Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts

view from the hill
I've been dipping into Ron Brown's books about Ontario's train story (and its unhappy ending) recently. He's a prolific writer of ghost town books as well; I pulled my copy of Ghost Villages from the history shelf. The book fell open at Lonsdale - a ghost town?

So to verify this opinion (admittedly, it was ventured in 1978 and I have no way to check), I dived into my files and rediscovered some photos I'd taken  on a visit not long ago.

 Now, we've been there several times since, but my first visit was on a Hastings County Historical Society bus tour of Hastings County ghost towns. Later we returned to have the quiet hamlet all to ourselves, and enjoy this bucolic spot in the deep cleft of the Salmon River valley. It's fascinating to time-travel back to when it was a bustling industrial centre.

Harlan House chats with passers-by
Our most recent stop was late this winter. As we turned the corner at the top of the hill above the Salmon River - still charging out from under its winter ice - we slowed for a young woman carrying a roo in a pouch, leading a toddler brandishing a miniature snow-shovel. Signs of new life. No ghost town here.

And of course, anyone who knows the village knows it's alive and well. I cite the following evidence:

I would suggest unique and wonderful ceramic artist Harlan House whose studio provides a creative centre from its hillside location.

public domain, can't recall the source
Sure, the satanic mills of the 1830's and well beyond have long since stopped harnessing the river and weary mill workers, but the hamlet has been home to artists for many years. In fact, the place has a reputation as an arts community, artists tending to gravitate to picturesque, inspirational places.

brings out the artist in anyone's soul

There is an architectural renaissance about. The c.1868 Wesleyan Methodist Church is being restored. Artist craftsman Michael Rutland was commissioned to refurbish the windows in this wonderful stone church at the top of the village, which still holds a service every June.

'Books by chance or appointment' might be the sign in The Watermark Books window. Don't know when this treasure trove of collectable books is open, but I applaud the work and wisdom of the individuals who brought the lovely stone store back to life.

a fanciful Regency cottage restored
Brown's book shows the stone store in dilapidated condition, its future uncertain. Kudos to the folks who brought it back to life and beauty.

Further on, a very historic double stone house is reported to be home of the village's first telephone exchange.

Don't know much about this Regency restoration, but loved the rooftop monitor, the picturesque chimneys, the doorcase. Perched at the top of the hill overlooking the Salmon River gorge (the side lawn would appear to be at 45 degrees), it's just the spot for a Regency cottage (although it would have overlooked a great deal of industry in the early days.)

So does Lonsdale look like a ghost town to you? They appear to be doing very well, thank you.

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