Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Victoria Hall burns at Prudhomme's Landing

The Victoria Hall banquet centre, and former dancehall dating back to the 1940's, located at Prudhomme's Landing (north-east of Victoria Ave. and the QEW, in Lincoln, Ont.) burned down during the early morning of Mar.10, 2009.

During the Wet and Wild waterpark years, the kitchens at Victoria Hall were used to cook meals for the frequent company family picnics that the park hosted throughout the summer, when it was run by the Ken Fowler empire. The park closed quietly about eight years ago, and has sat vacant and overgrown since, as plans are being made to redevelop that whole lakefront area.
The hall had only been used sporadically in recent times.

Wet and Wild was the place for kids and families to hang out in the summer in the eighties. There was a large wave pool, water slides running down a man-made hill at the northend by Lake Ontario, a kiddy-wading pool, and a lazy river (built in 1989) that wound around the park. Surrounding the popular Wave Pool was a large green carpeted area where swimmers sat and sunbathed.

There was a dugout used as a bumper-boat ride, and of course the ever popular go-cart track, which took up the whole west end of the park. (Farther west, way behind the back of the where the Timmy's now is, there was once a campground, and some kind of zoo, of which a remnant, an old caged building/pen, was still there until recently). There was a building at the cart track near the west side of the park, the bottom of which was used as the go-cart repair shop, while the upstairs was the administration office. Near the office was also a beat up old Tilt-a-Whirl, as well
as an electric bumper-car ride.

At the east end of the Park was an old house that was used as the popular Haunted House attraction. Beside it, to the west, was a small orange-brick heritage shed, which had once been a smokehouse; later it was where the grounds maintenance departmant kept their tools. The Wet and Wild grounds were very well kept then; it is a a shocking jolt to see it now. It's hard to believe that thousands of kids once flocked there in the summer...

Near the front gate there was a block building (to the right as you walked in) that was used for food storage below, and had an extra kitchen upstairs, called Willy's, which was used as a staging area for the large corporate picnics the park used to host; the main cooking for those was done at Victoria Hall's banquet kitchen. I remember they used to bake quarter and half chicken pieces there by the hundreds.

The Park grounds also had a snack bar called the Char-Pit, located at the south side, in a block building that also housed the change rooms for the roller-rink, which was behind it. The Char-Pit did not have a standard gas or electric grill; it had only a real wood-charcoal pit where the hamburgers and hot dogs were cooked. It took a while to get the pit going in the morning, but the flavour of the quarter-pound hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on it was real barbecue! The Char-Pit also sold tons of ICEE, and also Bev's one-and-only Wave Bars, a blue-and-white-ice formed with the Park's signature wave-topped swirl! And, they made their own air-popped popcorn.

The Wave Pool area had its own snack bar just for the swimmers, and across from the bumper-boat pond were two stand alone plywood huts; one, called Wild Licks, sold just Malibu Mix and soft-serve ice cream cones; the other, called New Orleans Fries, sold only french fries and soft-drinks. The fries at the other two snack bars were from-frozen, but the attraction of this stand was that large russett potatoes were fresh-cut on the spot right before frying. The fries were dusted with a light cajun seasoning, hence the name, and were very popular. The potatoes were supplied from Willis' Produce, which had a cold storage facility on Lakeshore Rd. in NOTL, which has been renovated into a winery)Above: Victoria Hall as it was on Apr.24, 2008. Note the large roof at the back and the stylized 'widow's walk' at the top of the front facade. The Wet and Wild ticket booths once stood in the centre foreground, in front of the fence, where the concrete pad is. Photos by R. Bobak.

Below photos, taken Mar.10, 2009: Victoria Hall sits still smouldering after an arson earlier that morning. The kitchen area had been in the extension seen at right.Below: the facade remains standing. The upper windows on the stucco facade were glass, but were false. The roof at the rear is gone.Below: the entire rear roof structure collapsed into the main floor. above: the heat bowed the aluminum doors

Below: Video taken after the fire, the ruins still smouldering.

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