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The Crowsnest is British Columbia’s Highway Three, starting at the junction with Highway 1 and Highway 5 just out of Hope, and snaking through the lower one-quarter of the province. The secion I’m most intimately familiar with is the road between Hope and Rock Creek, which takes you through Manning Park to Princeton, to Keremeos-fruit stand capital of Canada, maybe the world-and on through the Similkameen and Okanagan Valleys.
It’s a road I’ve probably gone over about a thousand times in my life – and that doesn’t seem like much of an exaggeration. We drove it yet again last weekend to see the family for my Grandma’s 80th birthday dinner.
A lot of the landmarks haven’t changed, although we were sad to notice that the West Hedley Mall sign has been taken down although the junkpile it signposted remains. We were glad to see that Floydd is yes, still gay after all these years.

You are Now Entering Floydd is Gay

Maybe it was driving up one day and returning the next that alerted us to a lot of “repressed graffiti of Interior teens.” The “Team Slut” rock stands on, although strangely, “team” has been crossed out. Instead of a team of sluts serving the Keremeos area, now there’s just one. Or many, all working alone.
Perhaps the Elks Motel was trying to welcome their business (this is not Photoshopped):

Sheets changed daily

I like motels, although I wouldn’t stay at one that advertises itself as Cumfy. The Super 8 in Osoyoos was surprising spiffy. And they provided for guilty pleasures.

Smoking on the Porch of the Super 8

Roadtrips are fun.

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The pace of construction is pretty rapid around here. From the balcony, we watch every day as a little more highrise gets built in front of us. It’s actually pretty cool to watch a building being built. There is also a lot of progress being made on the grounds – a new sign just went in at the entrance, and they have planted all sorts of shrubbery that I have to be vigilant about keeping Levi out of.
As I wrote before, the place where we live has a lot of history – the building next door was built as the province’s first Insane Asylum. Even though that building and the Nurse’s Lodge, as well as a couple of others on the site have to be preserved in some fashion, they are nonetheless being altered as the new community is being redeveloped.
Because we have the dog, we walk around the grounds at least a couple times a day. So, I bring you the photo tour of the current state of the former Woodlands grounds.
Centre Building of Woodlands
This is the wall of the Centre Building that is closest to my building, right there as you go down the stairs to the paths. Workers are already clearing out the inside, so some windows have been broken and/or boarded up. Graffiti from people breaking in and exploring the interior is visible. At night, I can’t help but look for ghosts within.
Centre Building, Woodlands
If you walk right around to the front of the old building, you can see the original part of the Centre Building from Woodlands. They are keeping a lot of construction and landscaping equipment there too. Workers, for whatever reason, have begun to remove the stucco exterior, revealing the solid brick walls beneath.
Trees and pathways at Victoria Hill
Even the trees – gorgeous old chestnuts and various conifers – are protected by heritage preservation laws. Cut one of these babies down and the developer would be facing some hefty fines. Woodlands was named for its stately grounds with lots of lawns and trees. Behind our building at least, that character remains. Here you can see the lacy pattern the bare tree branches make. We can’t wait to see these trees in bloom.
Old and New
The Nurses’ Lodge sits on the other side of our building. Right now, it’s being gutted in preparation for renovation into apartments. I wish they had stuck with the plan to turn it into an arts centre. My old apartment was next to a theatre/gallery/museum. James is right- I do like old things. I’m turning into my mother! Somebody turn off the Antiques Roadshow!
Fraser River
I think I’ve always lived near water. Some people might not think it so pretty, but I love the view of the Fraser River with its log booms and tug boats. The mountains, too. A classmate commented that this picture would be better without the cars, but they’re a constant in this scene, too. Below the road, trains thump and screech along at odd hours.
Heritage Trees
The old trees are amazing, aren’t they?
Nurse's Lodge - Detail
This is a detail of the front porches of the Nurses’ Lodge at Woodlands. This the front facade of the house; the other sides look rather plain, almost industrial, in comparison. When the workers are taking materials out of the house, they do it via the back and side doors.
So that’s where we are right now. I’m curious to know what these old buildings will look like 1, 2, 5 years from now. Back to watching the highrise, then.

I really enjoy my new home. When Levi and I stroll the grounds behind this new building, it is impossible to forget two things: 1) the view of the mighty Fraser River and 2) the history of this place. You see, for a long time, the parcel of land which is now being developed was known as Woodlands Institution. The large building to one side to us was built in 1878 as British Columbia’s first Insane Asylum (around the turn of the century the name was changed to the slightly more sensitive “Hospital for the Insane”).

On the other side of us is the old Nurses Lodge for Woodlands, which also has Heritage Designation. The windows are mostly boarded up, but you can see the beauty of the structure in the graceful porches. There were some plans for the city to renovate it and turn it into an arts centre, but apparently, now the lodge will be turned into apartments. Like the Administration Building pictured above, it has heritage status, so the developer has to keep the facades and work within the original structure.
In the mid-50s, Woodlands became an institution primarily for children with mental and physical disablities. It was surrounded by trees, tall hedges and fences (which have been preserved), which made for an isolating experience for many children. Surprise, surprise – there was abuse of the residents. After the government began shutting down institutions such as Woodlands and Riverview in the late 1990s, former residents of Woodlands began coming forward with stories of abuse at the hands of staff, There was an inquiry and report published in 2002. Soon after, the land was sold to the developer and what I am living in now is the beginning of a new neighbourhood on the 65-acre grounds.
One question I’ve been asked a lot is: “Do you think it’s haunted?” And since there is so much history here, not all of it pleasant, I think it could be. I am afraid of ghosts, and I did actually check it out before we decided to buy. However, the only story of haunting I can find associated with Woodlands is the one involving tombstones being taken from the institution cemetery in the 1970s and used as paving stones for houses and apartment buildings. (Not this one!) One story of such an associated haunting is in the book Ghost Stories of British Columbia, another is here.
In between the time the residents were moved out and the time development started, the old buildings were used for filming shows such as The X-Files. The caretaker for the site confirmed in a news story that he had never experienced a haunting on the site. So that was good enough for me. But it was still important to knw what I was buying into with my new home. Luckily, a New Westminster artist, Michael De Courcy, put together an exhibit in 2003 entitled “Asylum: A Long Last Look at Woodlands.” It was shown at the local library, and lives on as a wonderful website with interior photos of the buildings and portraits of former residents. The accompanying essay, “Thinking About Woodlands,” is quite remarkable too.
I often look at the buildings and wonder what they are like inside. I stumbled across an urban explorer message board where infiltrators discuss their adventures in the old Woodlands buildings, and in other abandoned, empty spaces. If I wasn’t such as a soulless yuppie, maybe they would invite me out for a tour.
When I find my camera, I will post some photos of the river and the old trees on the grounds. This is a beautiful and haunted place.

Flickr Photos