In my quest to photograph as many ghost towns as I can find, I kept coming across notes about a little gem called Lille, Alberta.
Things looked great for Lille when it was first established in 1901. Within a few years, there were about 20 residences on the townsite, along with all the amenities like a hotel, doctor’s office, and a school. The coal mining industry in the area led to the construction of an expansive system of coke ovens, specially made in Belgium. Each brick was stamped with a unique number, shipped, and the ovens were reconstructed brick-by-brick in Lille sometime in 1903-1904.
When the nearby mine failed in 1912, Lille was dismantled and moved, but lots of lovely ruins were left behind. The site was listed as an Alberta Provincial Historic Site in 1937 to protect what is left, but unfortunately, Lille has been damaged by visitors nonetheless.
When it came time to actually visit Lille, I couldn’t find much information on it. All the photos I saw were taken years ago and the directions listed on various websites seemed vague. There was no choice but to go out there and poke around.
We started off the day at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and spoke to one of the guides there. He seemed to have a good grasp on where to find it, so we set out confidently. Unfortunately for us, we found more forks in the road than we anticipated and soon enough, the guide’s directions were muddled in my head (I should have written them down, in hindsight).
We eventually wandered around a lot, a few kilometres here and there, until we actually found the right path. It was late in the day when we made it to Lille, but the site looked beautiful in the soft, late afternoon light of the mountains.
The old coke ovens are beautiful. The old brick with the well-preserved arches are amazing, but the patina and the way they look like little portals is what really makes them gorgeous.
Personally, I fell in love with the washery. The building has aged gracefully, as far as ruins go, and the little evergreens closing in around it only enhance the building. Of course, eventually, the trees will destroy it, but for now, they seem to be in balance somehow.
Twilight started to set in, so we headed back along with old road to the car. It was a wonderful day exploring Alberta. We have so much history and natural beauty here, it’s a great place to live.
For the rest of the photos I took that day, check out the slideshow below: