Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Glen Lovely

Back in May when I began this post, I had already committed lines of timeless prose onto the screen, enthusing about Glen Williams, when in mid-sentence, Blogger had one of its celebrated hiccups and I lost most of the text. Not being a person who likes to cover ground already travelled, I gave up in disgust. And I have been remiss!

This weekend we met someone (quite by chance, seated together at a joyful family wedding) who knew Glen Williams...well, who lives in GW...well, actually, someone who owns the amazing 1878 stone Beaumont Mill, a former woolen mill a kilometer north of GW and has participated in the rebirth of the village as an artists' colony. Now what are the chances of that? His mill (which we failed to visit, distracted as 'we' were by the historic streetscape) is his home, and antique shop. Three other c.19 mill buildings in the village house a visual arts centre for artists and artisans creating and selling their work.

Glen...the word conjures up a sheltered, quiet, picturesque refuge. Pleasant associations rise in the mind as I think of lovely glens we have visited, drawn to the promise of tranquil and lovely settings that the name conjures.
Glen Miller on the Trent...Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes... ...Glenmorangie...Glenfiddick, Glenlivet...But I digress.

A list of Ontario place names shows over 40 communities whose name contains the word Glen, some now erased from the map. New settlements established by homesick immigrants from Ireland and Scotland, I suppose, names rising from a longing for ancestral valleys never to be seen again. Then again, the settlers were a stolid lot, more likely drawn to the practical over the picturesque, finding the attraction of water coursing through narrow valleys a tempting invitation for water-powered mills, for growth, stability, prosperity. In fact, I read at that the three mills of the town served as sawmill, woolen mill, hosiery factory, flour mill, power plant and apple-processing factory. The site claims that " nearly every family in Glen Williams Ontario had a member working at one of these mills at some point." They suggest that's why the mills still stand. I guess that's how we invest in history - when it's ours.

Malcolm emailed Monday. I credit him with the motivation to revisit my photos and retrieve our delight at our visit to the glen. And he promised "a pretty good story about the house at Glen Williams". Something tells me there's another GW post in the offing.

above L and R: the mills at Glen Williams
below L - hillside neo-classical beauty
below R - historic general store and very British enclave (authentic ploughman's lunch)


  1. Glad you didn't let Blogger get the best of you on this one. We have been 'that close' to Glen Williams on old-days motorcycle trips through Belfountain on the way to Paris. It looks like a lovely place to visit.

  2. There were SO many touring bikes through the village as we walked and looked - definitely a day tripper's paradise.