Tag Archives: Hole In The Wall

Elora Gorge

September, 22, 2018

Summer holidays in September give one the opportunity to visit places that are just outside of the range of a normal weekend.  Elora is one of those places and so off we went.  The town of Elora was founded as Irvine Settlement in 1832 but changed the name to Elora when the first post office was established in 1839.  Like Saint Mary’s, Elora is a town of stone buildings, much of the materials were extracted from the Elora Quarry.  The Quarry is now a swimming area managed by the Elora Gorge Park and one fee allows access to both parks.  Unfortunately, at this time of year the swimming area is closed and the quarry property is marked as No Trespassing.

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After being unable to visit the quarry we parked in the large town lot behind Ross Street.  The local foundry business was established in 1848 and rented out to several entrepreneurs who repaired anything mechanical or made of metal for the community.  The operation is most famously known as The Potter & Matheison Foundry.  Later, nuts and bolts as well as saws and other implements were made here.  This building is a fine example of restoration and we look forward to seeing what is done with the building next door.

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The building that is locally known as The Kiddie Kar Factory was built in 1873 following a fire at the site.  At the time it was known as The Elora Foundry and Agricultural Works.  In 1916 John Mundell purchased the rights to the Kiddie Kar which was a wooden tricycle.  He bought the old Potter foundry to use as a production factory.  The plan for redevelopment of the south side of the river calls for the development of condominiums and a hotel.  The old Kiddie Kar Factory is scheduled to be restored and included in the lobby of the condominium.

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Captain William Gilkinson, who founded the town, made plans for a sawmill as soon as he had purchased his property.  Three years later it was destroyed by a fire but it was rebuilt in 1839.  In 1854 the structure was rebuilt in stone but was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1859, 1866 and 1870.  The mill operated under many owners for the next 100 years but by 1974 it was ready to be converted into a 5-star hotel.  This was closed in 2010 but a new hotel development in 2018 has brought life back into the building.  It is one of the few remaining 5-story mills in Ontario.

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All that remains of The Elora Furniture Company is the shell of the building they developed in 1910.  The site dates back to the 1850’s and had several uses and several fires as well including those of 1886 and 1896.  By the 1920’s the factory was turning out bedsteads and wooden furniture frames with a staff of over 40 people.  Much of their production was shipped unfinished to upholstery shops who completed them to the specification of the customers.

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A trail leads from behind the old industrial section of Elora and into the Elora Gorge Park from the back entrance.  Three kilometres of trails wind through the park offering spectacular views of the gorge.  Limestone cliffs rise 22-metres from the river to the table lands above.

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A stairway allows you to pass through a karst cave where you can reach a platform halfway down the side of the cliff face.  This cave is known as the hole in the wall.  A second cave is seen on the left in the picture below but it can’t be accessed safely.  From here you have to climb the stairs back to the top of the ravine to continue downstream.

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There were several species of mushrooms that we hadn’t seen so far this season. Birch Polypores are quite distinctive among these shelf fungi.  The tree below shows them in several stages of development, from a small bud to a fully formed mushroom.  The underside has a lip around the outer edge.  This polypore has had several uses over the years including being used as a razor strope, an anesthetic and to keep fires burning.

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Following the trail leads to a bridge where you can cross the river at the height of the gorge.  There is also a low level bridge which was closed leading to a temporary closure of most of the campsites on the north side of the river.  This bridge gives a nice view up and down the river which will be interesting as the fall colours come on.

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The park promotes tubbing down the Grand River through the ravine.  There is a 2 kilometre course with specified entry and exit points.  The stairs that access the river at the entry point have a crank at the top to hoist the stairs for the winter.  This keeps the winter ice from demolishing them.

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There is room to follow the shore upstream a short distance when the water isn’t too high.  This provides some nice views of the gorge from the lower perspective.  People use the trails and stairs to access the river for fishing purposes.  The area is known for brown trout but smallmouth bass, carp, northern pike and walleye are also caught.

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We followed the north side of the river until we found ourselves back in town.  Elora has much of their early heritage preserved in the many stone buildings that remain in town.  One building of interest is the drill shed which was built in 1865.  During the 1860’s the United States was fighting their civil war and British North America started to fear for their defense and so the strength of local militias was increased.  This led to the construction of drill sheds in which to train the volunteers.  Most of these have been destroyed but this rare one still survives and today serves as a liquor store with an unusually beautiful interior.

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Just upstream from this building is a foot bridge and another dam.  A nice old stone raceway leads from the pond behind the dam.

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Elora is a remarkably well preserved community that still displays much of the early architecture due to the fact that it was built of stone and didn’t fall prey to fire.

While in the area, why not visit the Shand Dam?

Google Maps Link: Elora Gorge

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Limehouse

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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