Lakeside view

Earlier today I posted a photo on Facebook. I took it with my phone to show I was on the shore of Lake Ontario. Well, you don’t think I would take only a mobile phone photo, do you?! In fact, one of the reasons I went to Niagara-on-the-Lake was to take another photo of the Toronto skyline, across the lake. Voilà:

4M6C3504.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 400mm 1:5.6L @ 1/250, f/8, 400 ISO with tripod

4M6C3504.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 400mm 1:5.6L @ 1/250, f/8, 400 ISO with tripod

I love the fog. It was also nearing sunset, thus the colour.

Post office

This is one of my favourite buildings in Niagara Falls:

4M6C2259.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 24–105mm 1:4L @ 28mm, 1/200, f/8, 100 ISO

4M6C2259.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 24–105mm 1:4L @ 28mm, 1/200, f/8, 100 ISO

It’s certainly seen better days and I can’t imagine that it’s salvageable. Even if it could be repaired, I can’t imagine anyone is willing to pay for the required work.

Construction of the building began in 1883 and it opened in 1885 to serve as a post office and customs building. Located on the north-east corner of Clifton (now Zimmerman) Avenue and Park Street, it’s ideally located to serve both purposes as it was two blocks from the Canadian end of the Suspension Bridge at the Whirlpool Rapids (in the same location as the current Whirlpool Rapids Bridge), and in the centre of what was the downtown business district at the time. To put this timeframe into perspective, 1885 was also the year the city replaced the oil street lamps with electric lights.

In 1927 a fire in the building led to the customs headquarters moving elsewhere. When the post office moved to its current location on Queen Street in 1931, this building was renovated to again house the customs headquarters. After the customs headquarters moved in 1952, the structure was vacant for a time until the City of Niagara Falls bought it and used it as the city police headquarters until 1978. In that same year, it was added to the Canadian Register of Historic Places. I have no idea what use was then made of the building though I do know it’s been unused for at least two decades.

It’s certainly possible that after being designated as a historic building, it was abandoned, which seems to me a very sad thing.


Information from:

Niagara Falls Canada: A History, William J. Holt, Ed., 1967

The Canadian Register of Historic Places, via Jeff…thanks!

Bridgebusting!

The local morning radio show on CBC Radio One includes a weekly segment called World in One City. Each week, they visit the home of a local resident who cooks a meal from their country of birth (or their parents or grandparents’ country of birth). I find it more interesting for the stories the residents tell, than the food itself.

This morning, the focus was on Don Westwood. He is originally from England, and with the Olympics now in London, the media is looking for excuses to focus on that city.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that Westwood sounded familiar. I assumed it was because his accent is very similar to Michael Cain’s. Then it struck me after I got to work and remembered that he also taught architecture for 30 years at Carleton University here in town. Westwood had a series on TVO called The Science of Architecture, and I believe the parenthetical subtitle was Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down. I enjoyed the series but that isn’t what I remember most.

Every year, one of the projects he assigned his architecture students was the construction a of a model bridge. It had to span a 75 cm gap and the acceptable construction materials were very limited: balsa wood and cotton thread. No glue, nails, or screws! Westwood and the bridge builder would test the span by loading bricks upon it until the structure failed. The best part was that this testing phase aired on the local community cable channel. It was surprisingly entertaining.

As Neil Fraser, a former student of Westwood’s, and a bridgebusting participant, wrote in a blog post from a few years ago,

Banning glue results in structures that bend and twist as loads are applied, not structures that simply shatter when the epoxy fails. … the commentary and slow motion analysis is key to unlocking the lessons that each bridge tells. This event isn’t just a demolition, it is truly educational.

I recall that they would diagnose and discuss exactly how each structure failed using slow-motion footage of the moment the structure failed catastrophically. I don’t know how I ever stumbled onto the broadcasts, but I watched them for a several years and always looked forward to the next airing. It was popular enough that you can find VHS recordings of the show transferred to YouTube.

I eventually lost track of the yearly event, but I have very fond memories of Bridgebusting. Westwood was a remarkably dynamic and engrossing speaker. He retired sometime around 2001.

He was the man making Cottage Pie on the radio this morning!