Saturday June 20, 2015
It was a beautiful morning at 16 degrees with just a trace of clouds in the sky. We set out for the village of Limehouse which is situated on the Black Creek, a tributary of the Credit River.
The village of Limehouse started off known as Fountain Green. Limestone was easily accessed near the surface and was needed for mortar for construction materials. By 1840 there were two separate lime manufacturing sites in the village. When the Grand Trunk Railway came to town in 1856 the means of distribution came as well, and the industry expanded quickly. Soon it was employing over 100 men in a 24 hour business. The following year the town got a post office and took the name Limehouse.
The first mill in Limehouse was a saw mill built in 1820 and operated by Adam Stull. The mill was owned by several people over it’s 120 year history before finally closing in the 1940’s. The steel flume that carried water to the saw mill turbines is a later addition, likely sometime after 1900.
The earliest lime kilns were the set kilns of the 1840’s which could burn 6 to 30 tons of rock in a 7 day cycle. Lime would be added in along with wood and burned. Wood had to be added through the sides for three or four days to keep the heat up. The oven then needed a cool down period before the lime could be removed. Set kilns were often built in rows or clusters. The one pictured below is part of a row which has two larger kilns on either end and five smaller ones in between.
Blasting powder was used to break large chunks of rock out of the quarry. Around 1850 a powder house was built in a slight depression on the quarry floor. It was located here to limit the damage it would cause if there was ever an accident. The walls are made out of limestone with a plaster coating on the outside. Inside it would have had wooden shelves to store the dry powder on. The powder house had deteriorated to half it’s height but was restored in 2004.
Along the trail from the Powder House to the mill ruins grow woodland strawberries. Strawberries are members of the rose family and as such are not true berries. Wild strawberry plants have been cultivated to grow the large plants with large juicy berries that we see commercially. Wild strawberries seldom grow larger than 1 cm but they pack a lot of taste in a little bite.
In the 1860’s a new style of kiln called a draw kiln was developed that could burn 6-18 tons of limestone per day. The example in the picture below was 16 metres high and has four fireplaces on either side. It was constructed of limestone masonry with a double layer of fire brick inside. It took a day to heat the kiln up but after the interior was hot it could be run continually. Limestone was fed in from the top, which was level with the edge of the quarry. The burnt lime was removed from the bottom of the kiln. In 2009-2010 the fireplaces, where the fuel was burned, were restored but the fire brick lining from the stack of the kiln has since collapsed into them. The rest of the kiln is braced to prevent further collapse until it can also be restored.
Extensive ruins of the Lime-Mill cross the Black Creek just below the old mill pond. The lime mill ground lime in much the same way a grist mill ground grain. This arch is an original feature of the mill race. Older photos show at least two more rows on the top. The Halton Hills Branch of the Architectural Conservancy Ontario asks that people please keep clear of the arch to assist in it’s preservation.
The Widow Skimmer is a species of dragonfly found in Ontario. The adult female has a yellow striped body and both sexes have black bands on the wings. A dragonfly can be distinguished from a damselfly because it sits at rest with it’s wings spread open.
In 1917 the Toronto Suburban Railway (TSR) came through Limehouse on the way to Guelph. It passed over the mill pond and crossed the 5th line where there was a small station. The railway was closed in 1931 and the railway pilings remaining in the former mill pond are about all that remains.
Limehouse has a series of caves and cracks that have become known as the Hole In The Wall. We climbed in and out of them in several places.
An upper mill stone, also known as a runner stone lays face down along the trail just beyond the mill ruins. This stone was turned using the iron hook in the middle.
The coach house behind the church likely dates to 1876 like the church building it served. Parking has always been a problem and is made even worse when your vehicle is a horse.
The Methodist Episcopal Church in front of the coach house was built in 1876. I can find no explanation for the word Horeb and the front of the church. The Methodist congregation had been meeting in the Limehouse Presbyterian church which also housed the Episcopalian congregation before they moved into their own building. The Presbyterian church was frequently referred to as the Limehouse Union Church, much like the chapel in Dixie. We didn’t stop to photograph the 1861 Presbyterian church on the edge of town because of a two car crash in front of it’s cemetery. I was in less of a hurry to get in than they were, or so it seemed.
Limehouse had three hotels in it’s heyday. The one in the picture below belonged to Miles Mcdonald who was a local carpenter. He also built the Prebyterian church just up the street, helping it to open debt free in October 1861.
The fire of 1893 that destroyed the woolen mill and blanket factory as well as a paint factory gave the town a major setback. Lack of insurance led to the industries never being rebuilt. The quarry was getting closer to the homes in town and so by 1915 the lime industry was closed down. A major industrial hub was left to quietly decay. The Credit Valley Conservation Authority purchased the area in 1967. Since then they have begun raising funding for restoration with some projects already complete. Interpretive signs are being added as well.
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