No Rooms For Rent

Posted: 30th November 2011 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

We’re back to our roots here at The Hollow today, taking a look at an abandoned apartment building very near downtown Victoria, BC in Canada.  I found this the other day when I was in town at an appointment.  I darn near crinked my neck when I went past it; I knew it was a gem just waiting to be captured.

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

I carefully planned this shoot, as time is ever so short these days for Mrs. Toad and myself.  Using my favorite little photographers friends, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, I was planning on being out front, shutter madly clicking, right around 2:15 PM.  I arrived right on time, and set out to capture what I saw.

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

As I approached the building, an eery sense came over me almost immediately.  Inbound for the shoot, I had my radio on and the local FM station was just in its news cycle.  They were discussing a stabbing that had just taken place, not 10 minutes prior, and it was an active emergency scene with many officers on site.  This was all happening just a few short blocks south, right downtown.  This is not the best area to be in, but it was early in the afternoon, in broad daylight.  I was sure everything was going to be fine.

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

I started to shoot.  A couple came out the apartment to the right and walked right past me.  So, far, so good.  Why do I feel strange?

I am starting to notice some really great details that first caught my eye as I flew past this place a few short weeks ago.  The bottom two floors are entirely boarded up.  The top floor is not, but most of the windows are still intact.  A few are broken.  A close look reveals that there are still items in some of the suites upstairs.  Too far away with not enough lens to do anything about that, photographically, but still it kind of struck me that whoever lived here before, left in a hurry.

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

The drape/towel is flinging itself wantonly out the window, like a lady of the evening in the Red Light District in Frankfurt.  The windows here are open; not broken.  Why?  This is so strange to me.

The architecture is of a style I don’t know how to categorize.  Perhaps anyone who visits who is familiar with architecture can leave us some comments about this?  I believe it to be a fairly typical apartment facility for the time it was designed in, and even today it strikes a strong and commanding figure.  Even if it is a hue of pink/salmon.

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

Overnight Parking & Sleeping Prohibited.  Ya think?  Sure, let’s go with that.

I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sign sitting against the wall there.  One of those times that a picture can speak a thousand words; and in this case, some of those words are “irony” and “weird”.

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

This arch leads to the backyard area.  It really has a great swooping line with a black detail and a fabulous knob at the top of the right post.  It provided a peek-a-boo to the side, which apparently also serves as a place to store… junk, basically.

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

Abandoned Apartment Building - Victoria, BC, Canada

One last, must-have, shot.  This was one of the key shots I came for.  I love it.  It’s almost an art-deco style doorway in the front, with just incredible railings the lead the eye right up to that wonderful entry.  The street number has been painted over.  Someone has expressed themselves by spray painting a blue heart.  Signs of life, albeit slightly defiant.

I have no idea what fate has in store for this building.  There are an alarming number of buildings of significant historic value that are now in this condition.  I understand in some cases the owners find it to be more financially beneficial to board them up and leave them sit until the economy turns around.  I get that.  But, I also find it to be a gloomy statement on the current economic situation society in general finds itself in these days, and I can’t help but be drawn to photograph it.  Some people like to photograph pretty girls; I like to photograph old, grungy buildings.

As the final click of the shutter echoed in the street, I heard some voices behind me.  I turned to see four young men on the lawn across the street, and they were clearly performing some type of “business transaction”.  I call that time to go.

As it turns out, the young man who was stabbed a few blocks south of here at pretty much the same time I was doing this shoot is fine.  He had quite the nasty afternoon, and a pretty large crowd had formed down there, causing a bit of a disturbance.  And with what was going on right across the street from me…  these are all signs that the shoot is over, and it’s time to boogy on out.

On the way out, I stopped quickly at an abandoned motel I’ve shot before.  The scuttlebutt on the street is it has only weeks left to live and I wanted to grab a few parting shots.  This will be a subject for a post coming your way soon, so please do stay tuned.

And in the meantime, we thank you so very much to taking the time to visit today.  Please feel free to leave us any comments you may have, we answer each and every one.




  1. avatar ehpem says:

    Toad – when I got the email for this post, without any images, I just knew it would be this building. I pass it quite often and also find it intriguing. This building was in the press a number of years ago, for all the wrong reasons (its tenants were newsworthy). It was not long after that it was boarded up. I do wonder if someone is squatting in there though.
    And, the motel you refer to – I bet its sandwiched between motorcycle and car dealers with an even less salubrious history than the apartment in this post. I was there yesterday, but without my camera and vowed to return for pictures of the vine creeping across the locked door. If that’s the one, looks like you beat me to it 🙂
    Anyway, you have done the apartment building a really big favour by highlighting its good points and preserving them. I doubt that this one will survive to be redeveloped in the same skin. Looking at this building and the detail you bring out in it, I wonder if the stucco is a more recent addition – I bet it had wood or shingle siding at one time, and probably looked much better for it too.

    • Incredible comments here, thank you so much my friend!! You are right on all counts, we speak of the exact same motel!! Isn’t that funny. That vine you mention is going to be a big part of the post, it was really a fabulous element to photograph. Thank you so much for your kind comments on this series here, I love that we have a friend who’s a local photographer and knows all these spots as we do. It’s so much fun being able to compare notes and follow your work; it really adds an element of personal to our blog here. Thank you for taking the time to visit and leave us these incredible comments, it means more than we can properly express.

      I share your thoughts on this apartment to the letter. I knew it was there for awhile now, but just the other day it caught my imagination and became something I had to do. I think Heather might be right on this; it started out as an old Victorian home and was converted at some point… that conversion may have included the stucco you mention. I agree, I do not believe it is original as that just doesn’t tie in properly to the architectural style of the time this place was designed. Thank you for your kind words, my friend… 🙂

      • avatar ehpem says:

        Hi Toad,
        I thought that the article linked below might interest you as it bears on this building, and also on the Holiday Court Motel, subject of your next post.
        http://homelessnation.org/node/14809

        The article suggests the building was formerly a college dormitory, though the source of this information is not known. Which college it might have been associated with I am not sure, perhaps Victoria College as it was then known? Victoria College was founded in 1903 and initially was an adjunct to Victoria High School with which it shared facilities. Vic High is just a few blocks away.

        Also, the Hallmark Society has a picture of it from the 1970s which is interesting to compare to yours. Unfortunately they have no information on its construction history.
        http://victoriahistory.ca/gallery.php?no=524&id=0

        I don’t really think that this looks like a house that has been converted to apartments. For the Victoria area, there were apartments build in the early 1900’s that resembled houses, but which were plainer and more boxy, like this one, wtih regular rows of windows. The large houses of that era had more architectural interest, more variety and detail and the long surfaces were usually broken into less regular spaces. There is no sign that this ever was on a larger property since subdivided, which a house this size in that time period would almost certainly have been, especially on the outskirts of town as this was at that time. So my vote is with this being one of the early apartments in Victoria, very likely from the early 1900s, possibly late 1800s.

        • Wow! GREAT articles, thank you so much for taking the time to look into it, and for sharing the links and your thoughts with us all!! I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate it.

          I actually share most of the views and thoughts in the first link, http://homelessnation.org/node/14809, you have posted here. The Northern Junk Company is another building that I believe is near the end of it’s life as a developer (from Vancouver if I recall?) is trying to make it a feasible business opportunity. I understand that the cost of developing such a small square foot facility in the footprint it’s on by the waterfront makes it a challenging process financially for some. That doesn’t preclude the fact that that particular building is one of the first ones put here on Vancouver Island. For that reason alone, I strongly believe it must be preserved. Much the same to be said about the fabled Janion Building, mentioned in the article you posted.

          And for this apartment building; what a GREAT photograph from the 70’s you’ve found and shared! I have to admit I had a hard time believing it was originally a home for the exact reasons you’ve mentioned here. It just looks too much like it was originally designed and built as an apartment; or in this case, a dorm. But, it does have some strong Victorian styling cues to it, which I have no doubt leads to some confusion amongst us all.

          I am so blessed to have found you online here. Another photographer in our city with the same passion we have is something to treasure, for sure! How can I begin to properly thank you for all your support, and for taking the time to do all this research and share your findings? It really means more to us than I can properly express.

      • avatar ehpem says:

        “Properly thank me”? Well, that is hardly necessary, but if you feel that way, then just keep on pumping out these great posts for me to enjoy and learn from and occassionally comment on and that will be more than enough 🙂 It is very nice to share these things with you. I revisit your blog from time to time – there is so much for me to catch up on being new to all of this – and see that we have crossed paths once again – well really, I have crossed your path yet again. You really have covered a lot of ground and its really nice to see how you approach taking photos of familiar places, I think it is the ideal learning environment for me. So, thank you for showing me the way.

        • This is so fabulous, my friend, thanks! I love being able to share and discuss this stuff with someone local who is familiar with this. It really means a lot to me. And thank you for your incredibly kind words of encouragement, as well! 🙂

  2. It looks like an old Victorian home that was converted to an apartment building actually 🙂 we have lots of those here in Denver.

    Fabulous shots Toad!

    • I was wondering, but didn’t want to mention it directly in case I was wrong. The bay windows were my first clues, those are distinctly Victorian, especially for the area we live in. The stucco and some of the other elements were confusing though, so that left me unsure. Thank you SO much for your visit & comments Heather, we certainly appreciate that!

  3. avatar Adam Allegro says:

    Wonderful post. I still feel held back as a photographer when it comes to Urban Exploration. When I think back to how many places I just walked by (and continue to ignore) it kind of makes me frustrated. There is so much unique beauty out there, and each one of these derilict, desolate places contains its own mystery and awesomeness… I need to start getting in to some of these really unique, italian ruins (modern ruins, not the old Roman type 🙂 Awesome shots buddy.

    • I totally, totally agree with you on all points Adam! Thank you for taking the time to visit, and for leaving us these incredible comments of encouragement and support! It really means so much to us here!! 🙂

  4. You know I noticed that curtain or drape in the 2nd floor window right away and got an eery feeling. Great post. You really know how to convey the emotion of your adventure its almost as if I’m there with you. Great find and awesome shots.

  5. avatar ChrisdMRF says:

    Hi Toad, you know I love buildings like this, in fact the only thing I love more than external shots is getting inside and finding out the un answered questions.
    In this case you were no doubt wise to stay outside.
    Great post

    • Thank you Chris, that is very kind of you my friend! The building is really secured up tight, and in this neighborhood you’re best off to keep a low profile. I would love to get inside, but it just isn’t in the cards here, I am afraid. Sometimes I wish we lived in an area with a longer history; you guys have great structures and facilities to explore in your neck of the woods and some of them are away from mainstream traffic, giving you an intimate and private opportunity to explore them with your lens. Thanks very much for the visit & comments, Chris!

  6. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    Another gem added to the jewelry case that is the Toad Collection. Great images. I love the textures in all of the shots and the one with the flowing curtain is quite intriguing. Glad you hightailed it out of there when you did Toad.

  7. Wow Toad. These are really great shots. You do such a great job of conveying the feelings that I’m sure many of us have felt of both excitement and trepidation when shooting subjects/locations like this. Well done.

  8. A very interesting and imposing structure. Strong photographs.

  9. avatar A.Barlow says:

    Very cool set here Toad. I especially like that last shot.

  10. avatar Viveca Koh says:

    Interesting post with photos to match, and the underlying rumble of trouble in the area adds an extra frisson – I want to go in!

    • 🙂 Thank you SO, SO much Viveca! I was actually thinking of you and Mark when I was doing this shoot! Trust me, I really really want in, too, but without permission I just can’t see it happening at the moment. We really appreciate the visit and comments here, Viveca, coming from you that truly means so much to us!

  11. avatar Dave DiCello says:

    What an excellent series here Toad! That last one is my favorite, I love the framing. I need to get out and do more urbexing, I don’t do nearly enough of it. Whenever I do find myself in those situations, I have a lot of fun. It’s just finding them that’s the tough part!

    • They are a bit like finding that rare item you’ve been hunting! We have a few great places like this, and I just love shooting them, too, Dave. Thanks so much for your support and kind words, my friend, we really do appreciate it!

  12. avatar Rick says:

    That drape hanging out of the window seems really creepy to me. It’s like this building is just waiting to engulf you. I don’t think you’d catch me walking by this place at night.

  13. avatar Fred Norris says:

    You really have captured some amazing images of this old flat Toad!Let’s hope someone saves it from the wrecking ball it has some great old bones under the dirt and grit.

    • We totally, totally agree there, Fred!! If ever you do make it out our way, we’d love to take you around and show you some of these great finds in person! Thank you so much for your continued friendship & support there, Fred, you sir are a scholar and a gentleman.

  14. avatar Rachel Cohen says:

    Wow Toad, I love everything about this post! Fantastic images, and a great read too! What a wonderful building to have come upon. I loved the curtain hanging out of the window. The whole place has such a cool feeling to it. Not that i’d want to be there at night though!:) I’m glad you got all your shots and got out of that neighborhood safely! Thanks for sharing this with us my friend! 🙂

  15. avatar Jimi Jones says:

    Outstanding post, Toad. You never disappoint, man. 🙂
    I agree with Heather, the house looks Victorian in it’s style, but I’m far from an authority. Love the images and of course, the write-up.

    There are some areas in every town or city that has great photo ops like this, but happen to be in a less than desirable area. Happy to know you successfully accomplished your goal and got out of Dodge.

    Nice one!

    • You sir, are a scholar and a true gentleman! Thank you so much for your kind visit here, and for leaving us your truly wonderful thoughts in your comments, Jimi! We really appreciate all the support my friend.