video Link





















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  #2  
Old Posted Jun 19, 2017, 2:18 AM
Beedok Beedok is offline
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Huh, didn't notice the sports dome thing had collapsed when I was last in town.

Could really use some of that mild Thunder Bay summer weather right now where I am.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2017, 3:14 AM
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Interesting little place. If Hamilton is like Pittsburgh, Thunder Bay is like Wierton or East Liverpool. The grit is beyond romantic.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2017, 4:04 AM
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Enjoyed the tour vid and as usual, your commentary is pithy and understated. I'm looking forward to the next installment. Thanks!
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2017, 6:29 AM
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Very romantic. Got great potential.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2017, 1:32 PM
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How gritty, I can almost taste the racism.
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Old Posted Jun 19, 2017, 6:48 PM
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very sweet thread. i really wanted to drive up there when we went to duluth & superior. we never made it north of kitchi gammi park. no time unfortunately.

will send regards to paul schaffer if i see him around town!
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Old Posted Jun 20, 2017, 2:51 AM
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Thanks for the support. Here is part two:

All the photos posted here are hosted on their website, and you can view them here.

Downtown Port Arthur—specifically, the Bay and Algoma and Waterfront portions of it—is the part of town that the local government babies the most. Much of the funding available to support arts and culture is funnelled into the area. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it's nice to finally have something nice here, but there is a sense that too much stuff has been put into a small area to the detriment of other, equally deserving areas.

If you're able to sense a different mood between photos of downtown Port Arthur and photos of downtown Fort William, this is why. They city is still very much two separate cities.



A cheese store. Locally sourced designer clothing. A coffee shop. A decade ago I took this exact composition (I took this photo as part of a project I had to abandon due to work) and these storefronts were, in order, a superette (like a small grocery store/corner store type thing), a bike shop, and a store that sold various random trinkets.









Some Ontarians might recognize the Bay Meats logo. That's where they make it.







The Finnish Labour Temple is one of the most important cultural landmarks in Thunder Bay. I've always thought it is a really ugly, awkwardly designed building, but it's our ugly, awkwardly designed building.



This abandoned church was being used as apartments until the fire department shut it down.



Some infill to the left there. We're getting three of them. They're putting up the second one now, it's pink. The third one I think is going to be lime green.





I took a photo of these signs back in 2006, and I was amazed last year when I was trying this "ten years later" project that they still existed. The building they're attached to (which I've never taken a decent photo of) is over 100 years old.





This blue house was under renovation for years. It's finally finished and I don't think anyone expected it to be bright blue.







The Canada Games Complex, Port Arthur Stadium and Thunder Bay Community Auditorium form one of the main civic centres in the city. Their location is stupid and all of them are too small for the local demand and built poorly but we do what we can with what we have. They're all looking better now than a decade ago, I can tell you that much.



Port Arthur Collegiate Institute, now the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University. Bora Laskin was the chief justice of Canada's supreme court in the 1980s, and his brother Saul was the last mayor of Port Arthur and first mayor of Thunder Bay, from 1962 to 1972. (Thunder Bay was created in 1970.)



I don't know what they're fighting about but they sure are colourful while they do it. This used to be plain grey concrete, and now it's colourful.







Cooke Street is an interesting street. It branches off of St. Paul Street, and both of them are one-way streets (which are rare in Thunder Bay, we only have about 10 of them and none are more than a a few blocks long—most are a single block.) The street is lined on one side with the backs of buildings that front Red River Road, the main street in downtown Port Arthur. The other side used to have more businesses but they've all been replaced by parking lots. Most of the alley is now lined with colourful graffiti. It's the kind of place that Rick Mercer could do a rant in, and not look out of place. It's one of the city's most popular streets these days even though, technically, there's nothing on it.











We don't have the large, elaborate urban murals that cities in Quebec have, but we do our own thing here.


Now for the interesting part:



You might have seen photos of the insides of abandoned grain elevators, full of grit and decay. Well, this is an operating grain elevator. Full of grit and decay. I was given the opportunity to join the city heritage department on a site visit of the elevator during the planning process of Thunder Bay's Doors Open event in 2016.



Down there is the driveshaft that operated all the machinery.



You can take the stairs, or you can take the elevator. (The stairs are faster. The elevator moves at about 15 feet per minute.)



Different types and classes of grain. This facility processes specialty grains. One of their largest customers is a French mustard manufacturer.



Modern grain elevators have a digital version, but this one is old school. You may or may not have known that the gaps between the silos are also used to store grain.



This electrical transformer from about the 1920s has a rated capacity that far exceeds this grain elevator's needs. Even when it powered two other nearby grain elevators, its capacity far exceeded their needs. I can't recall exactly but I think they said it has never exceeded more than 10% of its capacity in its existence. The exact reason for why the original operators of the elevator chose such a large piece of equipment isn't known.



The entrance to the transformer room. There was a coal power plant attached to the facility and the large boiler still exists, but it was too dark and dangerous to take good photos of it.



Before the Canada Wheat Board developed modern grain cars, grain was transported in box cars with replaceable wooden doors. To get the grain out of the box car and into the chutes that went to the elevator itself, workers would drive these electric tractors into the doors to break them (gas combustion enginges would contaminate the grain and cause explosion hazards) and push all the grain into the grates below. Today, modern cars are cylindrical and have grates on the bottom to dump all their grain out without having to break anything. The tractors were hardwired into the building and they just never removed them, so they've been sitting unused for decades.



The elevator these photos were taken in was one of the first to make use of reinforced concrete slip-form construction. Reinforced concrete wasn't widely used until around 1910 (this elevator was built in 1913) so it was actually a very modern facility when it was constructed. This was the first elevator of its kind in the Lakehead. In the distance in this photo is an old elevator, with a steel frame and ceramic tile cladding. The interior and exterior are both clad with ceramic tiles, of different colours, and after being abandoned for more than 30 years, the building is decaying badly.





I am not sure if I have pictures, but this chute actually has wheels and can be relocated to different holes on the floor which direct the grain to different parts of the facility. The whole thing was very well maintained, it made almost no noise as it moved.



One of the massive support columns.





Looking up the elevator shaft. We're about to go upstairs!



Some old-fashion technology. The dumbwaiter gets used a lot, for anything that will fit in it. It's much faster and easier than going up and down.



Measures Canada is the government agency that regulates official scales and meters in the country. According to the guide on this tour, this is one of the most exact scales in a grain elevator in Canada. They can weigh a load of grain right down to individual pounds by adding small weights to the scale, and all of the weights are calibrated by a lead control weight stored in a special box in another part of the building.



A wider view of the scales. This is all original, pre-war technology. Nothing digital here.





They don't know what this is for and it has never been used.





This is a grain cleaning/sorting machine. It's a bit terrifying when it's on. Only a couple employees here are even willing to touch it.



Chutes and holes in the upper part of the elevator. The design of the chutes allows them to access almost any part of the facility regardless of the pillars, and they move without making a sound.



Looking up the side of the tower.





On the left is the base of the smokestack that was part of the coal power plant that operated the facility until it was connected to the electrical grid. Unfortunately, a lightning strike in 2012 blew up the top third of the stack and it was demolished shortly after.



It's a beautiful and well maintained facility. While it's not a designated historic site, the owners treat it like one and are is widely recognized for their strong commitment to Canada's architecture and engineering heritage. In this city there are grain elevators that are barely 50 years old that sit abandoned, while this elevator, the third oldest still standing today, continues to operate.




To close off this segment, here are a few more creative photos I took from my apartment in 2016.












The next set is almost exclusively downtown Fort William and Simpson Street. Mild weather in November and my upcoming trip to Hamilton gave me an incentive to take as many photos as I could before winter set in.
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Old Posted Jun 20, 2017, 3:35 PM
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Great tour, I especially like the indoor industrial shots. You don't get to see that very often.
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Old Posted Jun 20, 2017, 4:21 PM
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Great shots vid! I also found the grain elevator ones particularly interesting. My dad actually worked in one of the waterfront silos for a bit in the 1960s, which was one of the reasons he vowed to never return to Thunder Bay. Wonder if it even still exists.
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Old Posted Jun 23, 2017, 5:59 PM
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Thumbs up

Totally loved the tour of the grain elevators! I have to admit that before viewing your fantastic set, I knew sweet f.a. about silos and such. Thanks for correcting that!
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Old Posted Today, 8:32 PM
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Gorgeous tour! Enjoyed it!

I have always had an special interest about Thunder Bay.

Greetings from Madrid, Spain.
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