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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Feel free to leave comments here on the post.



Welcome to the post archive where all the old posts come to wither and electronically decay.

These are arranged from Oldest to Newest


My Urban Exploration Exploits - An introduction as to my evolution as an explorer.

Ontario Asylums - An article on Ontario institutions.

Josephine Ghost Town - A small community long since gone just outside of Barrie, Ontario.

Base Edgar - Our favourite former Pine Tree Line radar base just north of Barrie.

Abandoned Farmhouse - An article about abandoned rural farmhouses in Central Ontario / Simcoe County.

Going Postal - An article on Ontario institutions.

Oxford Regional Centre - One of the last explorations of the Oxford Regional Centre before the last few buildings were demolished.

Muskoka Regional Centre - Our favourite former mental health / psychiatric hospitals located an hour north of Barrie.

Base Edgar II - Another visit to the nearby abandoned radar base.

Rarities - Some very interesting and unique items may be found in abandoned farm houses.

All Your Base - Documentary film makers from Ottawa attend an UrbEx meet at our fav abandoned radar base.

Motels - A brief article of the evolution of motels in Central Ontario.

Depot Harbour - The ruins of the Deport Harbour rail round houses on Parry Island on Georgian Bay.

Motel Confidential - The interesting Port Severn Motel located at . . (duh) Port Severn.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses - A brief article about trespassing in Ontario.

Molson Park - An exploration of the now unused Molson Park, concert venue in Barrie.

Opera House Ghosts - An infiltration of the Barrie Opera House a few weeks before its demolition.

Schools Out! - An exploration of the abandoned school in Anten Mills, just north of Barrie.

Scout Camp - An exploration of the Scout camp, now meditation centre near Alliston.

Utopia Mill - An exploration of the historical Grist Mill in Utopia, located between Barrie and Angus.

Caribou Diner - An exploration of the abandoned diner which served vactioners traveling along Highway 11 from Ontario's 'Cottage Country'.

The 'San'3 - Another exploration of the Muskoka Centre.

Happy HO-HO - Happy Holidays.

Edgar - again
- Yet another visit to this massive radar base.


Mill Madness - Part 1

Mill Madness Tour (Part 1 of 2)

Nearly 11 hours of road tripping.
Nearly six mills, ruins and other abandonments.
Nearly 30 degree (Celsius).
Nearly heat-stroke.

Although originally christened the 'Mill Madness Tour', a devious route devised by neX , it became known as the 'Ice Tea Tour' due to the copious volumes of this cool tasty beverage consumed by yours truly. As neX stated, "a drink of champions, and the only true warm-weather coffee substitute".

The numerous stops, in chronological order of exploration, were;
* Cataract Deagle Hydro Ruins,
* Boston Mills Cottages,
* Cheltenham Badlands,
* Cheltenham (Interprovincial) Brickworks,
* Barber Paper Mill (Provincial Papers),
* Harris Woolen Mill, and
* Hortop Mill.

The crew (neX, JuicyFruitKisses and CopySix) were skunked at Cataract due to restrictive access and road construction, denied access at the Hortop Mill due to tight boarding but were successful at the remaining locations. The Cheltenham Badlands and Brickworks were covered off in the previous post.

Harris Woolen Mill

Located in Rockwood, Ontario (just north-east of Guelph), this solid limestone mill was constructed by the Harris brothers on the banks of the the Eramosa River in 1884. An earlier wooden mill, built in 1867 burned down.

The mill produced tweed, knitted underwear, flannelette (a cheap flannel kock-off), bleached cotton, yarn, shirts and sheets. Large volumes of blankets were also produced here for the Canadian army during the Great War of 1915 to 1918. The mill was one of the largest in the area and had employed approximately 75 workers.

As a result of the depression and stiff competition from larger mills, the Harris Mill closed up shop in 1933. The Grand River Conservation Authority acquired the mill from the Harris family in 1959 but the mill burned down in 1967 leaving only the present stone ruins. The conservation authority has preserved the ruins and it has become a very popular location for tourists, photographers, movie & advertisement producers, and wedding shoots.

Everton Mill

Constructed in 1865 on the banks of the Eramosa River in Everton, this large, three-storey flour and grist mill was acquired by Henry Hortop Jr. in 1874. The Mill remained in the Hortop family for three generations at which time it was acquired by the Grand River Conservation Authority.

The structure's exterior was in excellent condition, considering its age, and was not scarred with graffiti from a$$-clown vandals. The original mill stone is mounted and displayed near the road.

While planning this leg of the trip, I had consulted fellow explorer phrenzee who had a successful trip here. Unfortunately, the crew was denied any interior photographs as it was tightly boarded with the exception of a few limited glimpses through small holes in the boarding.

This brings us to a tip I wish to share with any novice urban explorer. I will not bore you with tedious text but have present this nugget of knowlege within the video below . . .

Happy & Safe Exploring !


Cheltenham Brickworks

This visit was a side-trip of the Mill Madness tour (to be posted latter). Participants (shown to the right) were neX, JuicyFriotKisses, and yours truly, CopySix.

Here's a short video starring the aforementioned explorers.

The Cheltenham Brickworks is just one of those obligatory locations where UrbEx folk must visit in order to boast a complete exploration portfolio. The site is fairly interesting but unless you are a local, one trip is considered sufficient.

The location is approximately a mile west from 'downtown' Cheltenham and is bounded by Mississauga Road directly adjacent to the east, the Bruce Trail on the south and the Brampton Brick quarry and yards to the north and west. The site is completely fenced but industrious youth have made this barrier somewhat porous.

Two of the three buildings were available for viewing thanks to the actions of vandals (not the Germanic tribe who harassed ancient Rome but the modern day ones who carry spray paint and recreational pharmaceuticals).

One of the three equally-sized buildings we first went into was stripped bare of any evidence of its former industrial activity with the exception of two fairly large wheels that I will guess were for screening the shale into a more suitable size/consistency for the bricks.

Shown here is my entry for the 'UrbEx Hunks' calender. My agent tells me I will probably get my pick of the month I want.

The second building we stepped into held no clue as to what manufacturing processes it once contained. Given the lack of natural light in the buildings, I was pleasantly surprised to have been able to get enough light through the doorway for this shorter exposure.

A recommendation for explorers who may visit in the future - plan your trip on a bright sunny day.

I normally do not take images of any graffiti and those who have explored with me know I hold a$$-clown tag-monkeys in slight regard. I do secretly enjoy a measure of entrainment from some either from a mis-spelling, intense vulgarism's or like this here - the complete oddness . . . "Japanese Octopus Sex" . . . wtf?

I love the look of aged rustalicious steel guiders and old-skool rivets. This particular beam in the second building floated my boat.
I was somewhat distressed to see that a large number of holes were drilled into this structural beam, most likely for equipment mounting, wiring or plumbing. I'm no engineer but I should think that if a support beam is starting to look like swiss-cheese, it would only hold as much weight as this dairy goodness.

Unseen below ground are a series of tunnels which housed ancillary equipment such as steam piping, conveyors and the like. In several locations, the tunnels have collapsed and the resultant hole enlarged through erosion over the seasons.

Another hop tip for explorers - watch where you walk at this location - both inside and outside the buildings.

A very brief history of the site

This board, facing the car park area for the Bruce trail gives an accurate sketch of the expanse of the brickworks in 1930. The depression at this time had very little effect on the production with only one kiln shutting down for a short period.

Cheltenham is located near the Town of Caledon in Peel County. A Charles Haines, from (you guessed it) Cheltenham, UK, first settled here in 1817 and within a few short years had a saw mill and a grist mill built to service a growing farming community.

In 1914, the Interprovincial Brick Company was attracted to the area due to ready rail transportation and raw materials – one mile west of the village lay a large deposit of red-coloured Medina / Queenston Shale. Workers were originally housed in tents on the site which were replaced latter with 13 housing structures with either 4 or 8 rooms each.

By 1922, the brickyard expanded and two 17 ton brick presses and seven kilns fed by steam-powered shovels excavating the shale. In this year, an average day witnessed 90,000 bricks in the process of drying, baking or cooling. Bricks were shipped to Toronto by road or loaded on the train for delivery to markets from Sault Ste. Marie to Halifax.

Labour-saving equipment, introduced in the mid-1940’s, reduced the workforce required at the brickworks. Production remained good up until Domtar purchased brickyard in 1958. Domtar promptly ceased operations, removed production equipment, tore down most of the buildings and eventually abandoned it. Brampton Brick purchased the brickworks in 1993 but only use the site for shale extraction.

A brief note about the nearby Cheltenham Badlands

This is the same shale goodness that went into the Cheltenham brickworks as loose material and came out as a brick.

The Cheltenham Badlands is the only badland topography I have visited in Ontario. It takes very little imagination to thinnk you might be in Alberta.

The Cheltenham Badlands probably started to form with the erosion of the soft Queenston shale as settlers cleared the land and latter grazed their cattle, removing the protective layer of vegetation. Although farming at the site ceased in the early 1930's, erosion still takes place naturally with precipitation and the increasing volumes of visitors to the site.

The site was acquired by the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 2000 and is under the care of the Bruce Trail Association who just recently closed the section of trail on the site to help protect it from the damages caused by foot traffic.