Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Saturday, September 2, 2017


 From our base at Rideau River Provincial Park last week, we made several forays into Ottawa, along the river roads. A pause for a red light on our search for Long Island lock on the Rideau Canal, a quick glance at a sign inviting visitors to Watson's Mill, and our afternoon was planned for us. Manotick.

Manotick has always been part of my lexicon - from uni days, it was 'the country', on CBC radio it turns up in the afternoon traffic reports (yes indeed, the city has germinated south of the green belt, and is spreading as rapidly as loosestrife.)

the mill from A.Y.Jackson park across the river

But crossing the bridges - yes, two, one onto Long Island, the other off the island again - into old Manotick is a delight that we will seek out again.

 The exquisite stone Watson's Mill was built in 1860, and continues as a flour mill, if only for time-travelling tourists. Across the square is Dickinson House, built 1867 by the founder of Manotick, mill-owning Moss Kent Dickinson, called "king of the Rideau" in honour of  his extensive shipping and forwarding interests along the river.

 Dickinson and his partner Joseph Currier saw the potential of the river site, and in 1859 purchased water rights and land for a village. The Long Island mill complex was underway immediately, and soon a grist mill, saw mill, bung mill (I had to ask, too) and wool carding mill were operating on both sides of the river.

Currier's wife was killed in an accident while visiting the mill in 1861; he left the partnership shortly afterwards.The high-achieving Dickinson went on to serve as  mayor of Ottawa and member of Parliament under Sir John A during his career.

The house was our first stop - our history-minded guide introduced us to the family, the house, the early village.

 The mill, house and carriage shed were purchased and restored by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority in 1972. That was long before a lot of heritage projects got underway. Thanks to these folks and their vision, the complex is a delight. You'll want their web address to keep up with events: a perpetual booksale, the expected guided tours and milling demonstrations, and treats like whiskey tasting, music performances, and lunches and teas are just part of a full schedule of evnets from May into December, proceeds all donated to keeping this outstanding history location afloat.

our delightful student guide - a future archivist

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