When I first came to Canada, I used to laugh at what locals considered “historic”. These stores boasting to have been in business for a mere twenty years and these “old” buildings dating back to the 1950s didn’t exactly impress me. The apartment I grew up in in France was at least a century older!
This is where living in the “new world” takes on new meaning.
This is not to say that there aren’t interesting pieces of history in the region—Watson’s Mill is one example, and it’s actually pretty old, dating back to 1860.
Watson’s Mill can be found in Manotick, about 25 km from Ottawa. The local landmark, located on the banks of the Rideau River, on Dickinson Square, is one of the few remaining operating gristmills in Ontario and it is open to the public.
From the outside, it doesn’t seem that big. It’s a fairly non-descript limestone building facing the Rideau River and Long Island Locks.
Once you step inside, the smell of old wood is unmissable. It reminded me of many hostels in Latin America: dust, wood and humidity. Flour and feed were being milled and the old machinery—turbines, milestones, hopper, grain elevators, garner bon, bolter, seed cleaner, and feed grinder—was working all full speed, still in working order.
Like most historical locations, Watson’s Mill is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Ann Crosby Currier, the second wife of the part-time owner of the mill. I didn’t get to see the ghost but the bowels of the mill did feel creepy because of the smell of old wood, the incessant grinding noise and the darkness. It took a little while for my eyes to get used to the shadowy light and I recoiled at the sight of the many huge spider webs all around me which, in a way, was creepier than seeing a ghost!
You can see all the pictures of my travels in Ontario here.