Grain Elevators of
Port Arthur & Fort William
Thunder Bay, ON

Authors' Notes and Gallery

Authors’ Notes

Partier graffiti dates to when the caves were last open to the public; probably in the 1990s. This tunnel used to horseshoe between the brewery's ice chute (left) and basement door (right, backfilled). Note the utility tunnel in the upper-right corner as well as the lighting brackets on the ceiling.


Although my family moved a few times when I was growing up in Minnesota, I was always in sight of a silo.

I learned to read them. I could tell the time by reading the shadows of the giant concrete cylinders, and could tell how to get between the grocery store and my home by which elevator I was facing at the time. When I was old enough to question what they really where and what they did, many of the elevators had already disappeared.

Going to Thunder Bay, especially Fort William, is like getting a second chance to be a kid, be curious, and feel at home playing in the world.

For more of my story, check out the ‘info’ page for the Substreet project here.

Ava on an upper catwalk.


It started out as “Canadian Curiosity.”

Many mornings were spent traveling southbound from Winnipeg, watching a fireball sunrise over the prairie. As a born and raised New Englander, the only ‘prairies’ that I saw growing up were the ones on scratched, technicolor filmstrips. No amount of editing can accurately portray the overwhelming vibrancy at daybreak. I would procrastinate my return to the States by following dirt roads and a 1970s map to various farming communities. During one of these excursions, I found myself at the foot of a quite peculiar building in Saint Agathe. I had never seen a grain elevator before that moment.

It wouldn’t be until three years later, after an ethereal, late night bike ride out to the prettiest grain elevators in the Twin Ports, that I realized what I had actually stumbled upon in Manitoba. A new-found appreciation for elevator architecture coupled with a rampant desire to devour anything that was even marginally related to Canadian history made Thunder Bay a likely target of my fascination. What Manitoba started, Ontario finished. Once I set eyes on Ogilivie’s, I was hopelessly hooked by the magic.

Gallery: Port Arthur Elevators

Gallery: Fort William Elevators (and Ogilvie!)

Gallery: Historical Photos