Bruce Trail – Coolihans To Finnerty

Sunday, May 22, 2022

I decided to go to the Bruce Trail for a hike and to look for a natural feature called The Dingle as well as an old school house associated with it. There’s parking on Coolihans Side Road where the trail crosses and so I headed for there to begin my hike. I had the understanding that I could reach the side trail to The Dingle from the main trail, however, that wasn’t the case. At any rate, I had a good hike through to Finnerty Side Road and back. It was a beautiful afternoon and the trail was basically deserted.

The woods were full of flowers of various colours but these bright yellow ones stood out because of their size. Yellow Wood Poppies grow in shaded areas and are also known as Celandine Poppies. The can grow as a single flower or in large patches like the ones I found along the trail.

There were many patches of trilliums growing in the woods, most of them were white. A few of the white ones had a green stripe running along each petal. These are not a different type of trillium but rather one that has a disease. There is a small virus known as a mycoplasma that infects the plants and causes this discolouration. It will get worse until the plant is no longer able to flower. In some cases the streaks can show up as pink lines on the flowers.

I found a large Garter Snake sunning itself on the trail. It moved into the undergrowth when it saw me coming but I managed to get a picture before it slithered away. I don’t know if it was a male or female but other snakes would have known right away. Garter Snakes leave a pheromone scented trail that is very different for either gender. Some male snakes give of both male and female scents and this can fool other males into trying to mate with them. This isn’t very effective with the other males but it increases the snakes body heat and gets them more interaction with the females.

Red trilliums are less common in this forest than the white ones but there were a few examples scattered around. It is said that ants often carry the seeds of trilliums underground and then eat only the outer part leaving the seed to germinate. Once a trillium starts it will take between 4 and 15 years to flower the first time after which it will flower annually. However, if they are picked it sets them back and they can take up to seven years before they start to flower again.

The Eastern American Toad can have a variable colouring as they adapt to their habitat and the females have a wider variety of markings. Stress and temperature as well as humidity can also play a role in the colours of these toads. The tadpoles protect themselves by the toxic chemicals in their skin which can kill a fish if it eats just one of them.

Carolina Wren are most common in the eastern United States but range into the extreme southern parts of Ontario. If the winter is severe these wrens will not venture as far north but they can have several broods during the summer. The young are often victims of the brown-headed cowbird who raid their nests. Carolina Wrens will mate for several years and live for an average of ten years. They tend to stay out of the open and rarely sit still long enough to get their pictures taken.

The Northern Flicker is a member of the woodpecker family and is medium sized. The males have a red patch on their head like many other woodpeckers in Ontario. Unlike most woodpeckers. the Northern Flicker migrates for the winter season.

Short-winged Blister Beetles are also known as Oil Beetles. They grow to be 8-10 millimetres in length and get their name from the droplets of oil they excrete from their leg joints when they are disturbed. This oil can cause blisters on the skin and is a deterrent to predators. The larva of this beetle is a parasite that attacks the larvae of bees. The one below has a hitch-hiker on its back.

There are lots of Jack-In-The-Pulpits along the trail and these plants can live for up to 100 years. They have very earthy colours and the hood that hides the flower is called a spathe. Although they are not brightly coloured like many of the other spring flowers they are one of my favourites.

At Finnerty Side Road I turned around and made my way back to the car. This trail feels like it is uphill in both directions but it makes a great hike.

Having failed to find the Dingle or the Dingle Schoolhouse it appears that another trip will be in order in the near future.

Check out our top 50 stories at this link: Back Tracks

Google Maps Link: Coolihans Side Road

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also, look for us on Instagram

Defacing History

May 8, 2022

Many of the historic places we visit have been the victim of graffiti, most often in the form of spray painted tags and images. The cover photo shows the Hyde Mill in Streetsville which was built in 1840. When we visited there in September of 2014 there was very little graffiti on the building. The photo shows what the mill looks like less than 8 years later. Similar activity is happening everywhere including active buildings in the city of Toronto. In the past 50 years the amount of graffiti has increased greatly in most of the western world, much to the delight of spray paint manufacturers everywhere.

Graffiti isn’t a new invention, it’s been around since at least ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. In early days it was often carved into the stonework of buildings. It was popular in the Roman Empire and many examples of it have been found in Pompei, which was buried in 79 AD after the volcano in Mount Vesuvius erupted. Examples of Latin curses and declarations of love have been uncovered on the walls of the buildings during recent excavations. There were also magic spells and insults, many of which had to do with defecation, written on the walls.

A lot of early graffiti was erotic in nature and this continues to be a theme in modern times. In Pompei there were advertisements for various prostitutes describing their talents in great detail as well as descriptions of activities that could be had a the local brothels.

During World War Two, graffiti appeared wherever the allied soldiers were stationed in the form of a bald head with a big nose peering over the top of a wall. The inscription “Kilroy Was Here” was included and became famous. There were even reports that it had been found already on the beaches where the allies landed. It is generally accepted that modern graffiti got started in the subways of New York City with a particular person who identified himself as Taki 183. Around the same time in Philadelphia it began with a young juvenile offender who went my the moniker of Cornbread. Graffiti quickly spread and has gone through several stylistic changes over recent years.

In Ontario it has shown up on all sorts of buildings including a lot of our historically designated structures. The Merritton Tunnel is an abandoned railway tunnel underneath the third Welland Canal. It has been the subject of graffiti on the boards that close the north end of the tunnel as well as inside on the limestone blocks.

Graffiti is considered vandalism in Canada and can lead to a charge of mischief over or under $5,000 depending on the location and size of the markings. Toronto and several other large cities have laws to control this type of vandalism but they place the responsibility for cleaning it up on the property owner. So, it’s not bad enough that your property has been defaced but you have to pay for the removal. In some locations the property owners have had to clean their buildings multiple times, resulting in financial hardships. If they don’t clean it up they can be fined, so there’s no winning either way.

In Milton, the former Robertson Screw factory sits abandoned and has been the subject of multiple tags. A tag is usually a quick, one colour graffiti that identifies a person or a gang. These are often put up in many different places to mark their territory.

Aside from gang activity and personal tags there’s a third type of graffiti which is used by people to declare their love for the sweetheart in their life. This can be a simple phrase painted on a building such as “Jack loves Jill”. Unfortunately, graffiti can also include vandalism against trees in which a heart is sometimes cut into the bark with the couple’s initials inscribed within it. This can’t be removed so easily, and if it is too extensive it can kill the tree.

The century old Long Branch Rifle Range in Mississauga has been the target of multiple, overlapping examples of graffiti.

Some graffiti can be hate motivated! This has included painting Nazi symbols and racist comments on buildings and national monuments. Oakville briefly had a park dedicated to Taras Shevchenko, who was a Ukrainian author from the early 1800s. It was vandalized several times including the painting of graffiti on the monuments and now has been removed and the property developed for a subdivision.

The former office for the Weston Plank Road Company was built in 1846 and is the last remnant of that former wooden road. This building is described in greater detail in our story Elm Bank.

Railway cars and bridges seem to be favourite targets for graffiti. In fact, when it was just getting started in New York City the primary target was subway cars and lines. The bridge below on the lower Don River has been painted over a few times since this picture was taken in April 2015. It is from our feature story on The Don Narrows.

Toronto has an alley where graffiti is encouraged as a local tourist attraction. Some of the artwork in Graffiti Alley is really quite well done and there’s murals that take up the entire sides of buildings. We have a feature story on this location that can be found by following the link to Graffiti Alley.

In our humble opinion, there may be a place for graffiti but it isn’t on the remnants of our historic buildings.

Related stories: Graffiti Alley, Hyde Mill Streetsvile, Merritton Tunnel, Long Branch Rifle Range, Taras Shevchenko, Elm Bank, The Don Narrows

For a listing of our most popular stories check out Back Tracks

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also look for us on Instagram.

Bowmanville Valley Trail

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Bowmanville Valley Trail roughly follows the winding course of Bowmanville Creek through the floodplain on the west side of the creek. To explore the section between King Street and Baseline Road I found free parking in the lot on Baseline Road. Beware because it is full of deep holes, so be careful as you drive in. There’s a second parking lot off of King Street which is paved and might make a better choice next time. I hadn’t got out of the parking lot when an American Goldfinch landed in a tree near me. The male is bright yellow in the spring when it is in the mating season. The females are duller in colour, as are the males in the winter.

Bowmanville Creek has its headwaters in the Oak Ridges Moraine and drains about 170 square kilometers in its watershed. The creek was clear and low on this visit but the erosion that brought this tree down suggests that it can be pretty wild at times.

The main trail is paved and fully accessible as it runs for 1.8 kilometers between the Baseline Road and King Street parking lots.

The first tent caterpillars are starting to make their nests in some of the trees along the trail. They start with a small nest and as they grow they will expand it. Tent caterpillars tend to come in cycles with every 9-16 years seeing a larger amount of them. Although they can strip a tree of its leaves they seldom do any permanent damage to the trees. Where they cause significant damage is with pregnant horses. When a horse ingests too many of them while feeding on grass they can spontaneously abort their fetuses. in the year 2001 there was a large infestation in Kentucky and horse owners reported that about one third of all foal fetuses were lost to mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS).

Side trails can be found throughout the area and tend to provide glimpses of wildlife that stays clear of the busier main trail.

There was a large Belted Kingfisher, or perhaps two of them, which refused to sit still long enough to get his picture taken. Great Blue Herons are also attracted to the creek as are sports fishermen. There is a fishing ban within 120 metres of the old dam but they’ve also provided a place where people in wheel chairs can access a good fishing hole allowing them to enjoy the sport as well.

The woods along the trail were full of Trout Lilies. These plants actually have three common names which also include Dogtooth Violet and Adder’s Tongue. The name trout lily is given because the mottled colouring on the leaves is said to resemble to speckles on a brook trout. They bloom in the spring and are one of the first green plants to form a carpet on the forest floor. When they first come up, before the leaves uncurl the bulbs can be eaten raw. They have a sweet flavour but after the leaves form the bulbs lose most of their nutrients to the growing leaves which can also be eaten raw.

In the 1920s a dam was built across Bowmanville Creek by the Goodyear plant to provide water for cooling their equipment as well as for fire suppression. The dam remains in place in spite of the plant closure in 2016 because it provides a barrier to keep lamprey eels from getting upstream. The original fish ladder provided a way for trout to get upstream to spawn but when salmon were reintroduced into the Great Lakes it proved to be restrictive to them and many of them died at the dam. The solution was to build a new fish ladder but while this was going through three levels of bureaucracy volunteers lifted fish over the dam. Finally, on December 16, 2013 the 36-metre Fish By-Pass channel was opened to allow the fish to get past the dam and reach their spawning grounds. It can be seen on the left side of the dam in the picture below.

The Goodyear plant operated form 1910 until it closed and now stands idle on the east bank of the creek. We’ve featured the plant in our recent post called Goodyear Plant Bowmanville.

An old pumphouse stands just to the north of the plant and after being vacant for a few years it has recently been turned into a private residence.

This trail is very popular in the spring and fall when the trout and salmon are going upstream to spawn because the fish ladder makes a great place for viewing them.

Related Stories: Goodyear Bowmanville

For a listing of our 50 most popular stories check out Back Tracks

Google Maps Link: Bowmanville Creek Southern Parking Lot

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also, look for us on Instagram

Goodyear Plant Bowmanville

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Bowmanville Creek has a long history of industrial use but has lately been converted into an area full of walking trails. I parked in a small parking lot on the north side of Baseline Road West near Hunt Street to check out the newly opened Bowmanville Valley Trail Extension. While the main trail heads north along Bowmanville Creek, I took the one that follows the creek south toward the 401. I wanted to check out the new section as well as the old railway bridge from the former Goodyear Plant that carried a spur line to the Canadian National line below the highway.

Charles Goodyear discovered the process for vulcanization of rubber in 1839. This process uses sulfur to harden natural rubber into various products. As the automotive age was dawning, a company was founded in Akron, Ohio in 1898 which was called The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. By 1907 they had a contract with Henry Ford to provide tires for the Model T. In 1910 they bought a rubber company in Bowmanville and expanded their manufacturing outside of the United States for the first time. The old postcard image below shows the plant in its early days.

Goodyear built a spur line down Hunt Street to connect to the CN railway into Toronto. The line was still in use in 1982 when the abutments were replaced but by 2000 it was abandoned. The tracks were soon removed and the portion of Hunt Street where the rail lines ran has been repaved, hiding all evidence of its route. The steel bridge remained in place until the Bowmanville Valley Trail Extension was developed at which time it was removed.

Returning to Baseline Road I crossed the creek and followed the former right of way for the spur line until I came to the foundations for the bridge.

There’s not much to see from this end and looking across the creek there’s no indication of the location of the other abutment as it was removed to put the trail through. Graffiti artists have been at work on the remaining concrete and it has been painted on almost every surface.

The Bowmanville Rubber Company had started on King Street in 1898 and after changing names to the Durham Rubber Company they moved beside Bowmanville Creek in 1905. The location was chosen because it provided access to the creek to dispose of their process wastes! In those days it was believed that the solution to waste was to dilute it with running water. No wonder every water source in the area was polluted in the 19th and early 20th century.

Goodyear built additional buildings on the site and greatly expanded the business by connecting it to markets with the rail line.

The plant operated under several names over its year history of over 100 years. After Goodyear, it became Veyance Technologies and later ContiTech Continental. Under the latest name it produced conveyor belts for the mining, tar sands and coal sectors. With the downturn of operations for many of its customers, the plant closed in 2016. Today the building sits empty awaiting its destiny, most likely demolition for the construction of a subdivision.

There’s lots more to explore along Bowmanville Creek and another trip will likely happen in the near future to see what lies along the trail to the north.

For a listing of our 50 most popular stories check out Back Tracks

Google Maps link: Bowmanville Goodyear Plant

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also, look for us on Instagram

Back Tracks – 8 Years of Trails

Sunday April 24, 2022

Hiking the GTA was founded in April 2014 and this post marks our eighth anniversary and our 553rd post. To celebrate, we’re presenting our top 50 posts as determined by the number of times the story has been read. You can click on either the post title or the picture caption to be taken to the original post, each of which is about a five minute read with 10-12 pictures. Each one also has a Google Maps link so that you can find it for your own exploration. How many have you been to and how many are going on your “places to visit” list? Have a look and see.

50 – The Bloor Viaduct (Published June 23, 2018)

The story behind one of Toronto’s most iconic bridges.

49 – Coopers Falls – Ghost Towns of Ontario (Published Dec. 12, 2020)

A famous cottage country ghost town with multiple empty buildings.

48 – Culham Trail Mississauga (Published May 23, 2016)

This trail along the Credit River links a lot of historic places.

47 – Adamson Estate (Published Jan. 25, 2015)

An historic estate linked to the Cawthra family and built in 1920.

46 – La Grande Hermine (Published Sep. 19, 2016)

This ship has become a landmark along the QEW but recently had its masts removed.

45 – The Alexandria (Published Jan. 12, 2019)

The story of a steamer that sank off the Scarborough Bluffs in 1915.

44 – Ontario Place (Published Jul. 21, 2018)

The creation and abandonment of a downtown Toronto theme park.

43 – Horseshoe Curve Rail Disaster (Published Jun. 14, 2016)

Seven people were killed and 114 injured in the worst rail disaster in this part of the province.

42 – Barber Paper Mills Georgetown (Published Jun. 9, 2015)

The story of the famous paper mill ruins in Georgetown.

41 – Cache Lake Trestle – Algonquin Park (Published Jul. 18, 2016)

The story of a railway through Algonquin Park and the decaying trestle left behind.

40 – Kerosene Castle – Oakville (Published Aug. 18, 2015)

A home and an empire built on refining kerosene in Oakville.

39 – Joshua Creek (Published Mar. 29, 2017)

A journey from upstream to the mouth of the creek.

38 – Glenorchy – Ghost Towns of the GTA (Published Dec. 17, 2017)

A ghost town in Halton with a famous bridge collapse.

37 – Taber Hill Ossuary (Published Apr. 16, 2017)

An indigenous burial site disturbed by construction in Scarborough.

36 – David Watson House – 1859 (Published Nov. 26, 201)

This house near Orangeville recently had the rear wall collapse and may soon disappear.

35 – Milkman’s Lane (Published Jan. 7, 2016)

The story of an old roadway near downtown Toronto that is now a walking trail.

34 – Hog’s Back Park – Oakville (Published Feb. 1, 2017)

A park on Sixteen Mile Creek with interesting ruins.

33 – The Devil’s Well (Published Nov. 30, 2015)

A giant glacial pothole near Rockwood Conservation Area.

32 – The Devil’s Punch Bowl (Published Dec. 29, 2015)

One of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Hamilton area.

31 – The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (Published Apr. 6, 2019)

Actor Billy Van once owned this house which is falling over the Scarborough Bluffs.

30 – Cedarena (Published Feb. 2, 2019)

A once famous skating rink in now abandoned near Rouge Park.

29 – Spadina (Published Dec. 27, 2014)

A famous mansion beside Casa Loma.

28 – The Ridgetown – Port Credit (Published May 25, 2015)

The story of the ship at the end of the break wall in Port Credit.

27 – Raymore Drive (Published Jun. 15, 2014)

This community was washed away by hurricane Hazel.

26 – The Devil’s Pulpit (Published Jun. 12, 2015)

One of the most scenic hikes in the Caledon area.

25 – London Asylum For The Insane (Published Jun. 22, 2019)

The London Asylum for the Insane opened in November of 1870. 

24 – Mullet Creek’s Secret Waterfalls (Published Oct. 18, 2015)

This beautiful little spot in Mississauga has lately been posted as No Trespassing, a real shame.

23 – Half-Mile Bridge (Published Aug. 17, 2014)

The Don River and DVP both pass under this unused rail corridor which was opened in 1891.

22 – Cedarvale Park (Published Jul. 27, 2019)

Three people were killed and thirty taken to the hospital in 1995 in Toronto’s worst subway accident with rescue operations being conducted in this city park.

21 – The Vandalized Memorial – Taras Shevchenko Museum (Published Dec. 15, 2015)

This memorial to Ukrainian hero Taras Shevchenko was vandalized several times and now is a housing development.

20 – Palermo – Ghost Towns of the GTA (Published Nov. 29, 2017)

Palermo still has several original structures but is threatened with urban sprawl.

19 – River and Ruin Side Trail (Published Aug. 19, 2017)

Unfortunately, someone decided to knock this old stone house over and ruined the famous ruins.

18 – Country Hospital For Sick Children (Published Oct. 27, 2016)

In 1928 the Hospital For Sick Children opened a building in the country for the care of children and the building still stands amongst the abandoned grounds.

17 – Scarborough’s Most Eccentric Home (Published Nov. 13, 2021)

One man’s collection of architectural styles all mixed together makes this a very unique home.

16 – Lotten – Cawthra Estate Mississauga (Published Feb. 4, 2016)

This beautiful house stands in the forests surrounding the old Cawthra estate.

15 – Omagh – Ghost Towns of the GTA (Published Jan. 23, 2021)

Omagh is outside of Milton and seems to have escaped urban spawl up to now.

14 – Graydon Hall (Published Jan. 12, 2015)

Apartment buildings surround the mansion and its gardens.

13 – Camp 20 – Bowmanville (Published Apr. 7, 2018)

These buildings have been a school as well as a POW camp for German prisoners during WW2.

12 – The Longhouse People of Crawford Lake (Published Nov. 24, 2015)

Several longhouses have been reconstructed at Crawford lake where an indigenous village once stood.

11 – Gates Gully – Scarborough (Published May 8, 2016)

Gates Gully cuts through the Scarborough Bluffs and holds tales of hidden treasure and sunken ships.

10 – Ringwood – Ghost Towns of the GTA (Published Feb 3, 2018)

Ringwood is near Markham but still has much of its small town architecture intact.

9 – Camp Calydor – Gravenhurst German POW Camp Published Aug. 6, 2015)

Little remains of the German POW camp in Gravenhurst as most of it lies under a subdivision now.

8 – Mimico Branch Asylum (Published Jan. 2, 2017)

Many of Toronto’s mental patients were housed here between 1890 and 1979.

7 – Toronto’s Abandoned Roads Published Apr. 9, 2017)

There are several abandoned roads within Toronto and this post shows you where to find them.

6 – Moccasin Trail Park (Published May 7, 2018)

This park features the famous Rainbow Tunnel that can be seen from the Don Valley Parkway.

5 – Merriton Tunnel (Blue Ghost Tunnel) (Published Feb. 28, 2018)

This abandoned railway tunnel was built under the third Welland Canal.

4 – Bond Lake (Published Sep. 13, 2016)

Bond lake once hosted a theme park and an electric railway station.

3 – The Gap (Published Nov. 16, 2016)

A gap in the escarpment is crossed by the Bruce Tail.

2 – Rice Lake’s Sunken Railway (Published Jul 26, 2016)

A railway used to run straight across Rice Lake and is still just below the surface.

1 – Newmarket Ghost Canal (Published Jun. 25, 2015)

The remains of a failed attempt to build a canal from Lake Simcoe to New Market

So, which one is first on you list now? Have fun and stay safe.

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also, look for us on Instagram

Chisholm Mills – Roslin

Sunday, April 17, 2022

One of the most scenic mills in Southern Ontario is the Chisholm Mill in Roslin. As my work now carries me into this part of the province on a regular basis I look forward to exploring some of the local sights and sharing them with everyone. Perhaps, over time, we’ll be able to provide a little more content for those who live “around the GTA”.

The original mills on the Moira River in Roslin were known as Shipman’s Flour and Saw Mill and were purchased in 1857 by William Fraser Chisholm. They have been in operation ever since and carry on today as Chisholm Lumber. The archive picture below was likely taken in the 1920s or 1930s based on the fact that the old truss bridge is in still place and the original frame mill buildings are present.

Six generations of the Chisholm family have operated the mill since it was renamed after them. Originally, the saw mill was kept in operation cutting logs from the Chisholm forests upstream. They would cut logs on their own property and then float them down the Moira River to the saw mill.

A fire broke out in the feed mill in 1944 which destroyed the building. The mill and the dam were both rebuilt with the feed mill getting a small grain elevator. The archive photo below shows the work crew standing on the old iron truss bridge that was built in the 1920s. Framing is in place for the dam and the foundations for the replacement mill are seen on the left of the picture.

The dam and the bridge have each been upgraded several times. The first dam would have been made of an earthen berm and a wooden crib. The crib would have stretched across the river and been filled with rocks and would have needed repairs annually. Some time after 1900 the dam was replaced with a concrete one that requires much less maintenance and repairs. Earlier bridges were replaced with an iron bowstring arch bridge around 1900. A steel truss bridge was built in the 1920s which lasted for about 60 years. In the 1980s a concrete bridge was constructed and it continues to serve the mill and community. The picture below shows how the walls of the feed mill form part of the dam structure.

The feed mill has closed but an active lumber mill continues to operate on the site covering several acres behind the buildings pictured below.

The Moira River was in flood mode the day I stopped for these pictures and its easy to see how it could be quite dangerous in the Spring and after major rain storms.

The Chisholm family has preserved many antique pieces of equipment as well as hundreds of paintings and photographs dating back to around 1900. The three archive photos in this story were taken from their website where many others can be found. The image below is fairly recent but was taken at at time when the mill pond was drained and the back side of the dam was exposed.

The feed mill building is starting to show signs of weather damage and some holes are appearing in the roof of the building. The Chisholms are proud of their heritage and it’s possible that they will do what is necessary to keep the buildings from falling into complete disrepair so that they don’t become lost.

A series of old metal signs on the side of the building have been preserved as a record of the history of grinding and blending feed for the use of the local farming community. The Chisholm family has preserved the inner workings of the mill and part of the turbine system can be seen through the opening in the wall. The concrete wall of the building is showing the results of nearly 80 years of water and ice damage.

There is another sign on the building, this one warning swimmers to stay away. I notice that it has been moved since 2017 and it can be seen on the side of the mill in the archive picture above where the mill pond is drained. It is actually no longer beside the dam but the message is just as important.

This historic mill makes a great place to take a picture or sit and paint one, and it’s a beautiful scene in all four seasons.

While you’re in the area you can check out the Tiny Tweed Jail, which they claim as the smallest in Canada.

Google Maps Link: Chisholm Mills

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also, look for us on Instagram

Andrew Robertson House – 1851

Sunday, April 10, 2022

On the western corner of Mississauga stands a 171 year-old historical home that is working on becoming history. The house is located on the south half of lot 35 concession 3 in South Toronto Township which is now part of Mississauga. The lot was deeded to Henry Grant in 1808 when he met the land grant responsibilities and gained ownership of the 200 acre lot. It has a broken front, which means that it borders on the lake and there is not a straight line along the southern side of the lot. In 1851 the lot was split and sold in two halves. David Hammond had the northern section while Andrew Robertson bought the south portion including the lake frontage. The lot can be seen on the 1877 County Atlas below where it is outlined on green. The house we’re about to look at is circled in green.

In 1851 Robertson built his family home in a grand style. While many of Ontario’s farmers in this era were building small homes, this one was a sprawling mansion by comparison. The house faces the lake and featured a trio of gables on the south elevation which each has extensive gingerbread bargeboards. Each second floor window features a triangular section on the top which is outlined by the brick pattern. This is neither the rounded arch favoured by the Italianate (1840-1890) or the pointed arch of Gothic Revival (1830-1890) architecture, but something less common.

The view facing Winston Churchill Blvd also features three gables with gingerbread trim and triangular points above the second floor windows. The Robertson family had hired hands to assist with the farm and they lived in the section above the rear stairs. The stories suggest that the house was haunted with a spirit that lived in the storage space below the front stairs. When the ghost would act up, the hired hands would hide in their section at the back of the house.

In 1942 57 acres of the property was sold to William Lightfoot who passed it on to his daughter and her husband, Edward and Marguerite Abbs. They farmed it until April 24, 1970 when they sold it to Hydro who planned to build the Clarkson Generating Station. The station was never built and the house and barn were rented until at least 2001 when the house was given an heritage designation. Since then it has been left to rot and the roof is ready to fall into the structure.

The barn that was also built in 1851 is the only building left on site that appears to still be in good shape. The farm won an award in the early 1900’s as a Gold Medal Farm but the award winning structures are almost all in poor shape. Like the house, it has a historical designation with the city of Mississauga.

The red drive shed in front of the barn also has problems with the roof. Once the interior of the building is opened up to snow and rain it doesn’t last very long. The tin roof on the barn looks to be its saving grace.

A third building to the rear of the house also has the roof caving in. It’s interesting that this little cottage has a chimney as well as a TV antenna. The property is marked “No Trespassing” at the front gate and so all of these shots are taken from the road. This building must have served as a residence for a farm hand.

Two green sheds a little north of the house are also suffering from roof rot. All of the neighboring farms have either been developed or are in the process of becoming housing. When this property succumbs to the developers these sheds will disappear without a second thought.

There’s a couple more sheds along the property line but they have already collapsed into themselves.

While the buildings on the property are in various states of decay the willow trees are showing the yellow that indicates they are starting to respond to the springtime conditions. At least there’s still some signs of life on the old award winning farm.

When the Robertson house was built it faced the lake and likely had a very lovely view of the lake across Lakeshore Road. In 1938 Charles Powell Bell and his wife Kathleen Harding moved into their estate home near the mouth of Joshua Creek. We’ve featured the story of this mansion in our Joshua Creek post and featured a picture of the home as seen from the lake. This is the view from Lakeshore Road.

The Andrew Robertson house is just up the street from Lakeside Park which has a unique red beach. You can check it out while you’re in the area or look at pictures and read the story at the link.

Related stories: Lakeside Park, Joshua Creek

Google maps link: Robertson House

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also, look for us on Instagram

Mongolia – Ghost Towns of the GTA

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Mongolia was a community that grew around the modern intersection of Elgin Mills Road and Reesor Road. Peter De Guere arrived in 1801 and took the north west corner on lot 26. The adjoining lots were soon taken up as people cleared land for farming. As the community grew it got a tavern in 1841 and took on the name California Corners. It was never more than a farming community with a school, Methodist Church, and a Temperance Hall beside the blacksmiths shop. The rural atmosphere was lost in 1972 when the federal government decided that the flat land north of Pickering would make a good site for a future airport. They expropriated the entire town and then never built the airport. Studies show it won’t ever be needed and slowly the government is giving sections of the airport lands to help create Rouge National Urban Park. This is a far better use for the land, although it could still be productive farm land again. To explore and record what remains before it is lost we parked at the trail parking lot on the south east corner of the intersection. From there you can walk up or down Reesor Road to view the old homes or follow the trail to the historic Boyles Pioneer Cemetery. We did both. The 1877 county atlas section below shows many of the homes that still remain as well as the trail to the cemetery, which is marked with a star.

It was in 1853 that James Holden bought the corner of David Nightswanders property and the following year he opened a general store which he operated until 1861. When Nightswander got a post office for the town in 1864 he was told the name California Corners could not be used and so Mongolia was chosen from a list of approved names. A house was added beside the store in about 1870 but the store and post office burned down in 1920, leaving just the house behind. It is now being used as an information centre for Rouge National Urban Park and is one of the few homes from Mongolia that is still in great condition.

Martin Noble built this farm house in1840 and like several other older homes in the community it has been covered in white siding. I wonder if it was built of field stone like so many of the local homes were in the mid 1800s. I think we’ll be able to find out soon as the roof is caving in on this home in spite of it being on the heritage listing for Markham. Mongolia appears to be falling victim to neglect like so many of the heritage properties in the Pickering Airport Lands. It’s interesting that a designated home can’t have unapproved alterations because they can detract from the heritage properties that set it aside for preservation. However, there’s no provision in the listing to require a property to be maintained even though lack of maintenance is seriously detracting from the heritage value of these buildings.

The fields and forests around Mongolia are littered with the neglected dreams of the former inhabitants. Many out buildings, barns and drive sheds remain as well as several abandoned cars and at least a couple of boats. Now that this section of the former airport lands has been designated as part of Rouge National Urban Park it may be that some of this will be demolished while the rest is left to vanish into the new forest as it regrows across the farm fields.

The James Collins house was built in 1850 and was also subjected to white siding which likely hides a lovely brick or stone home on its stone foundation. The entire back side of this house is missing the roof and it won’t be long before this heritage designated home is lost forever.

The drive shed on the property is still in very good condition even though it may have been 50 years since the farm was active.

Another heritage property is the David Burke house from 1850. This home still looks pretty solid but has had all the interior walls stripped down to just the framing. One noticeable alteration to the home is the ground floor windows which have been replaced with smaller ones. Buff coloured bricks have been used to fill in the openings around the smaller windows which hides the alteration from a casual glance.

The Adam Betz house stands on the south west corner lot as it has done since 1851. Another one of the white siding victims in town, it stands an a thick stone foundation that may indicate another beautiful stone house.

Henry Barkey took over the North East corner of the intersection from Jacob Barkey in 1832 and lived near the centre of the lot. In 1860 a blacksmith shop was built near the corner of the intersection and was rented by George Calvert who appears in the 1861 census and the following couple as well.

The tenant in the house next door was usually the blacksmith although after the blacksmith shop closed it was rented to various people until it was taken over for the airport. It still appears to be lived in under a rental arrangement with the government.

School section #22 originally occupied a frame building on the east side of Reesor Road but in 1882 a new brick school house was opened across the street. When the school was closed the building was renovated and continues to serve as a residence.

There is a new trail that leads west from the parking lot and then turns south. It currently runs for only a little more than a kilometre but will eventually connect to a new parking lot on Major Mackenzie Drive. If you keep your eyes open you will find a 1965 Plymouth Fury which has obviously been parked here for quite some time. The Fury model was first released for the 1956 model year and was updated to its fourth generation for 1965.

The Methodist church stood north of the main intersection but its burial grounds were on the property of John Boyles. Located on a small plateau overlooking the river, it stands about 400 meters from the road. The stones have been gathered up and placed into an unusual ground level cairn with the stones lying flat. They may be more subject to the weather than they would be in a more common vertical presentation. There are at least 47 burials commemorated in this cairn and one additional one from 2002 that has a grave marker beside it. Please note that the trail ends before the cemetery and it is not part of the trail. If you choose to visit, please do so respectfully.

The gravestones in this cairn mark the lives of many of the early families in the area. John Boyles was the property owner and he died June 23, 1885 at the age of 91 and is buried here. Catherine Kester died on Sept. 12, 1816 in her 60th year and her headstone is one of the earliest that I’ve photographed anywhere in the GTA.

We previously looked at Brougham, which is another one of the Pickering Airport Lands ghost towns, which has also been left to rot and be demolished. Mongolia has a lot of heritage designated buildings that won’t be around in another ten years because they’re already becoming structurally unsound.

Related stories: For more information about the Pickering Airport check out our post Brougham – Ghost Towns of the GTA.

Google Maps Link: Mongolia

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta

Also, look for us on Instagram

Boynton House – Richmond Green

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Richmond Green is the largest park in Richmond Hill and is located at the modern intersection of Elgin Mills Road and Leslie Street. When the land was surveyed for a farm lot it was numbered 26 and extended from East York Line (Bayview Avenue) to Leslie and comprised 200 acres of forest. The original land grant was given to Peter Gotfried Phillipson in 1816 but as soon as he had gained ownership he sold it to John Doner. It was sold several times and finally in the 1840’s the east half and the west half were each sold as separate 100 acre lots. Thomas Fenby Boynton bought the east half lot in 1874 and he is shown as the owner in the section of the 1977 County Altas map shown below.

The original log home on the property was replaced the following year with the present brick home. It was a typical three-bay, storey and a half house in red brick. The trim work was done in buff brick giving the home a distinctive look. In the early 1900s Thomas Edward Boynton added the front porch in the Edwardian Classical style that was popular after 1910.

A small amount of gingerbread adorns the front gable over the gothic window which is accented by the use of buff coloured bricks. The window has fine pattern of glazing which creates additional gothic arches in the glass.

The Town of Richmond Hill bought the Boynton farm in 1974 to create a new park and fairgrounds. Initially, the area around the barn was used for a recycling depot for the town. The Spring Fair had been a tradition in Richmond Hill since 1849 and in 1985 the new park was ready to welcome its first Spring Fair. However, as Richmond Hill expanded over the agricultural lands around it the Spring Fair became obsolete and the last one was held in 1996. In 1985 Richmond Green also became home to the first indoor soccer fields in Canada. The picture below shows how the house has been expanded on the back where the patterned brickwork wasn’t continued.

The barn is long gone but the silo remains. The use of concrete blocks identifies it as having been built in the early 20th century when it would have been used to store feed for the farm animals. There is still a barn and paddock on site as well as a host of other features including an in-line skate trail that is turned into a skating trail in the winter. There are also soccer fields, ball diamonds, bocce courts, outdoor basketball courts and two ice rinks as well as trails throughout the grounds.

The Canadian Northern Railway (CNO) arrived in Richmond Hill in 1906 and built a station, freight shed and water tower. The line linked Toronto with Northern Ontario and was one of the railway lines amalgamated to form the Canadian National Railway (CNR) in 1918. The standard design for CNO stations involved having a waiting room on one end and a freight area on the other. The station master had the section in the middle. The post card below shows the station in 1906 and was taken from The Richmond Hill Archives.

As diesel replaced steam in the 1950s, so personal automobiles replaced trains as a means of transportation. The water tower became obsolete and was removed and by 1968 there wasn’t enough passenger traffic to keep the station open.

In 1979 the station was moved to the soccer fields at Richmond Green and is now used as a clubhouse by The Richmond Hill Soccer Club.

The park hosts several seasonal events including Canada Day, a ribfest and antique shows making it a place worth visiting several times.

Related Stories: Victoria Square

Google Maps Link: Richmond Green

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

Also, look for us on Instagram

Pontypool Grain Elevator

Sunday, March 20, 2022

When we think of grain elevators an image of tall wooden sentinels that can be seen for many kilometers across the prairies likely comes to mind. Grain elevators came to symbolize a community and the agricultural wealth it could boast of, with some towns have four or five lined up along the tracks. While they commonly dotted the prairies every 10 – 12 kilometers, they were also found in Ontario. They were developed to solve a logistical problem of getting grain to market. In the early days of railway, farmers would load their grain into two bushel sacks and transport it to the closest train station. There, they would take it to the platform and dump the sacks into waiting boxcars. This was a lengthy and back breaking process and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) started to demand vertical warehouses for loading boxcars. These buildings had a long vertical “leg” with a drive belt wrapped around it. To this belt was attached cups that were used to elevate the grain and store it in large vertical bins.

The first grain elevator on the Canadian prairies was developed in Niverville, Manitoba in 1879 and was basically a grain silo. The more traditional shape started to appear in 1881 in the form of 25,000 bushel elevators. The CPR began to offer free land along their rail lines to allow the construction of standard size elevators. The picture below shows the grain elevator in Pontypool, Ontario, one of only two free-standing elevators remaining in the province. Other elevators exist as part of mills or other larger feed operations such as the one at Chalmers Milling Co. in Toronto. The Pontypool one illustrates the basic shape of the elevator.

A couple of companies sprang up to fill the contracts building the elevators with the National Elevator Company getting the contract along CPR lines while Seare Grain Company built along the Canadian Northern Railway and Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Farmer and grain merchants came to suspect collusion between the railways and the elevator construction companies and so they began to form unions and pools to build their own elevators. In 1906 the Grain Growers Grain Company began to operate in Alberta with others following in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Elevators were made with a sturdy wooden crib built of 2 by 8 boards that then had 2 by 6 inch ones stacked up to form the walls and internal bins. The outside would be covered with a wooden veneer which was originally painted red if along a CPR line. Wheat can weigh up to 60 pounds per bushel which means that a 25,000 bushel elevator could have 1.5 million pounds (680,000 kgs) of weight in it. This puts a lot of lateral pressure on the walls. Eventually, elevators that would hold 60,000 bushels were constructed. All elevators, regardless of size, had three basic elements. The elevator, the driveway and the office/engine room. A truck or wagon of grain would be driven onto a scale and weighed and the grain sampled to see what quality it was. It would then be dumped through the floor into the pit where it would be taken up the leg and poured into the correct storage bin. The empty truck would then be weighed again and the amount of grain deposited would be calculated from the weight difference. When it was time to load a train the appropriate grain would be pumped into the back hopper and then down a spout into the waiting boxcar. The illustration below was taken from The Canadian Encyclopedia and shows the inner workings of a grain elevator.

The CPR built a line through Pontypool in the 1880s which opened up the Toronto market to local farmers. In 1894 a grain elevator was built and before long there were two elevators serving the community of about 600 residents. Both of these were gone by 1918 and a new one was constructed for the local farmers to store their barley, oats and wheat before shipping it to market. As transportation systems improved the elevator became less important and by the 1970s it was closed. It sat abandoned for decades and was in a such a state of deterioration that the CPR considered demolishing it. Instead, they donated it to a group of volunteers known as the Friends of Pontypool Grain Elevator with the intention that it be preserved. One of the conditions was that the City of Kawartha Lakes take out the insurance on the property. With this arranged, the elevator has been given a new shingle veneer and had the power upgraded to meet current standards. Future plans include an information centre and place to remember Jewish heritage in the area. When Sunnyside Beach and other places in Toronto posted signs such as “No dogs or Jews”, Pontypool opened their doors to Jewish people who were looking to get out of the city. They came between the 1920s and 1950s and turned the local economy into a Jewish tourist industry camping and building cottages around one of the lakes in town.

We have featured several failed heritage preservation stories and its nice to have one that is such a success to report on. There is a small information board at the grain elevator that shows the former train station whose foundation can still be located in the trees with its tracks in place. If exploring looking for this, please bear in mind that this is a functioning line of the CPR and crossing it could be considered to be trespassing. Accessing it from a street on the other side of the tracks might be another story though.

There’s also an historic picture that shows the two earlier grain elevators in Pontypool as well as many other photos depicting life in town in an earlier era.

This visit to Pontypool was just a quick stop on the way past so that I could check out a grain elevator that I spotted from Highway 35. There’s a lot of interesting history and architecture in town if you have the time to explore.

Related stories: Chalmers Milling Co., Sunnyside Beach

Google Maps Link: Pontypool