(Images: Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose. Quebec’s Val-Jalbert ghost town)
With over 70 abandoned buildings still extant, Val-Jalbert ghost town could be Canada’s answer to Bodie, California. The ruined village was once at the heart of a thriving pulp industry. But time has taken its toll and the historic settlement in Quebec, which was established at the turn of the 20th century, looks almost aesthetic in its decay.
Originally named Saint-Georges-de-Ouiatchouan, after the nearby river, Val-Jalbert was founded in 1901 by Damase Jalbert along with the Ouiatchouan Pulp Company. The associated pulp mill sought to exploit the rising demand for newsprint from the US and Great Britain, and was ideally positioned near two waterfalls that powered its machinery.
The thriving settlement was renamed Val-Jalbert in 1913, having been bought out by American investors in 1904 after the death of its founder. Grand plans followed for an enlarged company town, where residential areas were laid out separately from the core business functions further down the hill.
But an outbreak of Spanish Flu around the end of the First World War ravaged Val-Jalbert’s small population, and a reduced demand for pulp (its plants made only pulp, not paper) saw production suspended indefinitely in 1927. Some unemployed workers hung on for a couple more years. But by 1929 the village, which relied on a single industry, was abandoned.
The deserted Val-Jalbert quickly became a ghost town. By 1949, it had passed into the hands of the Quebec government, and by the 1960s, it had become a tourist attraction. Three decades later the ghost town was designated a heritage site by the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications.
The rise and decline of Val-Jalbert spanned less than 30 years. But today the ghost town is a popular visitor attraction in Quebec, and one of the most impressive abandoned settlements in the whole of Canada. Of particular note are dozens of historic structures, long dilapidated, slowly collapsing into the earth.
There’s an artistic quality to these decaying buildings, which – although little more than rotting shacks when viewed in isolation – collectively tell the story of past lives, lost industry, and short-lived economic fortune.
Not all structures in Val-Jalbert lie in ruins, however. A handful of buildings, including the old schoolhouse, are surprisingly well preserved, and command a haunting time-capsule quality that is no less photogenic than their collapsing counterparts.
(Images: Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose)
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