Barber Paper Mill

Mill Madness Tour (Part 2 of 2)

As stated in the previous post, this adventure is part of the Mill Madness run and was joined by neX, JuicyFruitKisses, and yours truly, CopySix. This post is entirely devoted to the Barber Paper Mill, located on the banks of the Credit River in Geogetown. In my opinion the exploration of the ruins here was the highlight of the tour.

Provided here for your enjoyment is a short 4-minute video summarising our exploration at the Barber Paper Mill. The music I have selected to accompany the video is a modern electronica version of Samuel Barber's 'Adagio For Strings', which I believe is rather à propos.

After exploring the Cheltenham Brickworks, we drove to Georgetown which brought us to one of the most important points in any explorer's day . . . that is lunch. Dusty, stinky, and sweaty (except JFK - she always smells like flowers from an alpine meadow) from the previous location, we dropped into Kelsey's where I promptly wrecked the gentleman's washroom (sorry). After this I tucked into some delicious Buffalo Chicken and washed it down with a pint of dark ale. I did not note what my companions had for lunch as I was rather engaged with my own meal. They did however make all efforts to keep their appendages away from my mouth.

As we rolled up up to the Paper Mill, we were greeted by absolutely porous fencing. One would have to be a complete idiot not to be able to develop a way onto the property. Once inside this permeable perimeter, there is no hindrance to any of the adjoining structures.

Now a word of warning. I personally would never attempt a location such as this after dusk or in poor light. Throughout the entire site are numerous hazards; missing stairs, compromised stairs, missing floors and compromised floors. Even a number of walls have little or no structural integrity - the image above on right shows JFK through a swiss-cheese of several of these walls. I imagine that there will be a number of collapses at the site within a few short years as the cycling of seasons extract their toll.

To the unfamiliar explorer, this place will seem like a labyrinth. JFK noted while wandering through seemingly endless corridors and rooms, that it felt rather like a dream. I would concur with her. The image above to the left shows what used to be a door way, bricked up at some latter date and then having this unique hobbit-portal re-installed. The bricked arches shown above to the right, where plaster had fallen off, showed it to be in excellent and sturdy condition.

Speaking of arches, this location has a number of them and is characterised by a variety of doors and windows, each with it's own style, dictated by the era or decade in which it was installed. It is evident that a number of additions were constructed from the mill's beginning in 1854 to before its closure in 1989.

Thankfully, most of the heavy iron-clad doors had been opened quite some time ago and left to rust into place in that convenient position. The one curious-looking window shown above on the right appeared to have been blown outwards. I would like to imagine that it was caused by a mill employee's poor choice of cheap draft the evening before and a breakfast burrito that morning.

Decommissioning at the site has left it virtually bare of any evidence of its former industrial purpose. Remnants of equipment not yet removed, such as blower fans and boilers, do not provide much allusion.

The few industrial items of interest present act as a photographic beacon for other explorers. As I was planning this exploration, I saw many excellent photographs from others who had all spent a little time documenting these pieces.

Of interest at this site is the use of ceramic tiles. Found in a few limited locations, like the hall above on the left and several window sills like the one on the above-right, it speaks either to a particular purpose such as a staff lunch room. Alternatively, the potential mess of created with a pulp and paper process made tile an easy choice for clean-up. As for the use of tiles at several windows, I imagine that humidity from the work process necessitated this.

These two images are paired to show the relative elevations of the site; from the very top of the boiler flue stack to the very bottom of the pulp slurry cone found in the basement. I think that I sufficiently covered the site but suspect that I will be back for more.

Some History of the Barber Paper Mill
From the Toronto Daily Mail, 24th June, 1893

"This, the largest industry on the County of Halton, was established in 1854 by the late firm of the Barber Bros., and was for many years under the immediate supervision of Mr. James Barber, a practical paper maker, who served his time with the Hon. James Crooks near Dundas. In 1870 the old firm of Barber Bros. was dissolved and Mr. James Barber became sole proprietor of the paper mills. At his death the concern passed into the possession of Mr. John R. Barber, the present owner. The mills, which are situated on the River Credit, just above where the G.T.R. iron bridge spans that stream, are of stone, and consist of four separate buildings, varying in height from two to three storeys and have an aggregate floor space of about one and three-quarter acres. For many years after this industry went into operation paper was made exclusively from cotton and linen rags, but in 1869 a pulp mill was erected to manufacture paper from oat, wheat, and rye straw; and this material was used for nearly ten years, when it was superseded by wood pulp, this being the material mainly in use at the present time, bass wood and poplar forming the staple. The principal product of these mills is machine finished book paper, lithographic and label papers, coloured covers and posters, and the better grade of newspaper. The daily output is about five tons, all of which finds a market in the Dominion, chiefly in the cities. When the capacity of these mills was materially augmented, it was found that the water supply of the River Credit was inadequate to drive the machinery, and in 1889 a large dam was constructed below the railway bridge with a twenty four foot fall, equal to 175 horse power. In the power house at this dam are placed a 100 horse power Brush generator, 2,000 volts, and a Thompson-Houston 60 horse power generator, 500 volts. The power generated at this station is conveyed to the mills by copper wires, which pass under the bridge, and in addition to lighting the mills drive a portion of the machinery. The 60 horse power motor started here in 1889 was the largest in use anywhere up to that date, since when this system of transmitting power has come into general use."

Shown above on the left is an early photograph of the mill as it was in 1908. On the right, the mill on a 1910 postcard.

An earlier view of the mill as sketched in 1872 is presented here on the right when the paper mill was still using water power from the Credit river.

From the Historical Plaque - JOHN R. BARBER and THE CREDIT RIVER DYNAMO

In 1854, brothers William, James, Joseph and Robert Barber, prominent manufacturers in the Credit Valley, established a paper mill here. Within a few years it had become an important producer of fine rag paper. Fifteen years later, James acquired sole ownership of the mill, soon afterwards it came under his son John's control. John Reaf Barber was an innovative manager who substantially increased the mills production by employing new technology. He equipped the mill to manufacture wood pulp and, in 1888 installed a dynamo to supply additional power. This power plant was reputedly the first in Canada to produce hydro-electric power for use in industrial production. The stone ruins of the dynamo building are still standing, about three kilometres downstream.

Future Plans

In 2004, the Everlast Group purchased the property with intentions to redevelop the mill site for an inn, condominium and commercial outlets. From the artists rendering on the left, it appears that most of the structures would be restored.
With little evidence on site of the planned redevelopment, it is suspected that the property may be orphaned.

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Anonymous said...

I was there a day earlier. Good find, fun stuff.


Anonymous said...

what street is it on!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Anonymous said...