Linda F., Queen's Square | May 23, 2018
Some buildings and structures in Cambridge haven’t been restored, but there is something left to remind us of what used to be there. It’s always good to be reminded of the history and sometimes the transformation of something old into something new can be quite satisfying, as in the Rails to Trails scenario. Other times, it can make preservationists bitter: why couldn’t the entire structure have been saved? Have a look at these examples and see if you can add some more to the list.
In this case, just a small part of the building was saved and moved to another location. The Gore Block, former head office of the Gore Mutual Insurance Company, was designed by Fred Mellish and officially opened in January 1895. It stood at the northeast corner of Main Street and Ainslie where the present Bank of Nova Scotia stands. Most of the Gore building was demolished in 1971 but the cupola was transported to Centennial Park.
Coloured postcard photo of the Gore Building about 1910. (Courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)
The removal of the cupola from the Gore Building in 1971. (Courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)
Centennial Park at sunset with the Gore cupola, 1987. (Courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)
Industrial Remnants Along the Living Levee: Mill Race Park & Barradell’s Loft
Following the flood of May 1974, the City of Cambridge and the Grand River Conservation Authority began developing a flood protection system. This resulted in the demolition of some factories that lined the river, while concrete flood walls and earth berms were created along the riverbank. Mill Race Park, site of the former Turnbull Woollen Mill, and the outlook at Barradell’s Loft which features two wooden patterns like those that would have been manufactured for the Canadian Machine Corporation plant across the street, were designed to be reminders of the industrial architecture that had earned Galt the nickname as the “Manchester of Canada.”
Turnbull Woollen Mill as it was about 1976, prior to the creation of Mill Race Park. (Courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)
The demolition of one of the buildings at the Sprinco site that was cleared c1984 to make way for Barradell’s Loft Park. (Courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)
The coming of the railway was a major development all over the world, including southwestern Ontario. These bridge piers south of the Main Street Bridge are all that’s left of a bridge built in 1912 by the Galt, Preston, Hespeler Railway (later the Canadian Pacific Electric Lines). It was strictly for freight, built to serve the industries on the west side of the river, principally the Babcock & Wilcox foundry, and the line ended at the Canadian General Tower and Sturtevant/Westinghouse. By the late 1950s, service was only as required by the customers, which might mean once or twice a week at the most. Diesel engines were used after the electric operation of the GRR & LE&N ended on October 1st 1961. The bridge was condemned in 1963, the steelwork likely removed soon after.
These piers are all that remain of the West Side Spur, a freight line over the Grand River to industries such as Babcock and Wilcox. A map in George Roth’s book Steel Wheels along the Grand shows how industrialized the area around the West Side spur was in 1959, and also shows the sharp corner the rail track took around Babcock & Wilcox around Glebe Street. What the map can’t convey is how steep the slope is.
Railways Into Trails
The Cambridge to Paris Rail line was one of the first Ontario abandoned rail lines to be converted into a trail when it opened in 1994. The trail follows the line of the Lake Erie and Northern Railway, one of the last electric railways to be built in Ontario. The principal station at Preston has now disappeared, but the trails provide a remaining trace of where trains once travelled.
The Preston station of the Lake Erie and Northern Railway. (Courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)
The Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail.
Jacob Hespeler’s Grist Mill
This building on King Street has been many things, but it began life c 1839 as Jacob Hespeler’s grist mill and is one of Cambridge’s earliest manufacturing buildings. It later became the Canadian Office and School Furniture building as seen in this photograph taken about 1910, but it also housed a carriage works, the Crown Furniture Company, the Schmidt Furniture Company, and the Hespeler Furniture Company. In 1986 the building was remodelled. The street façade was kept, but the original back portion was reconfigured to accommodate commercial use, where Giant Tiger is now located.
The Preston Canadian Office and School Furniture building on King Street, c1910. (Courtesy of the City of Cambridge Archives)
Silknit Mill at Hespeler
The first woolen mill at the Silknit site on Queen’s Street was built in 1864. It became Dominion Woollens and Worsted Ltd and was the largest mill in the British Empire, certainly the largest in Canada. After the Second World War, the plant met with hard times. It couldn’t compete with cheap imported fabrics, and following a succession of bankruptcies, a deal to convert the building into apartments fell through. A fire was accidentally set in 1995 that destroyed much of the building, including the original stone portion that was designated as a heritage building. Remnants of the building remain, possibly because of contamination issues.
Silknit Mill, Hespeler (Photo by Scott Huether of the Cambridge Times, Sept. 30 1995)
If you consider architecture as landscape, you might also consider the quarry near the Riverbluffs Park as half-preserved. Many of the buildings in Cambridge are built with the fossil-filled local limestone. The quarry just north of the Parkhill bridge was likely used for buildings, but in the 1920s the quarry was used for crushed limestone for roads. The quarry closed in 1935 as the use of heavier vehicles and cars made gravel the preferred road material.