The clouds were ominous in the sky the day we did this shoot. The lighting was a bit grey and muted, and in many ways we couldn’t have picked a better time. Thanks for joining us today as we continue our adventure together on our latest photoblog series “The Toad And The Lodge” which takes a close look at the now long abandoned Tillicum Lodge facility in Victoria, BC, Canada.
We had many surprises during the shoot, the air was still and as mentioned before, the sense of being watched was absolutely palpable. I find that after you’ve been working a shoot for a bit, you become somewhat accustomed to the sounds and surroundings. This is a good thing; self-imposed hindrances fall away and you begin to get deeper and deeper into the act of capturing the images while everything around you becomes part of the background, to a degree.
But, still, surprises were found around each corner.
For a facility left abandoned now for well over 17 years, a sight like this seems out-of-place. Tillicum Lodge sits in the background, and the weathering and deteriorated state are all highly evident here. But, this is punctuated by the bright colors of the seats. One sits ready, with its back to the garbage bin, as if to provide someone a respite from wandering the grounds. How strange, though, to find this pile around the back in the service and maintenance area, apparently awaiting disposal.
This area around back is in a sunken part of the land, and the main body of the Lodge sits on a hill-crest. Posing an ominous presence, the wind rustles in the grasses almost sounding like voices. Today, the windows are all boarded up here, but back when the Lodge was running the view must have been spectacular. What a wonderful way to come and spend the latter portion of a long life, in peace and harmony with the surroundings of Vancouver Island. Above the roof-line, we see the massive trees standing tall and proud, almost as if cradling and caring for the Lodge.
As we approach the back loading bay, we find an overgrown path leading up and into a central courtyard that is not visible from below. The metal railings leading up the stairs are all totally rusty now, and local graffiti artists have used the building as a canvas to express themselves. We will be back to explore the bay once we’ve taken a look into the alluring courtyard, just up the path.
The blackberries are resident now, and they are slowly taking over. At first glance, this may appear to be a patch of prickly bushes, but if you peer between the branches… you see a door. Once a main entrance to and from the back service area of the facility, this door didn’t even need to be boarded up. You’d need a Kevlar suit to walk through this door.
In the summer when these bushes are full and leafy, this door would disappear entirely. Once again we see how the best laid plans of men can easily be thwarted by Mother Nature herself when she’s allowed the time to formulate and execute her plans. A few more years, and most of this entire building will literally disappear in the thickets.
This is another enigmatic scene from our shoot. This is a courtyard, one that faces South so the light in the rooms must have been warm and bright when the Lodge was open. Today, it’s a blackberry patch of incredible proportions. A lone, gnarly tree stands in the courtyard, and the soffits are slowly falling off. I actually stood in this spot for several moments, soaking in the ambiance of this courtyard. I was thinking of how beautiful it must have been over 20 years ago now, how the residents would sit and look out the window and bathe in the warm and bright light from the sun. Undoubtedly highly manicured during full operation, today this looks like a gardener hasn’t visited in a millennium.
Up around the corner from the previous courtyard is this one. A true dichotomy presents itself once again. Here, the plywood is newer looking and the area is not totally overgrown. I can only guess this is because of the concrete patio, not due to any care or maintenance of recent. Up against the wall is a gate post, and the latch is still attached. We visualized a form of a fenced in area here, probably creating an outdoor patio area that folks used to come and sit in during the nice days, taking in the surroundings and lush forests.
The entrance to the Skeena annex now sits completely boarded up. In this shot it almost appears that the removal of the plywood and a can of paint is all that is required to open the facility up again, but this is patently untrue. We pause for a moment before continuing, taking in all the sounds and sights. Our senses are on high alert now, we are quite convinced we hear things. Mr. Mudpuppy runs around the corner to check and see if anyone is approaching, perhaps about to ask us to leave.
Nothing is found.
Time to head back to the loading dock and service area, to see what can be found there.
At first glance, we take in the colorful graffiti and notice yet another warning sign posted. This one looks different for some reason. A close look reveals this blood-curtling message:
Caution / DANGER
Entry restricted to Physical Resources personnel only. Respirator MUST be worn.
DO NOT enter ALONE for safety reasons. Register all entries with Physical Resources in the Maintenance Building.
Have we found the reason the facility has been left in such a strange state? Perhaps. This is the only sign of this kind we found the entire day of our adventure, and it was posted front and center on the loading bay door. Could it be that the workers began to dismantle the facility, only to discover asbestos, which in turn resulted in them abandoning their work? We do know that asbestos remediation can be a very time-consuming and expensive proposition, there is a chance that this uncharted cost was something that was outside the operating budget… this would explain the flotsam and jetsam we saw inside in the few unboarded windows around front of the facility. To us, it looked like the building was first abandoned, and then work dismantling it was then quickly abandoned, too. Almost like a neutron bomb came through and removed all signs of life, but left everything intact where it stood.
This is the door that Mr. Mudpuppy had been looking for the entire day of the shoot. We believe this to be the door to the morgue. Situated in the basement with no obvious windows to be found on this level, this would be the logical and perfect place for such an exit. Today, the blackberry buses overtake the driveway, almost precluding the ability of the facility to generate any more work for the local morticians.
Dead silence. Not a sound to be heard anywhere. We are in the midst of urban living in Victoria, yet for some reason as we stand here taking in the enormity of what we’ve discovered, not a bird, not a dog barking… nothing. Dead silence.
Join us again as we continue our adventure together, we’ve got quite a few more images to share with everyone from Tillicum Lodge. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit, and as always we encourage everyone to leave us any comments that you may have as we truly love to hear from all our visitors.