Two weeks ago I spent Good Friday afternoon walking around the fine and solid City of Sudbury. Because it was a holiday the city felt silent and empty. Only a few places were open, like the Tim Hortons, where the employees swear like hockey players but are very kind and funny and run the most popular place in town. With most things closed, I felt like I had the downtown to myself — and it’s quite a downtown, with interesting looking buildings and a crazy topography.
Like many Ontario cities and towns, gentrification isn’t a word that applies to much of anything, and though it might have been a cinematic imagination at work, Sudbury reminded me of the Pennsylvania mining and steel town that The Deer Hunter was supposed to have taken place in. It had a similar 1970s feel with unadorned clapboard homes, clinging to rocky ground — not run down, but slightly weathered. Times, we were told, are not so bad in Sudbury, as nickel is in demand and the mines are hiring (though some native sons and daughters may indeed be about to ship off to a far off war), so the comparison stops there. Below is a quick photo tour of Subury.
The Sudbury water tower dominates the city from its perch on top of one of the hills and was asking to be climbed and explored. Steep streets, with those Deer Hunter homes, reach right up underneath it. The last picture shows the other dominant structure you can see from most anywhere in the city, the INCO Superstack. Second highest stack in the world and second tallest freestanding structure in Canada — taller than First Canadian Place, but shorter than the CN Tower. Super is too often put in front of words that just aren’t super. In this case, it’s more than appropriate.
I had grit in my shoes most of the time because Sudbury uses chunky sand rather than salt on the snow and ice. Other than the need to empty the shoe now and then, walking around was fine and made a nice crunch-crunch sound. Watch out for the teens in the last photo, they will push you into the slush because they own the sidewalk.
Like many places that were built on natural resource money, like Thunder Bay, they didn’t scrimp on the details in the early days. Sudbury still has some great buildings and pieces of public infrastructure.
Some neat mod buildings. The top is part of a hospital, the bottom a Ukranian Church and community centre.
Sudbury’s downtown strip is largely intact, though being Good Friday, it was difficult to tell how busy it is during normal hours. There is a big-box “four corners” outside of town where most people likely do their shopping, but there was a variety of shops downtown, including a familiar urban blight, a Money Mart. Many of the bars have a time-warp feel to them, at least in signage. That night we went to the rock and roll bar and made friends with the bartender and told her we were from Toronto. When I ordered a pint she laughed and said “you are going to love this — $4.10.” You can get pints in Toronto for $4.10 fairly easily (which I didn’t mention) but you probably can’t pay double for the same thing anywhere in Sudbury, which you can in Toronto (which I confirmed).
Sadly, parking lots are never far away in Sudbury. It’s easy to get the feeling each one of these empty spaces represents a good building lost.
Raw Canadian Shield chunks poke up all around Sudbury, blackened by years of pollution, like Concrete Gone Wild. The hills allow for neat Exorcist-like sidewalk-staircases with good views from the top.
Sprawl, Sudbury style.
The famous giant nickel is located on the edge of town, complete with King George on it, within view of huge INCO slag piles. It’s a good looking nickel, and when the sun shines on it and reflects at the right angle, everything turns bright white and silver.
Beyond the Nickel is the community of Copper Cliff, a compact and urban jumble of homes located right next to the Superstack. A large Italian population lives here, and the streets have names like “Venice” that explode into celebration when Italy wins an important soccer game.
Probably not altogether fair, but this bar has a fun representation of Sudbury landmarks and stereotypical passions.