Abandoned apartment building©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko
The Pinetree Line was first conceived during the Cold War when fears of a Soviet air attack against North America were running high. In the late 1940s, U.S. and Canadian defence chiefs put their heads together and developed joint defence plans which included a series of 33 prime radar stations stretching from coast to coast across Canada.
Construction on the radar stations began in the late 1940s. For the most part, they were developed to detect incoming Soviet aircraft and direct interceptor aircraft to other points within their area of coverage. Wherever possible, each station was located on the highest point of land within its jurisdiction, usually a hill or mountain top.
RCAF Station Foymount was built in 1950. It was located on the historic Opeongo Road, atop the Opeongo Mountains in Renfrew County, the operations building towered 1800 feet above sea level. In addition to the radomes, receiving and transmitting equipment, and the usual combined mess, quarters and maintenance buildings, the station included 65 houses, a school, medical and dental facilities, a recreation room with a gym, swimming pool, general store, post office and a host of other amenities. Water was supplied from a 100,000 gallon reservoir which drew its source from a nearby lake. Sewage was treated in a plant located right on the premises. In effect, the station was a fully self-contained and self supporting community with all the facilities one would expect to find in any similarly sized civilian village. Initial personnel estimates were 38 officers and 343 mixed ranks and civilians.
RCAF Station Foymount became fully operational in September 1952. In May 1953 the 32 Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron moved in to assume the Ground Control Intercept role. By 1963 computer technology had advanced to the point where interceptors were automated and controlled directly from Ottawa. Station Foymount was upgraded to intruder-detection only and the unit was renamed the 32 Radar Squadron.
The unification of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1967 resulted in more reshuffling and re-designation of ranks, roles and titles. By 1968, the station was operating as a long range radar facility and field training school and no longer assumed any Norad functions. In 1970 a total of 208 military and civilian personnel were assigned to the station.
Military downsizing in the early 1970s led to the eventual closure of CFS Foymount. After it was determined the radars at CFS Falconbridge and CFS Lac St. Denis were powerful enough to cover Foymount's existing territory, it was decided to close the Foymount station in October 1974. The radar towers and operations centre were dismantled and the remaining buildings sold. The buyer later defaulted on his property taxes and many of the buildings were repossessed by the township for outstanding tax arrears.
Today, Foymount is slowly coming back to life. Although many of the buildings remain abandoned, several are now leased to such tenants as Sebastopol Township and the Black Water Factory, a manufacturer of high quality outerwear. A tea room has recently opened.
The houses were put up for sale, some for as little as the cost of the unpaid taxes, and many are now owned by retired military personnel who were formerly stationed in Foymount.
Although Foymount still contains a number of ruins, the new residents are not ready to see their community die. Many of occupied homes have been renovated and repaired and their owners appear eager to recapture the strong social and community ties they enjoyed during Foymount's military heyday.