Tranquille – A History In The Making

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On a beautiful fall morning a few weeks ago, we had the good fortune to investigate a mystery that’s intrigued us for years. This is the story of our discovery of Tranquille and its long, fascinating history.

For us, this story began a couple years ago when we first moved to Kamloops, BC. Back then, we spent every weekend driving around the valley seeing everything it had to offer. As chance would dictate, one day we stumbled onto a little used road on the western outskirts of the city that lead past a group of some hauntingly empty buildings. With giant Do Not Enter and Private Property signs posted all along its gates, our curiosity was instantly piqued.

Abandoned superintendent's house at Tranquille Padova City Kamloops

Abandoned superintendent’s house at Tranquille

From what we could tell, the place was much more than just the few scattered buildings we could see. There was a large road that went between what looked like a hospital, some old apartments and numerous smaller buildings. In the distance, glimpses of other large buildings could also be seen. Just how far this little, eerily empty, town extended was a mystery to Micki and me.

With no one in sight, we talked of parking the car and wandering down its vacant streets. Besides for the large signs warning us away, the fact that we had our two young children with us and knew absolutely nothing about the place kept us in our car. To be honest, I’ll be man enough to say the place was so quiet it was almost disturbing. Intrigued about its origin as much as its fate we left the place that day not even knowing its name.

Meadowview dormitory across the corn maze at Tranquille / Padova City Kamloops

Meadowview dormitory

Over the following weeks its history and abandonment were constant topics of discussion. Without knowing it’s name, searches on the Internet were only so helpful and it wasn’t until Micki was talking with one of her co-workers that the mystery of the place started unraveling.

The place was called quite simply Tranquille and, in some circles, was also once known as Padova City. We learned that it was the home of the massive King Edward VII Tuberculosis Sanatorium that was opened in the early 1900s and ran until the late 50s before becoming a mental facility for the next 25 years. Since the 1800s, the land has changed hands numerous times from simple farmers and gold prospectors to the government and now back to a group of people hoping to see it rise out of the ashes once more as an eco-friendly, self sustaining community.

Containing over 40 buildings, including a fire hall, a cafeteria, a large scale laundromat, numerous large dormitories and three hospitals including the Old Main Hospital, the Sage Hospital and the Greaves Hospital it’s easy to see that this place was once a veritable city. You can also find a school, their own steam plant, a gymnasium, several caretaker buildings as well as numerous turn of the century abandoned homes on the property. Coupled with their own cemetery and a slew of farm and processing buildings still linked by serviceable roads all of it comes together to form Tranquille.

Greenhouse, firehall and steam plant at Tranquille / Padova City, Kamloops

Greenhouse, firehall and steam plant

When we learned that there are kilometers of underground tunnels linking the majority of the buildings together, it left it perfectly clear that at one point this was more than just a community. It was a thriving micro center that employed and staffed hundreds and provided goods and services for all around British Columbia. With the farm as its core, Tranquille once flourished enough that it was literally a self sustaining city at the turn of the century. When the government permanently shut down the doors in 1984, a way of life for a lot of the people around Kamloops shut down as well.

Besides for the opportunity to stock up on some locally grown produce and to get lost in the corn maze, what attracted us to Tranquille Farm Fresh that beautiful fall morning was the historical tour we were signed up for. When we heard Tranquille was leading groups of people through the old community we knew we had to sign up. As we climbed onto the trailer for the sold out 90 minute driving tour, we could hear the excitement in all the guests’ voices. It seems we weren’t the only ones who longed to know more about the history of the place. Everyone was anxious to drive down its forgotten roads and to imagine what life was like all those years ago.

Historical Tour of Tranquille, Kamloops

Historical tour of Tranquille

The tour didn’t disappoint and Tim, an on site development manager who has recently finished remodeling one of the old houses into a modern energy efficient home with his wife Annette, did a great job both entertaining and telling us the story that is Tranquille. It is a story of romance, betrayal, government bureaucracy, fame, fortune, politics and intrigue.

From its early days as the prosperous farm home of the Fortune’s and the Cooney’s to the days of the gold rush and well into the sanatorium and government years, the place has enough history to fill volumes. Though a lot of that history has been lost over the years, Tim and Annette are making a valiant attempt to restore what once was lost. They’re documenting everything they can and are quick to lend an ear if someone has any of their own history of the place to share.

Abandoned Building at Tranquille

Abandoned building at Tranquille

We were also pleasantly surprised to hear that Tranquille hasn’t just been gathering dust these past 30 years. Movies, such as the recent A-Team remake and part of Harrison Ford’s movie, Firewall, were both filmed in Tranquille. The decaying site was also used as the backdrop for some eerie shows like MTV’s Fear, and the mini series Alice with their own take on the Alice in Wonderland story.

It seems Tranquille attracts people from all over the world. That list includes paranormal investigators. Looking around the grounds and the current condition of the majority of the buildings easily leads you to believe in the hundreds of ghost stories surrounding the place. As a result, Tranquille is a magnet for any ghost hunter worth their weight in salt. Whether there is any truth to the stories remains unproven.

In truth, that is the saddest part about taking the tour down those empty streets. The neglect and disrepair of so many of the buildings as well as the lost history is almost overwhelming. Whispers of an age gone by and the thousands of people that once called this place home echo in every shattered window and vandalized building.

Over the past 25 years Tranquille has hosted its share of vagabonds, destructive teenage revelers and modern day treasure hunters who have looted the best these historical buildings had to offer. Most that remains are only the decaying skeletons of a town that has seen better days.

 Broken windows and rusty elevator at the abandoned Greaves Hospital, Tranquille / Padova City, Kamloops

Greaves Hospital

On a happier note, as all things end, so do all things begin and it is here that this story truly starts. Going back to its roots, Tranquille is opening its doors to the world once more. Beginning just like it did in the 1800s they’re taking measures to grow this little lakeside community one step at a time. As before, they’re building on the core of what was Tranquille, that of a farming community. Though that hasn’t changed, they’re hoping to attract a slightly more upscale market and re-envisioning the area as Tranquille on the Lake – a master planned sustainable community centered on urban farming.

Just like all urban, clean living communities, the folks at the newly renamed site are ensuring that the village’s regrowth is focused on sustainability and as a center for people to not only live and work but also as a place to grow and learn. They’ve already coupled up with engineers and master planners to ensure that as many of the original buildings and homes can be re-purposed and re-used. They’re forging alliances with universities and colleges like TRU so that education and learning remain at the forefront of Tranquille Farm Fresh. It is an exciting chapter in the Tranquille story and I’m anxious to see how it unfolds.

Elementary school and restored barns in Tranquille Kamloops Padova City

Elementary school and restored barns

I strongly recommend that if you have the chance, take a tour of Tranquille and get a flavor of what it once was, what it is today and what it one day may become. It’s a fascinating journey as rich in local legends and myths as it is in truth.

Tours happen Saturdays and Sundays and fill up fast. To guarantee your spot, please book in advance. You can contact the people at Tranquille Farm Fresh on their website.

UPDATE!: Tranquille Farm Fresh is now offering public tours of the Tranquille tunnels

Special thanks to Tim and Annette McLeod for giving us a tour of Tranquille and letting us satiate our two year curiosity. Good luck to everyone working on the project and we look forward to seeing Tranquille on the Lake flourish in the years to come.

Tranquille is located at 4600 Tranquille Road, approximately three km west of the airport in Kamloops, British Columbia.


View Tranquille Farm Fresh, Kamloops, BC in a larger map

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17 Responses

      • Mr. David Linge

        Hello Mr. Kosman. My grandfather was the medical superintendent at Tranquille from 1968-1978 (Dr. John Bower). I was quite surprised and delighted to see your photo of our former home in Tranquille (The abandoned Dr.’s residence). I lived there with my grandparents on and off during the 10 years they lived there. My grandfather was an avid photographer who took many slides of Tranquille in his 10 years there. When we lived in the house, there were ornamental cedar trees surrounding the perimeter, a beautiful pool in the back yard in the shape of a giant foot, and beautifully maintained grounds including many flower gardens around the yard. My grandfather was a Ham Radio operator, and had a giant antenna mounted to the main chimney at the front of the house. I have many fond memories of my years spent living in Tranquille. Recently, there have been allegations of abuse against the patients who lived there, but I can attest (I volunteered regularly in the wards), the patients were treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Back in 1971, My grandfather even arranged for “Mr. Dressup” a Canadian children’s show host, to do a live performance for the patients and staff. Needless to say, the show was a big hit! As well, every Thursday evening, there was a movie theatre there, and we used to go to watch movies every Thursday evening. They even had a James Bond film playing there while it was still showing in theatres. We had a “Canteen” where one could buy anything from a cold pop, a half a cantaloupe with a scoop of ice cream for .25 cents, or even a fresh hamburger (also .25 cents).
        Thank you so much for brightening my day with seeing your photo. In 2009, Troy, the caretaker gave me and my friend who works for Shaw TV in Kamloops permission to have an unguided day tour of the property. The original idea was Shaw was supposed to do a short half hour documentary about Tranquille, and we went in and got about 5 hours of filming done. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, Shaw backed out of the project. My friend and I are now working with the 5 hours of film and we are doing our own “Indie” documentary on this historic site.
        Once again, thank you for the wonderful photo’s of my former home! I hope 2013 is a great year for you!

        David A. Linge

      • Charles Kosman

        That’s great to hear David! Nice to hear a first person account of someone who once lived there. The old house was beautiful and hopefully there’s enough left to restore it.

        Thanks for the comment and good luck with your documentary. When it’s all done drop me a note on where I can watch it!

  1. Natasha

    Hi Charles,
    I’m a Calgary based photographer and my favorite things to photograph are abandoned buildings. Like you, I came across Tranquille by pure luck and was instantly intrigued and fascinated by it’s mysterious history. After looking on the internet and not finding out much, I decided to take the trip from Calgary to Kamloops to check it out the place for myself and to document my findings through my camera lens.

    I took my first trip out there in April 2010 and was speachless as to the vast beauty of the place. At that point in time, nothing had been done to embellish the place nor were there any guided tours. I was able to walk arround the property and also to enter some of the buildings, it was an amazing experience. So much so, that I returned a year latter (April 2011) to try and see some of the buildings I wasn’t able to see the year before. This time around, the barn and 2 houses had been completly renovated and the place was starting to look alive. On this trip, I was able to access a lot of the buildings I hand’t see before via the tunnel system, it was a fantastic experience and one I will definitely not forget. Since you and your family got to see all the buildings on the property from the outside, I figured you might be interested in seeing the inside. I’ve attached 2 links to the flickr albums I’ve created after each of my visits out there. You will also notice that a lot has changed in the last 2 years.
    Cheers and enjoy the inside tour.

    • Charles Kosman

      Those are some great shots Natasha! Thanks for sharing. The mental patient shots were a little disturbing but I can understand the allure of going dark. I’m surprised that the place doesn’t have horror movie producers lining up to film their movies there, especially at night. From what I hear of the condition of the tunnel systems, you must be a brave person to be walking through them.

      I loved the tour however it would have been great to go inside a few of them to see what they looked like firsthand. It was also a shame that they had to board up the majority of the first floor windows and doors in order to get the necessary permits since I found that it definitely took away from some of the charm of the old buildings. I’m told that they’re hoping to get approval for a few inside tours next year so we’ll see what happens then.

      The place truly is beautiful and I’m anxious to see how it changes going forward. Thanks for posting!

      • Salmon arm teen

        Just got back. Was some crazy stuff. erie is the top word for the place. mother worked there in the 70′s for a few months as work experience. she said she saw some disturbing but more sad stuff happen there with the patients. We were there from 12pm to 4 am!! We started in the “hospital” closest to the water with mural on it and got into the tunnel from there, followed it up into the laundry building. then they lead to the main building, elementary school gymnasiam and cafeteria and i think one more building which was unknown to us. we believe we explored every inch of the tunnel system And where they lead to but were not positive. We also got into the doctor/superintendent house and the other hospital beside it. I have loads of photo and video documentation!!! We heard some noises and russeling around on a few separate accounts which scared my friends but I’m always thinking of the logical explanations. Next time I go I plan to try and get more legit paranormal activity or whatever you want to call it.

  2. Charlene Weatherbee

    Tranquille is such an incredibly lovely spot .The hills above it provide incredible views of Kamlops lake and the city and the meeting of the two rivers. If you follow the tracks east you can get to Savanah and the East End of the lake, the rocks along the lake there have some pictographs to be found.And are just made to be fished from!
    Thank you so much for reminding me of all that!
    I am a Kamloops girl and always will be no matter where I live.


  3. Ghost Hunters Canada

    Hi there,
    My name is Kenny Lead Investigator of GHC (Ghost Hunters Canada) I was wondering if anyone knew how to get permission to the Tranquille property to investigate the hospital. We have years of experience investigating abandoned hospitals and always respect the buildings and land. I would be bringing up a team of 5 to investigate the Hospital. Would also like to get a tour of the land during the day to get to know the layout and dangers.
    Thank You

  4. Travis

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed visiting Tranquille! I live just by the airport and have spent many a day exploring the grounds. It is definitely a creepy place (so quiet), and even more so at night. I am so glad that the site is being used again. The fresh farm has been a breath of fresh air for the city, and the recent addition of the regular tours are educating both locals (who don’t tend to know much about the site) and tourists alike. Hopefully this will lead to some preservation work on some of the buildings! Really enjoy the blog…glad to see you liked our neck of the woods!
    Travis recently posted..Sarajevo – A World ApartMy Profile

  5. Lyndsi perry

    Hello. My great grandparents were the last to live there before being closed off to the public after my great grandfather passed and my great grandmother was eventually moved to a home. As kids we explored almost every inch and building there was to offer although back then we called it padova. There are great mysteries surrounding this place and I recommend any who can do! Take pictures and share the beauty of what my family only knew as gramma and grampas. Some of our best childhood memories lie here. I’m glad they are opening it for the rest of the world to see and enjoy!!!

    • Hailey

      Hi, I am a 7th grade student doing a heritage fair project about the Tranquille Sanatorium.I am currently looking for someone to interview. Would it be alright if I were to interview you?

  6. Christian B.

    I worked there for a short while in the early 80’s….very interesting place….I wish that I had taken photos at the time. For a few years after, I went through regularly on my way to Tranquille Creek to goldpan on the weekends.

  7. Grace Wideman

    I have just heard about Tranquille this past week and am very interested in the history of the Cooney’s. My great uncle Fred Armstrong married Henrietta Cooney, she passed in 1945. I was wondering if any one had pics of Henrietta and Fred. Also wondering if any one had info or pics on the rest of the family.


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