Dances With Words: It may even be haunted!

Nick Wolochatiuk ~ Dances With Words
Dances With Words: It may even be haunted!
ABANDONED – Unstable and unoccupied, this once fine house languishes in mystery. (Photo by Nick Wolochatiuk)

Among the more memorable abandoned houses I’ve seen is one on a hilltop overlooking the Amalfi Coast of Italy. During thirteen months roaming Europe and North Africa in 1973-1974, I discovered others in the wilds of Morocco, and even last year, in Portugal’s Algarve. I always ask the same question. If their sites were so idyllic, why were the houses abandoned?

In Morrisburg you may have noticed a large house, on a desirable site facing the river, that has remained vacant for many years – I have no idea why – and is now beginning to fall victim to vandals.

The building in this week’s column represents one of many similar ones I’ve come across in my travels. It was photographed in SD&G on Boxing Day, 2020.
It’s located almost a kilometer from the nearest public road, on a gentle rise, surrounded by hundreds of acres of corn stubble. No outbuildings, trees or shrubs keep it company. The sturdy walls are of quarried sedimentary rock. Almost every window is shattered or missing. The wooden trim is faded, askew, broken or loose. Much of the sheet metal roofing that could have protected the integrity of the house is flapping in the wind, or completely missing.

The house is best accessed by a surprisingly smooth farm road. Parallel to it is another driveway. Even though its elevated roadbed is above the surrounding cornfields, it is badly pot-holed. During our brief visit, a car drove along that road, paused, obviously surprised at our presence near the old building, then continued on, eventually disappearing in a grove of trees that shelter a farm house.

All of the remaining is pure supposition. I don’t think the occupants were farmers. They may have been wealthy but disenchanted refugees from Ottawa or Montreal who sought to exchange the clamour, noise, confines and inconveniences of urban life for the tranquility, silence, space and pleasures of rural life.
Perhaps the farmer couldn’t resist the wad of cash being offered for the one acre rise and the road access to it. His balky and aged corn harvester could now be replaced.

Maybe the rural contractor who built their dream house went way over budget. The drilled well, though deep, produced sulphur water that was not even fit to do laundry. Drinking water had to be trucked in. The price of getting the access road snow-plowed was as steep as what the locals were charging for unseasoned firewood.

The earnings of the one bringing home the bacon were insufficient to cover all the unforeseen expenses. Attempts at growing a vegetable garden, or even flowers, were foiled by the inadvertent over-spray of herbicides applied on the surrounding ocean of corn. There was no produce to harvest, not even something for the crows.

Eventually the spouse and the children missed their friends and the glitter and conveniences of the city they left behind. The school bus and mailman were unwilling and unable to come up their laneway. The futile attempts to heat a stone building with green firewood in the stove produced more smoke than heat.

Not even a succession of different real estate agents could find a buyer for the empty house that never became a home. It was eventually abandoned. It is still abandoned.

Those are my observations and my guesses. If you have any to add, or if you actually know more about this building, please contact me

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