Saturday, July 25, 2020
Goldie’s Mill ruins in Guelph are part of a legacy that goes back to 1827 when David Gilkison built a sawmill on this site beside the Speed River. Two doctors built a grist mill named Wellington Mills in 1845 but W. Clark and H. Orton lost their mill to a fire just five years later. The mill was rebuilt in stone and given a new name, The People’s Mills. After this new building burned in 1864 the land was bought by James Goldie. He expanded the mill and completed a new stone building in 1866. The Wellington Archives post card below shows the mill as it appeared in the early 1890’s.
The Goldie family continued to operate and expand the mills until 1918 when they sold the operation. It continued as a mill until the spring of 1929 when a flood washed out the dam. The building was once again destroyed by fire in 1953 and has been left as a ruin ever since. The picture below shows part of one wall. The limestone that was used in the construction was all quarried and dressed on the site. The masonry around the windows is quite impressive.
Over the years the site added a cooperage to make barrels to ship the ground flour in as Goldie’s Mill became one of the primary producers in the area. James Goldie was well respected and even served as the President of the Canadian Millers’ Association. A foundry, tannery, piggery and distillery were all part of Goldie’s operations over the years.
Industrial uses over the years have left the soils on the site with contamination and the work of the weather and the Speed River have created several sink holes. For this reason the city decided to fence the site to keep the public out while they did further assessments. It was found the most of the chemical waste on the mill site was about 0.75 metres below the surface but was somewhat less in some places. The remediation plan includes adding a membrane where the soil is thin and then new soil and mulch. This will fix the sink holes and eliminate any human impacts from the chemicals in the soil. It is expected that the soil and sink hole repairs will cost $450,000.
The building is also being stabilized and repaired so that it will be safe to use by the public. The site has become popular for weddings which are expected to resume in the park in 2021 if the work is completed by then and there are no other delays.
There are ruins on both sides of the Speed River and large sections of foundations are buried along the north and northwest sides of the building.
The brick chimney sits on a foundation of cut limestone blocks.
The 90-foot tall chimney is part of the heritage designation and has already been restored. There is a plan to relocate a pair of Chimney Swifts to take up residence on Goldie Mill chimney.
The remnants of the mill dam are in the river just upstream from the mill ruins. The previous dam and mill pond were much larger than those left today.
Across the street from the mill is the only other piece of architecture on Cardigan Street to survive from the 1850’s. It was built in 1853 as a tavern and home for Bernard Kelly. It was the common drinking hole for workers from the mills that operated along the river. When Kelly died on 1882 James Goldie bought the place and rented it out as accommodations for some of his workers. In 1911 the old inn was once again up for sale and this time it was purchased by the Stewart family who lived there until 1988. It was eventually restored in 1996 to the original splendor.
The picture below shows Kelly’s Tavern as it appeared in 1977, prior to restoration. Notice that the door on the right has been closed and bricked in and all of the window shutters have been removed. It has since been renovated and turned into four little apartment units.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the restorations turn out and what has been done to preserve the building for future generations to enjoy.
The Rockwood Woolen Mill in Rockwood Park are also well worth a read and a visit.
Google Maps Link: Goldie Mill Guelph
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