Photography / Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday: Camp 30

Let’s just start off by saying that this will be a Wordless Wednesday with a few words. 😉  I couldn’t post these photos without giving you an introduction of sorts, or else you’d be completely confused as to what you are looking at.  So, here you go.

Bowmanville’s Camp 30 is the subject of my post today. Historically, Camp 30 started out as a boy’s school back in the 1920’s, but was turned into a POW camp for German Officer’s during WWII.  I am not going to dive into the complete history of the camp in this post, but if you are interested in the story, take a look here.

When I first moved to Bowmanville in 2007, I had no idea that Camp 30 even existed, let alone that it was located only a short walk from my house.  I had met Chris a year later and one day while driving around, he asked if I wanted to see his high school.  It was on that day when I was introduced to Camp 30.  Believe it or not, my husband attended high school at a location that had once been a POW camp. Could you even imagine how cool that must have been?  That day we did my first drive by, all we could do was drive by because at the time, an Islamic boarding school was occupying the premises.

Chris’ former high school has been completely abandoned for about 3 years now and had been kept boarded up and on police watch until a short time ago.  One of our friends had mentioned to us last Friday that he had gone for a bike ride to the location and noticed that the gates were all broken down and people were walking freely on the premises. As soon as we heard that we decided that we would go check it out.  Saturday afternoon we went for a walk/run and ended up on the premises.

It was really neat walking around with Chris as he told me stories of his high school days and what buildings he used to go into on a daily basis.  On the other hand, it was a little sad exploring the premises because it was so deteriorated and vandalized.  I couldn’t even imagine how it must have looked when Chris was a teenager.

All that being said, I made sure to bring my camera along and managed to snap some pretty cool photographs along the way.  It still blows my mind to know that such a big piece of WWII history (and Chris’ high school) sits so close to my home, sadly in such disrepair… I believe wheels are in motion to try to preserve this historical site, but my search online doesn’t seem to yield anything more recent than this article here.

So without further ado… Camp 30.

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10 thoughts on “Wordless Wednesday: Camp 30

  1. Glad to know the gates are open I’ve wanted to go and walk around and check out the grounds. Right after Chris’s high school closed and before it became an Islamic school it was home to a Mandarin school for Chinese students who had graduated high school back in China, to come here and spend a year learning English. My high school (BHS) befriended this school, and I and other students would go there after school and meet in a classroom with the Mandarin students. They taught us Mandarin Chinese and we would help them with their English. It was an amazing experience to have. That property has SO MUCH HISTORY and I am so proud to have it so close to home, in our small town Bowmanville. 😀

    • Oh! that must have been such an awesome experience for you!!
      you could even squeeze into some of the buildings if you really wanted too… I was too chicken! 😉

  2. I attended St. Stephen’s High School there from 1990 to 1995. At the time, it was owned by an organization called M.I.C.A., some of whom lived on and tended to the property. The Catholic School Board rented about half the buildings on the property and converted them to classrooms, labs, the library, cafeteria and other facilities. The spaces may not have been the best and certainly weren’t the most modern, but the high school thrived and most of the time we made it work. I was mostly into visual art and theatre, so my main haunts were the Administration building, where the theatre/auditorium was (which was set on fire a few years ago and has since been demolished. More on that in a moment) and the Triple Dorm, a converted dormitory building at the far end of the campus, which housed one of the science labs, the Drama room and the Art room.

    A few years after I graduated, St. Stephen’s moved to it’s current location across town, north of Bowmanville. I’ve visited there, but it’s not the school I attended, so it’s impossible to walk the halls and reminisce. As noted, it was occupied by a Muslim school an then a Chinese school. If I remember my news correctly, a Vice Principal was murdered in Oshawa and the Chinese school closed down. Both schools after St. Stephens made their own modifications to the buildings. After the Chinese school left, the property sat unused and wasting away as you see it in the photos. The current owners, a development company was interested in selling the property to the town, to preserve the historical Camp 30 buildings, but the town councils seemed disinterested in shelling out for its purchase and upkeep. Local and provincial groups fought to save the buildings on behalf of the town, but who had the money? The discussions went back and forth for years, with attempts made to declare it a Heritage Site and such. It all ended up a moot point when in March of ’09, when a fire gutted much of the Admin Building, the heart of the campus, and damaged the Gym next door. After that, even historical groups mostly lost interest because the key building was beyond saving.

    On a personal note, I and some family and friends, some of whom had gone to school there, too, visited the campus that April (Easter weekend, to be exact). It was evening and site was eerily quiet compared to my memories of school life there. It was like a ghost town. We walked around and I thought about my time there, almost expecting an after-school group to come walking out of one of the buildings. It sounds cliché, but when you’re in such a familiar, but abandon place, it’s almost like being in the Twilight Zone. Anyway, we peaked in the windows of the Admin Building and saw the damage. Everything was gone between the front doors and the auditorium, both floors. The office where the secretaries let me borrow the photocopier: Gone. The stairs going up to the music room and the hall overlooking the auditorium, the same hall I’d spent many a spare period doing homework and on show nights where I’d Stage Managed plays from the window there: Gone. In my mind’s eye, I can still picture them.

    The Admin Building was condemned and knocked down. With it gone, all hope of saving the site as an historical landmark is pretty much gone, so it’s only a matter of time before condos or housing complexes rise up there.

    I still have my yearbooks from my time there and the contrast between the vibrant student life on the campus compared the ruins photographed on this blog is striking and melancholy for someone like me, whose memories mostly live in the bright school days of the past. Before it’s all gone entirely, I might try to get out there with my own camera and record the last vestiges of Camp 30, aka St. Stephen’s High School (for a short generation of local students). I’ll bring my yearbook and maybe do some before and after shots. If I do so, I’ll share them on my blog and will link it here.

    Thank you for sharing your visit to the campus with us.

    • Thank you SO much for the fantastic comment! You’re insight and experience at St. Stephen’s was really great to read about. It sounds like you have a lot of the same fond memories as my husband does. I certainly don’t think that my experience walking around the campus would have been the same if I wasn’t with him, hearing him tell stories about his high school days.

  3. I was part of the first graduating class from St. Stephen’s. We located here after 2 years occupying the top floor at St. Stephen’s Elementary. The site had many uses before that. I remember there was a Sri Lankan school there (early 80’s?) and before that it was a Reform School (colloquially known as the “Bad Boy’s School). I remember as a little kid my parents took swimming lessons in the old pool there.

    I remember the gentleman that started the Chinese school (It was called the Great Lakes College of Toronto). His name was Thomas Ku. I met him when I was the municipal councilor for Ward 3 (where the school was located). This would have been in 1999-2000. He was murdered by two former students in 2001. I wonder what would have happened to the place if this had not happened (since Great Lakes College of Toronto is still on Keele St. in the Junction in Toronto; Mr. Ku had intended to move the entire operation to Bowmanville and had big plans for the place). I should also add that Mr. Ku (who I met with many times) was a very caring, warm and decent man who would have been a huge benefit to Bowmanville.

    I’d also suggest going to the Bowmanville Museum; they have a number of things in their possession from Camp 30.

    I have been back to the property in over 12 years (I moved to Toronto 11 years ago). Its a shame to see it like this.

    • Hi Troy! Thank you so much for the incredible comment on my photo post. I really enjoy getting to hear other’s insights about their experiences with Camp 30/St. Stephen’s. I’ve been living in Bowmanville for just over 5 years now and can’t believe that I have never made a trip to the local museum. That is something that is now definitely on my list of things to do this fall.

  4. Hey great pics of a location I have fond memories of. There were 3 generations of my family involved with that location. It ended with me and my graduation from St Stephen’s. The cafeteria is looking really run down, which is a shame since that is the only location on Canadian soil that had a shot fired in anger during world war 2. I would highly recommend checking out the Bowmanville museum, last time I was there they had a great diorama of how the site looked, photos of the German officers walking (marched) through the heart of the town for thier exercise, things like that. To bad this history is not being looked after, if I remember correctly the location in Gravenhurst (or there abouts) was destroyed not long ago leaving Camp 30 as one of the last if not the last WW2 P.O.W. camp on Canadian soil. But complacence has set in, look at how little effort was made for Camp X, the creator of James Bond spent time there being trained to operate as a spy. So much history in the Durham region and it gets looked over for some reason.

  5. Pingback: 2012 Top 5 | My Pink Thumb

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