‘Haunted.’ WWII air base for sale in Prince Edward County, with barracks and a working airport
Nestled in Picton, the largest community in Prince Edward County more than two hours east of Toronto, lies nearly 700 acres of history – a story that can be bought for the price of nearly $ 15 million. dollars.
The property, located at 343 County Road 22, is formerly known as Camp Picton, a WWII air base. The base was one of 151 British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) schools established in Canada between 1940 and 1945.
Now the owner of the property, a company called Loch-Sloy Holdings Ltd., is selling the place – which still houses the original barracks, the old camp dentist building, a rappelling tower and the hall of exercises. Picton Airport (and its original hangar) is also located on the property.
The real estate ad offers the lot as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to create a master plan for “multiple residential lifestyle communities,” noting that the airport is operational with three runways.
Loch-Sloy Holdings Limited declined to speak with the Star about the property for sale, citing a confidentiality agreement currently in place. The seller of the property, Raymond Habets, also declined to comment.
“When you walk through these buildings, it evokes this particular snapshot in time. It’s almost haunting, ”said Councilor Kate MacNaughton.
“It really is a special and unusual place that transports you to this time and place.”
The BCATP base is the last of its kind in Ontario, according to Joanne Fralick, author of “Camp Picton: 70 years of history in a Canadian military training camp. ”
She and her husband, Martin Fralick, co-author of the book, currently reside in a former PMQ (Permanent Married Quarters), built at Camp Picton in 1950 for the troops and their families, which is not part of the property for sale.
Even the street names have significance in the Fralicks Quarter, each named after different battle terms – Diver Belt (after a warning call given when a loud bomber was coming), Vimy Street (after the Battle of Vimy Ridge) and the smaller street called Fish Creek Lane (after an 1885 battle).
While Joanne said it was great to live in a piece of history, she has also seen parts of the base crumble, including crumbling roofs.
Despite the rich history, none of the buildings have a heritage designation, according to Joanne.
The municipality did not respond to the Star’s requests for heritage designations at the time of publication.
In 1940, when the camp opened, pilots came from the UK, US, New Zealand and Australia to take a short but intensive course, according to Peter Lockyer of History lives here inc., a local heritage group in Prince Edward County.
Six pilots died during training and were buried at Glenwood Cemetery, he said. The historic cemetery is located in the community down the road from the camp. Unlike the camp, the cemetery is on the Prince Edward County list designation file and his designated property index.
About 800 soldiers would come for the course at the base at a time. They traveled by boat to Halifax, then took a train to Picton station where a truck would pick them up and take them to camp. Each group of troops struggled to cope with the colder months during training, according to Joanne.
“They were amazed at what a Canadian winter looked like with all the snow and cold,” she said. “They thought they were in hell.”
By 1948, the base had become an artillery school. The troops were older than those training at the camp when it was an air base, according to Fralick. Because many were married and started families, the PMQ village was built. A school and a Catholic and Protestant church have also been installed. Like the village of PMQ, the land on which the school and churches are located is not part of the property for sale.
Then the base closed in the late 1960s.
“It was a devastating blow to the local economy as our main industry, the canning of fruits and vegetables, was also in its last days,” Lockyer said. “I remember my father, who sat on the local council, wondering how we could recover from these two economic blows. “
In 1969 the property was sold to the former Mayor of Picton, HJ McFarland. McFarland was of Scottish descent and renamed it Loch-Sloy. One year later, Prince edward heights, a facility for people with intellectual disabilities, opened and operated for almost three decades until 1999, using part of the base.
Since then, the base has also been used for television and movie sets, including the first season of Canada’s Worst Driver. Props and sets for the Canadian Opera Company were also stored there.
Loch-Sloy Business Park is also on the grounds, which is home to an art gallery, yoga studio, auto and boat repairs, carpentry, and an escape room called “Escape Camp. Picton “.
“It’s a perfect place because it feels like stepping back in time,” said Joanne.
“Looks like you’re stepping back into WWII,” added her husband, Martin.
A new buyer has virtually limitless options for developing the property, according to John-Ross Parks, team leader and sales representative with Parks Group at Royal LePage ProAlliance, located in the area.
“You have a mix of potential combined with a ridiculous amount of land,” he said, noting that the airport can be attractive to potential buyers as well.
The old air base is “historic property” in the area, according to Parks.
“Whoever is lucky enough to buy the property, they will have something really special in their hands,” he said.
“We are all hoping for someone who has a little creativity and obviously the resources to put together a redevelopment project of this magnitude.”
If she could wave a magic wand, Councilor MacNaughton would want the federal government to buy the property to preserve its history.
With the land so large, she said there was room for housing developments while respecting Camp Picton’s war legacy.
“If taken over by the government, it would provide opportunities to develop housing in the area, which, of course, is so needed in all municipalities, but particularly in Prince Edward County, one of the outliers of our common provincial housing crisis. she said.
The Fralicks hope the new owners will create a museum on the property to save the history of Camp Picton.
“They need a museum that is accessible to the public, where we can see the artifacts and learn and preserve history,” said Joanne.
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