Almonte Heritage Properties

Town Hall, 1885, 14 Bridge Street

Built in 1885 by George Willoughby, a local contractor, in the Romanesque style, which was popular at the time, especially for public buildings. The style with its heavily rusticated masonry, ornately carved stone ornaments, corner towers, gabled dormers, arch and spandrel motif, and deeply recessed windows and doorways made an impressive statement in commercial districts across the country, and Almonte Town Hall is no exception. By the 1880s, Almonte boasted a population of 2,700 and was known far and wide as Little Manchester for the number of mills that had sprung up along the Mississippi as it surged through the middle of town, so it wanted a town hall that reflected this prosperity.

Like many town halls in smaller communities, this was a multi-purpose building, providing space for police, public library, mayor’s office, clerk’s office, council chambers, fire hall, and auditorium. Today, all municipal services have been moved to other facilities throughout Almonte, but the auditorium remains. Known for its superb acoustics, it is a popular venue for concerts and other live performances, attracting world-class talent.

 

Mississippi Iron Works, Little Bridge Street

A foundry operated here until 1873 by John Flett (1836–1900), and later by the Young Brothers.

 

Dr. Kelly Building, 77 & 77A Little Bridge Street, 1884

Dr. John King Kelly (1874–1954) was a highly regarded physician in Almonte for 50 years, living in and operating his practice, together with his wife, a nurse, from this house on Little Bridge Street. Born and raised in Almonte, he studied medicine at McGill University, the final year confined to a wheelchair due to rheumatoid arthritis. He graduated in 1896, at the age of 22, after which he spent six months in New York taking intensive curative and restorative therapy before returning to Almonte to practise, but with a permanent deformity of his spinal column and metatarsal bones in his feet.

Dr. Kelly was the eldest of a well-known athletic family, which included Billy, a famous lacrosse player, and Dick, a well-known runner. He served as president of the Almonte Hockey Club in the 1930s and, after World War I, together with other prominent local citizens, organized a golf club, modelled on St. Andrew’s in Scotland.

In his civic capacity, he acted for many years as the town’s medical officer of health. He is memorialized, along with two other well-loved and long-serving doctors, in a mural on the north wall of The Hub.

 

North Lanark Registry Office, 1879, 125 Brougham Street

Built in 1879–80 as part of a group of stone buildings in Clyde Street area, replacing the first registry office, which had been located next door in Clement house. It served landowners in the northern half of Lanark County until the late 20th century, when a modern building was erected on the outskirts of Almonte, which eventually accommodated all of Lanark County. Built of limestone arranged in cut stone, broken course, the style is typical of most Ontario registry offices of that era. Other distinguishing features include semicircular sash windows, steel bar over the window at rear of office, a pediment front, and ornate stonework around door, all of which give it an official air.

 

St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Rectory, and Parish House, 1863, Clyde Street

These three structures along Clyde Street are joined in their association with the Anglican parish of St. Paul’s. Although all three buildings are now owned by the Diocese of Ottawa, the Parish House was not acquired by the church until 1965.

As communities, such as Almonte, began to break free of the struggles that mark early settlement, they turned their attention to building beautiful structures in which to live, work, and pray. This were considered sources of civic pride, so it is no surprise that the cornerstone for the new St. Paul’s Anglican church was laid on June 15, 1863, by the town’s mayor, Dr. Mostyn. This coincided with the Almonte parish separating itself from that of Carleton Place. Built in the gothic style, which was both modern and appropriate for Anglican houses of worship at the time, it had to be enlarged 25 years later. The masonry was done by George Willoughby, who also did the Almonte Town Hall.

In 1878, the rectory was built, also in the gothic revival style. The steeply pitched gables, pointed arch windows and strongly textured stone work complement the neighbouring church. Overlooking the Missississipi River, the layout of the rectory was adapted to take full advantage of the sloping site.

Behind the rectory is the Parish House. Although its date of construction is unknown, Scottish merchant, Matthew Anderson, bought land in 1859. This modest Ontario Cottage overlooking the Mississippi River is distinguished by a semicircular casement window in the centre gable and a verandah, which originally had decorative trim along the eaves.

The romantic setting of these three buildings typifies the Victorian desire for the picturesque, an aesthetic point of view that grew out of the English love of natural scenery. Therefore, it was important that a structure be situated to fit in with its environment, whether that environment be viewed from inside or out.

 

Post Office, 1890, 77 Mill Street

Following Confederation in 1867, it was important that the new Dominion establish a strong, visible presence across the country, one that would inspire confidence in its citizens. One of the strategies was the appointment of a Dominion Architect, who would establish high standards for government buildings in cities and towns across the country and oversee their construction. This would also set a good example for the private sector to follow. The most prolific of these men to hold the post was Thomas Fuller (1881–96), who was responsible for approximately 140 public buildings, including the Almonte Post Office. While each building was unique, displaying a considerable variety in materials and details, they tended to follow the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Almonte is a good example of the style, with its heavily rusticated masonry, an arch and spandrel motif, and deeply recessed windows and doorways.  The stone for foundation came from Beckwith Township, for the walls from Rideau Ferry, South Elmsley Twsp, and for the darker quoins, window facings and door treatments from Nova Scotia.

This building served as the community’s post office, customs and excise office until 1968, when it was replaced with a smaller, more utilitarian structure.

 

Almonte Public Utilities Building, 28 Mill Street

Daniel Shipman is generally credited as being Almonte’s first settler. He arrived in 1820 and held claim to most of the land within town boundaries on the south side of the Mississippi. That same year, he built a dwelling on this site, and a saw and grist mills in 1821 and 1822, respectively, across the way. These were followed by a distillery, all of which were called Shipman’s Mills.

 

“Little Manchester”

When David Shepherd received a Crown patent for 200 acres, in 1820, which included the waterfalls on the Mississippi River, he probably little imagined that his small saw and grist mills would spark an industrial development that would result in the emerging settlement eventually earning the nickname “Little Manchester,” in honour of the great industrial city in northern England. Many different milling operations took advantage of the tremendous flow of water that muscles its way through the centre of town, but it was textiles that put Almonte on the map. The wealth this industry generated eventually manifested itself in the form of grand homes and substantial mills, superb examples of Victorian industrial and residential design, several of which have since been designed heritage properties.

Water power, however, was not enough. In 1857, Almonte had population of only 500. Then, the Brockville & Ottawa Railway arrived which, for five years, had its northern terminus in Almonte. All of a sudden, there was a fast, affordable, and reliable way to get goods to market. This coincided with the arrival of James Rosamond of Carleton Place, who took over the site of the Ramsay Woolen Cloth Manufacturing Company, which had recently been destroyed by fire, and built a four-storey stone mill, later known as No. 2 Mill.

In 1862, James Rosamund turned over his business operations to sons Bennett and William, who doubled its plant capacity and, in 1866, admitted George Stephen of Montreal as partner; he later became Baron Mount Stephen, president of the Bank of Montreal and first president of the CPR. In 1866, the Rosamonds bought island property and built the No. 1 mill, which over the next 25 years became largest woolen factory of its kind in Canada.

Bennett Rosamond also served his community as member of Parliament for North Lanark (1892–1904) and by donating the Rosamond Memorial Hospital to the town (1909). His son, Lt. Alexander Rosamond, took over after his death, but unfortunately died while fighting overseas during the Great War, ending the Rosamond name in town.

 

Rosamond No. 1 Woolen Mill, Boiler House, Machine Shop, Dye House & Laboratory, 1 Rosamond Street at 40 Carleton Street; Rosamond No. 1 Woolen Mill office & warehouse; 3 Rosamond Street E.

In 1864, Bennett and William Rosamond, sons of James, with Montreal financier James Stephen, conceived a giant woollen manufacturing enterprise to use the river’s power. Within three years, they had built this six-storey stone mill beside No. 1 Falls. Today, it is the home of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, which through its displays presents the pursuit of excellence in worsteds and tweeds that made Almonte famous world-wide.

 

Victoria Woolen Mill (Rosamond Mill No. 2), 1857, 7 Mill Street

Named after Queen Victoria, it was the first mill to take advantage of potential power from the No. 2 falls. This marked the commencement of century of textile manufacturing in Almonte, which led to its nickname, “Little Manchester,” in the 1880s. A fire in 1922 destroyed the upper two storeys, causing them to be rebuilt. This explains the different-coloured masonry, stone for which came from local quarry.

This two sites have been designated to mark the emergence of industrial practices. Prior to this, most manufacturing had been done through cottage industry.

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The Glen, 154 Malcolm Street, 1872

This 10,000 square foot home is part of a 23-acre estate called The Glen. The house, which was originally built in 1872, was extensively renovated and enlarged in 1918 by Archibald Rosamund, a member of the prominent textile mill family. During this era, wealthy mill owners built several large homes in what has become known as the Almonte Style. The Glen, however, stands out. The inside is Edwardian, while the exterior is English Tudor Revival, which is characterised by stucco, wood beams and stone work.

 

Menzies House, 1853, 80 Queen Street

This seventeen-room house—all rooms interlinked—was built in 1853 by John Menzies, a school trustee, township councillor, and registrar for North Lanark. Of the Anglo-Norman style, more commonly found in Quebec, the lower half was originally used for a workshop/store and the upstairs for family living quarters. In the 1920s, it was threatened with demolition, but was saved by a local druggist, Mr. Patterson.

 

Wylie House, 1882, 81 Queen Street

Although built for James Dowdall, a local lawyer, it is known as the Wylie House, after its second owner, John Wylie, a wealthy mill owner, and it remained in the Wylie family for 63 years. In 1950, it became the Almonte Armouries, and during the Cold War, it became the Emergency Measures Organization Target Area Headquarters for Lanark County, complete with bomb shelter. Built of rectangular limestone blocks, it features carved quoins, a polychromatic slate roof with intricate moulding at perimeter base.

 

Almonte Fairgrounds, c. 1858, Water Street

Home of the North Lanark Agricultural Society since 1858, this is the site of Lanark County’s largest agricultural fair. The fair, itself, dates back to 1838. That year, the town fathers of Carleton Place petitioned the lieutenant governor for Upper Canada, arguing that:

. . . the establishment of a Public Fair, for the sale of goods, wares, merchandise, live stock and agricultural produce, would be of great advantage to the inhabitants of this village and neighbourhood in particular, and from its central location to the inhabitants of the District in general. Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that Your Excellency will be pleased in Her Majesty’s name, to bestow upon the inhabitants of said village a Charter for holding three Fairs in each year . . . as aforesaid, at the village of Carleton Place on the first Tuesday in the months of April, August and November and to continue until the Friday following, inclusive, under and subject to the payment of such rates, tolls and regulations as three Commissioners, to be appointed by Your Excellency, shall from time to time think proper.

Two years later, the farmers of Carleton Place and Almonte formed an agricultural exhibition society in Lanark County, which eventually became known as the North Lanark Agricultural Society and was located in Almonte. In 1846, the South Lanark Agricultural Society was formed by Perth farmers.

Not to be confused with local livestock trading fairs for cattle, sheep and poultry, which had been in existence for some time, these public fair days offered up displays of homemaking skills, farming, industry, and recreation—along with opportunities to conduct a tremendous amount of business and socializing. They also offered activities designed to improve farming methods and quality of farm products and awarded annual prizes for best farm improvements, ploughing matches, judging of agricultural products, articles of household production, farm livestock, equipment, and supplies.

The building of the Brockville & Ottawa Railway coincided with the move of the NLAS to Almonte in 1858, which helped the fair to prosper. By 1868, the Almonte fair had become two-day event, with a reported “five or six thousand people on the ground.” That year, a covered grandstand was built to seat approximately 650 people. The oldest covered grandstand in Canada, every year, from May to October, spectators have gathered here to watch horse races, judging of livestock classes, football, soccer, softball, lacrosse., firemen’s competitions, and demolition derbies. Since the 1980s, these grounds have also been the home of the North Lanark Highland Games.

 

Loyal Orange Lodge, 151 Reserve Street, Almonte

The Orange Lodge became the most conspicuous and popular fraternal society in late 19th century Lanark County, with just about every community having a chapter. The secrecy of its meetings account in part for its mass rural popularity, as well as its promise to preserve rural Protestant Ontario values in the face of an increasingly urbanizing society

The Orange Order has existed in Canada since at least 1830, although it takes its name William of Orange, who defeated James III at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Most early members were from Ireland, but later many English, Scots, and other Protestant Europeans joined the Order. The Order was the chief social institution in Upper Canada, organizing many community and benevolent activities, and helping Protestant immigrants to settle. It remained a predominant political force in southern Ontario well into the twentieth century. After 1945, the Canadian Orange Order rapidly declined in membership and political clout. The development of the welfare state made its fraternal society functions less important. A more important cause of the decline was the secularization of Canadian society: with fewer Canadians attending churches of any sort, the old division between Protestant and Catholic seemed less relevant. Its most visible presence today is the Orange Day walk, which is held on or about the 12th of July each year.

 

Pinehurst, 1890, 161 Union Street, Almonte

Built by Bennett Rosamond, president and managing director of the Rosamond Woollen Company, one of the largest woollen mills in Canada at the time. In 1884, he started to clear his land on the “Point” in a quiet and secluded area known as Brookdale Park, and by March 1890, had announced contracts for construction of Pinehurst, “the handsomest house” at the “prettiest location in town.” This was followed by a lodge (1892), a grapery (1894), and two outbuildings (1895). Later, an iron bridge was built on the road leading to Pinehurst from No. 1 Mill and a stone wall was built along the driveway.

Pinehurst was one of the highlights of Almonte, with its two falls, rocky islands and sloping lawn, and thousands of people each year took advantage of the opportunity to pass through its grounds. In winter, visitors could enjoy the toboggan slide, while in summer, a view of the falls at every turn, vines climbing over trees, fences and rocks added to the beauty of a “cool Sunday afternoon retreat.”

Although Bennett Rosamond lived alone at Pinehurst, it was the setting for many social events, some of them quite grand, including the official opening of Rosamond Memorial Hospital in 1909, when Governor General Earl Grey and his party came to lunch.

After Bennett’s death in 1909, Pinehurst and Rosamond Woolen Mill passed to his nephew Alexander. In the early 1930s, the lodge was enlarged and rebuilt by Alexander’s son-in-law, architect Gordon Hughes. Hughes also restored the old Baird mill, which was renamed the Mill of Kintail and used by Robert Tait McKenzie, the surgeon and sculptor, as a summer home. In 1922–23, before acquiring the mill, McKenzie used a stable at Pinehurst as a studio where he designed the Volunteer, the Almonte War Memorial.

In 1946, Pinehurst passed from the Rosamond family. It remains a private residence.

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