The Eddy Papermill CollectionChapterOne2021-06-13T16:46:13-04:00
The Eddy Papermill Collection
Historians and other researchers are invited to apply to the Workers’ History Museum to gain access to a unique visual documentary collection recording in detail the former E B Eddy / Domtar Pulp and Paper Mill complex in Ottawa, Canada.
While Ottawa is popularly perceived as a government town, it was also a center of the lumber, pulp and paper industry. Lumber mills began to appear in the early 19th century at the Chaudiere Falls, in the heart of what would one day be the Cities of Ottawa and Hull / Gatineau. For most of the 20th Century, the site was dominated by the E B Eddy Pulp and Paper Mills, which eventually absorbed those of J R Booth on the south side of the river into one sprawling complex. In 2006 – 07, Domtar, the current owner, closed the mills, ending 200 years of industrial activity on the site.
Early in 2014, Windmill Developments Corporation announced it had acquired the site for redevelopment into offices, condominiums and business spaces.
During the period May 2014 to August 2015, with the permission and cooperation of Windmill Corporation, a team of volunteer photographers organized by the Workers’ History Museum created a comprehensive visual record of the sprawling historic papermill complex.
The team produced over 70,000 images and about 36 hours of video covering every wall, floor and ceiling and all fixtures, machinery, tools, items of furniture, windows, doors, structural components and signage. It is as complete a visual record as the image technology of the time permitted, capturing a site soon to disappear.
The images include overlapping panoramas of walls and ceilings, and images taken from all sides of objects, in most cases with scale markers included. All images are linked to the locations where taken.
Reminiscences of the Chaudiere Project
By Project Director Paul Harrison, WHM Image Archivist
The photographic documenting of the former E B Eddy / Domtar paper mill properties was one of the most uniquely memorable events of my life.
If you are not a photographer, it may be hard to understand why unpaid volunteers undertook this sometimes gruelling work for 13 months. The fact is, abandoned industrial sites are for many photographers what Mount Everest is to mountain-climbers: a rarely-accessible opportunity of a lifetime. While the majority of our images were butt-ugly archival shots, it was a standing rule that we could interrupt our progress at any time to take artistic images. You never knew when some ideal, breath-taking combination of stonework, rust stains and light-and-shadow might be encountered that would transform an exhausting day into a Zen moment.
The site could be dark, cold, damp and hazardous, but also often attractive, addictive, even beautiful and magical at moments. The whole complex was very quiet, like it was dozing in retirement, its steam pipes hissing its aged breathing, the massive electrical panels humming with memories, and perhaps a little astonished and indignant at our intrusion.
There were poignant reminders everywhere of the people that worked there, and the history behind it all. Scattered amongst vast halls where once great paper machines roared were the offices, welding, woodworking, electrical machine, shops, locker rooms and showers and small cafeterias, training rooms and meeting rooms. Maintenance logs and calendars dated April 2007 – the month the plant closed – were still on some office desks, as if the person who worked there just got up and left on the last day. We saw (and photographed of course) formulas scrawled on concrete walls by engineers following a train of thought; safety helmets and jackets in lockers; PG-rated girlie calendars from a German tool and die manufacturer; and just outside the main office were signatures scrawled on the corridor wall by workers leaving on the last day, recording when they started work there, and under it their last day on the job.
What follows are images of the project work itself, and my own observations. Like the archive we created, the best sense of place comes not from words, but from visuals.
We started at 8 AM and went until 4 PM most days, with a 40-minute break for lunch, just like the day-shift mill workers presumably did. (The comparison has its limits: we couldn’t get hot soup in a cafeteria, and to find a functioning bathroom, we walked a lot further than the E B Eddy / Domtar employees presumably did. )
At left, Bob Allen is holding one of the clipboards that support our log sheets, and he also has the laser range-finder in hand. It was rated accurate out to 80 metres, but given the scale of the complex, we routinely encountered opposite walls that were out of range.
Next to him is myself, your narrator. In front of me are folders of log sheets, and beneath that our trusty tool kit of tape measures (to hold against or lay alongside items being photographed), plus spare batteries, dry-markers, pens, and a first aid kit. I am happy to say we never used the latter. There were near-misses, but no accidents, in spite of the fanatic photographer’s instinct that any risk is worth if for that one amazing shot. At the insistence of the property-owners, I and my deputy, Bob Allen, were required at Museum expense to pass hazardous materials and fall prevention courses, whose lessons we enforced on other photographers in our team.
Next to me is Bill Woodley, holding our two-meter home-made rulers that were placed in images to show scale on walls and other large things.
Caje Rodrigues, next to him, has on his forehead a powerful headlamp that we all carried and often used. The dark or dim areas required caution. When the paper machines were removed, the concrete-embedded bolts holding them down, and the concrete abutments holding them up, were left behind poking up out of the floor, not to mention cottage-sized holes over a 20+-foot drop to the basements. We quickly learned that the photographer’s habit of re-framing a shot by moving forward or back with your eye to the viewfinder was not an option on site!
Kim Elliot, next right, was not only a capable photographer, but also proved to have a talent for draughtsmanship. He created the carefully-to-scale floor plans we worked from. We liberated a few real ones on site, but for the most part Kim’s work may turn out to be the only record of the site pre-development. For record-keeping each room was arbitrarily designated with names like “Office 6” or “High Chamber” or “Upper Utility”.
Finally at right is Raymond Massé, who is filling out one of the white boards. More about those below.
This admittedly posed scene depicts our morning planning session. All present are veterans of many months of work, switched easily among the various tasks, and displayed amazing determination and perseverance.
Here is team member Andrea Cordonnier in what we dubbed the “vestibule” of Building 8. All the buildings had been given numbers by E B Eddy, assigned roughly in the order of construction, which we used in recording the images. Our cameras were all SLRs with minimum 18 Megapixel sensors, supplied by the volunteers themselves, who brought and used their own personal selection of lenses and accessories. While designed for more genteel environments, our equipment proved surprisingly hardy. I discovered that an SLR that falls from a 6-foot-high tripod will actually bounce and inch or two when hitting a concrete floor and keep right on going. The lenses, sometimes not so much; late in the project, small parts of them would come off in my hand. Photograph by Raymond Massé.
Here is team member Andrea Cordonnier in what we dubbed the “vestibule” of Building 8
The facility was a huge and unbelievably complex warren. If they ever add hide-and-seek to the Olympics, this would have been a perfect venue! Off in the distance is myself, photographed by Bill Woodley. When the mill was in operation, a house-sized paper machine sat in the gap overhead, with pulp, power and chemicals fed to it through the corridor where Bill stood to take the picture.
The facility was a huge and unbelievably complex warren. If they ever add hide-and-seek to the Olympics, this would have been a perfect venue!
Many basement areas were unlit, or nearly so. The current owners quite reasonably saw no need to replace $300 arc lamp bulbs, so areas once lit by 30 or 40 of them were lit by three or four, if we were lucky. We frequently unrolled some of our hundreds of feet of extension cords back to the nearest live outlet, to power cheap, portable aluminum hardware store floodlamps like the one in the foreground. Fortunately, daylight spectrum fluorescent bulbs were available, so the colours recorded by the camera were accurate.
Every wall and ceiling was recorded completely in a sequence of overlapping images. When possible, each image in the set was taken at the same focal length and with a constant distance both from the wall and laterally, all of which was logged. In theory, the exact scale could be calculated from that log data, but to make it easier, a two meter stick is inserted somewhere in the first few overview images. In practice, walls were rarely flat and straight and obstacles often intruded. In this image, the overview work is underway nearby, as indicated by the two-meter scale against the wall, while Caje Rodrigues is recording the finer details of the fuse and switch boxes that line the utility corridor in the basement of Building 2. We called it a “corridor” but it was in fact the space between a series of massive, parallel, nearly continuous stone buttresses that underlay floors that supported multi-ton paper machines.
Every wall and ceiling was recorded completely in a sequence of overlapping images. When possible, each image in the set was taken at the same focal length and with a constant distance both from the wall and laterally, all of which was logged.
A similar process to that for walls was used to document the ceiling. However, since we wanted it to be possible for a future graphic artist to recreate in three dimensions the complex struts, beams, pipe and electrical features, ceiling images were angled, and done in two sets, moving, for instance, north-south and then south-north. As with walls, a fixed distance and focal length was maintained, which explains the tape measure on the floor. Photographer Paul Harrison.
A similar process to that for walls was used to document the ceiling.
As a backup to the logs, each image series started with a photograph of a white board containing most of the same information, here dutifully held up for the photographer by Caje. To assure that each image could be linked to a precise site location, we all completed formatted log sheets that linked each image frame number with the building number, floor, room, surface (wall, floor, ceiling) and whether overview or detailed imagery was being taken, as well as date and photographer. As a backup to the logs, each image series started with a photograph of a white board containing most of the same information, here dutifully held up for the photographer by Caje.
As a backup to the logs, each image series started with a photograph of a white board containing most of the same information, here dutifully held up for the photographer by Caje.
While to us the buildings were a historical site, the mill owners necessarily had a different view. Here Andrea Cordonnier works beside a platform for relatively modern electrical and electronic conduits that was laid under an entire sequence of buildings, merrily cutting through 100+ year old stone foundations as well as more modern poured concrete and, at this point for some reason, a floor. Above are some of the oldest E B Eddy buildings, dating to the mid-to-late 1800s. Photographer Paul Harrison.
While to us the buildings were a historical site, the mill owners necessarily had a different view.
The photographer, in this case probably Caje, would crawl over or under or around things like puddles and gravel and rusty pipes, seeing his or her way by headlamp, hauling a floodlight, and re-positioning it along with the camera. At some point the extension cord snags 50 feet back, and you have to retrace your steps to untangle it. If we have enough people on site that day, you may have an assistant to do some of this. Even so, a hundred feet of wall overview could take between one and two hours to record. If we ran out of extension cord, a gel battery meant for emergency office power and never intended for industrial sites was called into service.
The photographer, in this case probably Caje, would crawl over or under or around things like puddles and gravel and rusty pipes, seeing his or her way by headlamp, hauling a floodlight, and re-positioning it along with the camera.
While the core group of photographers was with us throughout, many others joined us for shorter periods of much-appreciated reinforcement. Here, for example is Madelaine Bachand, recording details of the oldest of the E B Eddy buildings, as indicated by its designation as “Building 1”. Note the thick stone walls behind her, dating to a time before steel beams and reinforced concrete, when the only way to hold up heavy-machinery-bearing floors was with up to eight feet thickness of stone. Note too the lighting for multiple windows, which bring to life the rust and ageing mortar in the foreground.
While the core group of photographers was with us throughout, many others joined us for shorter periods of much-appreciated reinforcement.
Another temporary volunteer, Arjin Choi, was a U of O student who joined us for a week as part of her program’s volunteer requirements. While she somehow missed the part of her advance briefing to “wear clothes that can get very dirty”, her contagious wonder at not only the site but the equipment we were using (alien to her generation, apparently) made her a treat to have around. Originally intended to be a fetch-and-carry helper, by the end of the week she was confidently spinning an aperture dial and focusing one of our spare cameras for detail work.
Another temporary volunteer, Arjin Choi, was a U of O student who joined us for a week as part of her program’s volunteer requirements.
While a floodlight (and long exposures) was the only solution for overviews of 16-foot-high walls 30 feet away, a flash was the tool of choice for detail work. We took the concept of “detail” to an extreme. The subject of this shot was probably just cracks or gouges in the cement facing. Caje Rodrigues by Paul Harrison
While a floodlight (and long exposures) was the only solution for overviews of 16-foot-high walls 30 feet away, a flash was the tool of choice for detail work.
Marie Mullallly revelling in that most privileged of moments, a workspace that is dry, clean and well-lit.
My thought at this moment was probably something like, “I have no idea what that rusted lump up there is, but it’s my job to immortalize it.” Or, I may have been re-visiting one of our project mantras: “Happiness is a long-enough extension cord.”
While most equipment, including the massive paper machines, had been sold to buyers from other mills worldwide within a year of the closing of the complex, some ironmongery remained. This collection of enormous tanks seemed to be of some former importance, if one is to judge by the unreasonable number of valve handles attached.
While most equipment, including the massive paper machines, had been sold to buyers from other mills worldwide within a year of the closing of the complex, some ironmongery remained.
A Mike Geiger selfie. He is going to tell his friends it is an industrial beer keg.
The complex was heated in winter (sort of) by steam pumped from the still operating Kruger mill, the only part of the E B Eddy complex still in use. When the steam flow was activated, the two engineers in charge of maintenance spent a very busy week sealing the dozens of leaks that had developed over the summer in what surely must have been a hundred or more miles of pipes feeding buildings on both sides of the river. So, for awhile, rooms big and small, dramatic enough at any time, became a whole new photographic ball game. Alerted to the best spots by the engineers, we dropped everything and declared a steam holiday. Here is Raymond Massé enjoying a photo-Zen moment. Photographer Paul Harrison.
The complex was heated in winter (sort of) by steam pumped from the still operating Kruger mill, the only part of the E B Eddy complex still in use.
At the end of a long day, Andrea Cordonnier and Bill Woodley are making their way through underground passages with which we became very familiar. They and the rest of the team will assemble at our base camp / lunchroom-of-the-week in some conveniently-equipped spot (tables / chairs / windows or working light fixtures / washroom somewhere close) to transfer the images to a laptop.
At the end of a long day, Andrea Cordonnier and Bill Woodley are making their way through underground passages with which we became very familiar.
Here are most of the team, at a final get-together luncheon. The whole exhausting effort was worth it just to have met this crazy crew. I used to tell potential recruits that “If you don’t mind getting tired and dirty in a great cause, and can spare a day or two a week working with a fine and only slightly insane group of folks on the creation of a unique historical resource, then we want you!”
Left to Right: Mike Geiger, Bill Woodley, Kim Elliot, Rob Huntley, Andrea Cordonnier, Paul Harrison, Raymond Massé, Marie Mullally, Bob Allen, Caje Rodrigues
Here are most of the team, at a final get-together luncheon. The whole exhausting effort was worth it just to have met this crazy crew.