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  #1  
Old Posted Aug 26, 2013, 2:37 AM
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From BOOM to BUST

August 25, 2013

This is a tale of two communities, one roaring back to life, booming on the riches of offshore oil and gas - the other slowly but surely dying, its boarded-up buildings crumbling like the fortunes of its once-bustling iron ore mines.

Today, jeddy1989, Darren, Danielle and I visited Wabana, a struggling community on Bell Island just off the coast of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula.

Wabana used to be one of the largest, most prosperous communities in the country. It was affectionately known (primarily by its residents) as Newfoundland's second capital.

It boasted 6 iron ore mines, including the largest sub-sea mine in the world. There is still more than enough iron ore under the surface of the island and the surrounding sea - but it's more expensive to mine than surface operations elsewhere. And so this town is slowly being resigned to history.

It's only a 25-minute drive and a 20-minute ferry ride from St. John's (our capital, and the booming city), but it may as well be another world.

We'll start with a very early morning stroll through St. John's...

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The ferry to Wabana and Bell Island departs from Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, a suburb of St. John's.




















The island is exceptionally beautiful and, although most public buildings and even many residences are boarded up and abandoned, it is still home to thousands of very proud people.

There are a lot of claims-to-fame for Bell Island, many of them negative. It was one of the only places in North America directly attacked by the Nazis. 70 people were killed when the island was torpedoed, the third-highest loss of life in any Nazi attack on Newfoundland.

It's a wonderful place to visit, with a great sense of humour and hospitality.










Dicks' Restaurant and Lounge is famous for its traditional fries, dressing and gravy.




And the cheeky things it gets visitors to write on its wall.








The main tourist attractions on Bell Island are all related to its iron ore mines. Here are the remains of once towering docks (almost the height of the island itself) that loaded the iron ore onto ships.












It's also possible to visit the Mine No. 2 Museum, see some of the relics from Wabana's past, and walk through a small portion of the mine.








Some of the item tags are hilariously descriptive.








You can also visit the Wabana Lighthouse, which offers impressive views of Bell Island's steep coastal cliffs.

















A selfie.




Don't miss the last ferry back to Newfoundland. There are two ferries that run simultaneously every day, but they do stop in the evening. If you plan to visit, it costs $2.50 per person, or $6.90 for a driver and vehicle. You only have to pay to get to the island, not to get back.












Back to Portugal Cove-St. Philip's!







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Last edited by SignalHillHiker; Aug 27, 2013 at 5:58 PM.
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Old Posted Aug 26, 2013, 2:58 AM
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Some solid camera work here. Wabana looks like it's doing all right. Great shots in the last set, with the water and so forth.
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Old Posted Aug 26, 2013, 10:42 AM
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Beautiful pictures and tour! Thanks for sharing.

Watching your pictures of St. John´s and Wabana, I dream about being there. Wonderful landscapes. Thanks for the info too. Newfoundland is a really pretty island, and you show it exceptionally.

Congrats and greetings from Madrid, Spain.
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Old Posted Aug 26, 2013, 9:34 PM
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Absolutely gorgeous photos! One of the most colorful places shown here on city photos. Proof that every city doesn't have to be a wannabe NYC to be full of character and beauty.
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Old Posted Aug 27, 2013, 12:16 PM
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Thanks, guys!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Austinlee View Post
Absolutely gorgeous photos! One of the most colorful places shown here on city photos. Proof that every city doesn't have to be a wannabe NYC to be full of character and beauty.
Can you imagine if we did try to be like NYC?

Here's a quick MS Paint depiction of us even considering it:

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Old Posted Aug 27, 2013, 4:24 PM
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Wonderfull and peacefull photos! Great

I have to ask you one stupid question: those colourfull homes were like that in the past or it is a new "thing"? Sorry if it's obvious but I don't know
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Old Posted Aug 27, 2013, 5:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thomas_zul View Post
Wonderfull and peacefull photos! Great

I have to ask you one stupid question: those colourfull homes were like that in the past or it is a new "thing"? Sorry if it's obvious but I don't know
It's not a stupid question at all.

For the most part, the answer is no. I remember going on a city tour with my mother just for the fun of it and the tour guide explained that the houses were colourful to help fishermen see the city if they were returning through fog - and my mother mumbled under her breath, "Bullshit. When I was a girl, they were all white and grey."

But, in reality, there still was a lot of colour. Many of the wealthier homes (which here basically means they have bay windows) were colourful for the time - red, blue, yellow, green, etc. but without any of the highly saturated, even neon colours we have today.

As the lower classes with flat-front homes became our middle class, they started copying the styles and preferences of the upper class. They would add elaborate wooden details to the fronts of their homes and, yes, paint them in colourful designs.

All this happened after we joined Canada in 1949. Prior to that we had extreme wealth inequality, worse even than America today, with an obscenely rich merchant class and much of the rest of the population living in a form of indebted servitude (taking out loans one year to buy the supplies they needed to work the next, then paying that off and taking out a loan for the following year, etc.).

Here are a few shots from Vintage St. John's on Facebook.

This is an upper class area in 1925, so these homes would have been colourfully painted even then:



Here is a poorer, downtown residential area in the 1960s. You can see how they've started adopting the colours and some of the accents of the upper class homes:



And here is an example from the 1980s. These towers are built where the Central Slum once stood, one of the largest and most densely-populated slums ever to have existed in the English-speaking world. You can see the poor, residential neighbourhoods that were once adjacent to the slum are still mostly white. They're colourful now, because they've only recently reached a higher standard of living:

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Old Posted Aug 27, 2013, 5:42 PM
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Wow, thank you for this great answer! I knew there is something more behind these colourful buildings, that there is a reson for them to be like that. I find this quite interesting if you ask me
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Old Posted Aug 28, 2013, 2:35 AM
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My step-mother, who is from New England, has always said the colorful homes in that general part of the world are related to the desire to create cheerfulness in the gray winters. Signalhillhiker, what's your take on that?
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Old Posted Aug 28, 2013, 11:03 AM
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I think it's probably a fairy tale, like us saying it was so fishermen could see their homes through the fog.

That said, we do have very grey winters. Our weathermen and women often use the phrase "RDF" meaning "Rain, Drizzle, and Fog". It's overcast, foggy, and you need your car wipers on the lowest speed - but standing around outside, you don't really get wet. On average, however, we do get more hours of sunshine than other famously grey cities, such as London.

I suspect the answer is probably something much less romantic. Coloured paints were more expensive than whitewash and a luxury most poor families wouldn't have been willing to spend more on - so it became associated with the wealthy and, therefore, desirable.

I see the same things in myself. Right now my house has a very plain front (it's the one with the orange door):



But my father is already building door, window and roof details to fix it up a little, and make it look more like a wealthier home, such as these upper-middle class examples:



So, to me, fairy tale reasons why we use coloured paint are about as realistic as saying, "SignalHillHiker wants wooden details over his windows so that he doesn't get depressed in the winter, or so that he can see his house from the hill."

I think the answer is simply... these things were luxuries the poor couldn't afford or weren't willing to spend money on. Now we can, so we want them too. They're like having a better model of the same car.
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Old Posted Aug 28, 2013, 2:23 PM
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So I think it's interesting to see those homes in person - I have never seen any city that colouful in terms of colors of facades and elevations. It's interesting when you add the grey and grim skies that lays over it It's quite a interesting contrast.
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Old Posted Aug 28, 2013, 6:08 PM
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It's really nice in winter as well. When it's sunny, the city seems even more colourful than usual against the white backdrop:

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